Activism and Art

Activism and Art

On May 17, 1968 in Catonsville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, two women and seven men, three in clerical attire, arrived at the Selective Service office, Local Board 33, located in the Knights of Columbus building. They seized several hundred A-1 draft records from the office, dumped the files on the ground in the parking lot, doused with homemade napalm, and torched them in protest of the Vietnam War. This act of civil disobedience intensified protest against the draft, prompted debate in households in Maryland and across the nation, and stirred angry reaction on the part of many Americans. It also propelled the nine into the national spotlight.

The Catonsville action reflected not only the nature of the Vietnam antiwar movement in 1968, but also the larger context of social forces that were reshaping American culture in the 1960s. We are commemorating the 50th anniversary of this historical and fiery protest with a new exhibit utilizing the artwork of Catonsville Nine participant Tom Lewis, as well as historic photographs and materials, video from the award-winning 2013 documentary Hit & Stay, and other materials. 

Featured Events

Activism and Art May 12 Events

Investigation of a Flame


Investigation of Flame Film Screening and Community Discussion
May 12, 2018 - 5:00pm

 In 1968, nine Catholic peace activists protested the Vietnam War in a fiery blaze in Catonsville, Maryland. Almost 50 years later, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets of Baltimore to protest the death of Freddie Gray. The 2015 uprisings resonated deeply in our culture, representing an ongoing sense of deep dissatisfaction with the status quo in our society. The tradition of protest extends beyond Maryland throughout our entire nation. What does this history tell us and how are we impacted by this legacy today? This community forum will explore the history of social protest in the United States and invite each participant to weigh in on the relationship between unrest and democracy.

Activism and Art 



Activism & Art: the Catonsville Nine, 50 Years Later, Exhibit Opening & Reception
May 12, 2018 - 7:00pm

 Join us on May 12th for the opening of the exhibit Activism & Art: the Catonsville Nine, 50 Years Later, an exhibit that will examine one of the most iconic and written-about acts of political protest in 20th century American history. This exhibit will explore their motivations, consider the consequences of their action, and contextualize this protest in our present turbulent political climate.
Light Reception to follow.

Community discussion panelists

Joe Tropea

Joe Tropea
Activism and Art Curator

Joe Tropea earned a Master¹s in historical studies with a concentration in Public History from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is currently the Curator of Films & Photographs at the Maryland Historical Society, where he creates exhibits, writes and edits the blogs underbelly and Aspect Ratio and co-founded and serves as the project manager for Preserve the Baltimore Uprising ArchiveTropea is the co-director of the award-winning 2013 documentary, Hit & Stayand the director of 2018's Sickies Making Films.

Lynne Sachs

Lynne Sachs

Lynne Sachs is an experimental filmmaker who makes films, videos, installations and web projects exploring the relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. After graduating from Brown University and majoring in history, she developed an interest in experimental documentary filmmaking while attending the 1985 Robert Flaherty Documentary Film Seminar. "Investigation of a Flame" won several awards and debuted at the Maryland Film Festival in 2001.

Joanna Raczynska

Joanna Raczynska

Joanna Raczynska earned her master's degree in documentary by practice from Royal Holloway College, University of London (2001). She first started making non-fiction films and videos in 1996, while a student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her works have screened internationally and across the US, most recently at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. She has worked for a variety of non-profit organizations including Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo NY (media arts director, 2002-2006), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Now she works in the department of film programs at The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Thomas Lewis, artist, teacher, and peace activist, was born in Maryland and was 28 at the time of the Catonsville Nine action.

About the artist

Thomas Lewis was active in the civil rights movement and was a founding member of the Baltimore Interfaith Peace Mission. He was one of the "Baltimore Four," who poured blood on draft files at the Baltimore Customs House in 1967. Lewis did much of the up-front preparation for the Catonsville action, scouting the location of A-1 draft files and routes in and out of the building on the pretense of wanting to rent the Knights of Columbus basement for his wedding reception.After serving prison time for the Catonsville incident, Lewis continued to be active in the peace movement and to retain close ties to the Catholic Worker Movement.



watch The trailer for hit & stay


50th Anniversary Commemoration



50th Anniversary Commemoration Events

A collective of local organizations has come together to commemorate the fifty year anniversary with a host of events and programming. 








CATONSVILLE NINE in our museum shop 

 The Long Loneliness in Baltimore: Stories Along the Way Hit & Stay, Special Edition - Director's Cut 

Dishing Up Maryland


Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields