Gabriel Pickus, Co-Director and Lead Teaching Artist
Gabriel Pickus, a visionary nonprofit leader, founded, co-directs, and serves as the co-lead teaching artist for the Baltimore Wisdom Project.
Gabriel is also one of the three Co-Directors (with tree turtle and Theodore Richards) of Wisdom Projects, the umbrella organization that houses the Chicago Wisdom Project and Baltimore Wisdom Project.
A Healing Touch™ Certified Practitioner (HTCP), Gabriel has been dedicated to transformative education for over 15 years. Gabriel is trained in Systema (a Russian martial art), Capoeira Angola, Ghanaian drum and dance, and conflict management.
Gabriel Pickus is the recipient of the Emerging Leaders commemoration through the Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) and the Open Society Institute (OSI).
He was also a BMoreFit Lead Coach and Program Director where he wrote curriculum, designed and delivered health and wellness lessons, led movement integration residencies, and facilitated professional development trainings for students and teachers in public schools.
He was a Baltimore Jeremiah Fellow, serving as a trained leader and community organizer for the Baltimore chapter of Jews United For Justice.
He was an English Teacher at Learning Inc., a non-profit organization that guided at-risk adolescents, and he implemented curriculum for 14-17 year-olds and 6th-9th graders at this organization.
He was also a Teaching Artist and Project Specialist for United Legacy, Inc., a transformative arts education organization contracted by Elev8 via the East Baltimore Community School, Tench Tillghman Elementary, Higher Achievement via Edgecombe Circle Elementary.
A Chicago-native, he is an alumni of Habonim Dror, an international youth movement that values social justice, collaboration, and positive identity formation. Gabriel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Goucher College and spent a year in Israel/Palestine designing and facilitating conflict resolution curricula for Muslim-Israeli, Christian-Israeli, and Jewish-Israeli youth.
Gabriel also completed Dr. Theodore Richards’ Wisdom Teacher Certification course before founding the BWP. Gabriel is a founding member of the acclaimed Baltimore-based band, J Pope and the HearNow.
Upāsikā tree turtle, Co-Director and Lead Teaching Artist
Pronouns: tree (1st choice) or she/her (2nd choice)
Upāsikā tree turtle is a veteran nonprofit manager who helped found the Baltimore Wisdom Project. (tree's name is spelled lowercase even at the beginning of a sentence.) tree now co-directs the organization and serves as the co-lead teaching artist.
tree is also one of the three Co-Directors (with Gabriel Pickus and Theodore Richards) of Wisdom Projects, the umbrella organization that houses the Chicago Wisdom Project and Baltimore Wisdom Project.
For the last 25-plus years, tree has helped guide the vision, operations, communications, fundraising, and educational initiatives of several nonprofit organizations.
tree is an ordained Thai Theravada Buddhist upāsikā in the 33rd year of contemplative practice. tree possesses extensive, multifaceted training in mindfulness, meditation, and mindful movement.
A lifelong advocate for child welfare, animal rights, and peace education, tree is a restorative justice practitioner with certificates in Yoga for children and conflict management. Click here for an overview of tree's holistic teaching practice since 1986.
tree is also a formerly licensed nurse (LPN) with a certificate in trauma-informed care. Additionally, tree taught for Baltimore City Public Schools and Columbus City Public Schools and tree also served as an instructional trainer for arts teachers for Columbus City Public Schools.
Most recently, tree served as the Edith Hamilton Mentor at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore.
As an adjunct professor or a teaching fellow in higher education, tree taught at ten colleges and universities in the United States.
For the last 30-plus years, tree has taught widely as an arts instructor, mindfulness educator, and restorative practitioner at recreation centers, arts centers, after school programs, and incarcerated facilities across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
tree is a widely published writer (under the name Cleis Abeni as well as tree turtle); a longtime professional editor and grant-writer; and a grassroots journalist for alternative publications.
tree earned an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Arts Education from The Ohio State University with four specializations in early education, secondary education, movement analysis, and choreography studies. Lastly, tree was a former movement theatre artist, vocalist, backup/session singer, and child entertainer.
For more information about tree, visit everythingtree.info.
Dr. Theodore Richards
Dr. Theodore Richards, is the founder and director of the Chicago Wisdom Project, and one of the three Co-Directors (with tree turtle and Gabriel Pickus) of Wisdom Projects, the umbrella organization that houses the Chicago Wisdom Project and Baltimore Wisdom Project. To learn about Theodore Richards and the Chicago Wisdom Project, our sibling organization, click here.
Theodore Richards is a poet, novelist, and religious philosopher. He is also the editor and publisher of Re-Imagining Magazine, a major online source of thought leadership (with prose and poetry) on holistic education, anti-oppressive advocacy, and liberationist activism in the United States and beyond.
He has received degrees from various institutions such as the University of Chicago, The California Institute of Integral Studies, and the New Seminary where he was ordained. He is a long time student of the Taoist martial art of Bagua and Hatha Yoga and has traveled, worked and studied in 25 different countries, including the South Pacific, the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.
He is the author of numerous books, including Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto; Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth; The Great Re-imagining: Spirituality in an Age of Apocalypse; The Conversations: A Novel; The Crucifixion; and Handprints on the Womb: Poems. His literary awards include the Independent Publisher Awards Gold Medal in religion and religious fiction and the Nautilus Book Awards Gold Medal. In 2019, his book A Letter To My Daughters won the Gold Medal in Memoir at the Independent Publisher Awards in New York City.
A leader in the wisdom education movement and an incubator of wisdom projects across the United States, he has worked with youth on the south side of Chicago, the Bronx, Harlem, and Oakland. In Oakland, he was the director of YELLAWE, an innovative program for teens in Oakland created by Matthew Fox, teaching philosophy, cosmology, and martial arts with a particular emphasis on creativity and imagination. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters.
You can find more information on Dr. Richards' lifework on his website, www.theodorerichards.com.
Adam Candelaria, Legacy Teaching Artist (2019-2020 School Year)
Adam is an illustrator and teaching artist within Baltimore city communities, who's worked as an art instructor, OST program coordinator, and youth leadership mentor over the past 5 years. Within the classroom, Adam uses his mix media and graphic design background as a vehicle for incorporating mindful art as a form of self-regulation, social and emotional learning, and cultural learning to young people. Adam is committed to providing nurturing, productive, and thoughtful classroom environments, allowing ideas and creativity to blossom while students explore a range of art mediums. As a freelance graphic designer, Adam has also worked closely with therapist, phycologist, pediatric and other medical professionals on projects that inform parents, patients, and fellow doctors on subjects such as early childhood development and trauma informed approaches.
Talbolt Johnson, Heritage Teaching Artist (2019-2020 School Year)
Talbolt Johnson, is a unique combination of elements. Artist is a convenient descriptor, though the healing effects of his craft in motion has honored him as a celebrated presence and jewel in the Baltimore arts community since 2006. His journey into dance and culture began during his undergrad years at Maryland Institute College of Art. Through exploring different subcultures in Baltimore, and meeting members of the expanded street dance community, Johnson garnered for himself a one-of-a-kind education through lived experiences, traveling the east coast as a member of two different dance crews. Over the years he has been given opportunities to work with and perform for a number of fellow artists and institutions in and around Baltimore. This path of performing and collaboration, combined with his eventual explorations in dance instruction, earned him recognition as a staple within Baltimore's cultural art scene and around the East Coast. Talbolt Johnson incorporates themes of unity consciousness, self awareness, and experimental dance styles into performance venues as a visitor, an organizer, and an overall alchemist for the human experience. His explorations in dance led him to challenge the narratives about what the body is and what the spirit does in combination with the body. Because of this, Johnson is the creator of a system called Holographic Dance and Movement. This system of movement and body awareness allows practitioners to explore and transcend the boundaries of mind, body, sense, space, and narrative. His current work focuses on the archetypal experiences of the disenfranchised and combines these experiences with storytelling themes to challenge audiences to consider the elements of self-transcendence that are potential and present in our every day experience of contemporary life.