To celebrate the bicentennial of the country’s founding, in 1976 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) launched a multi-year program of photography surveys in communities across the United States. These surveys created a new visual record of a changing nation. Of the more than seventy projects funded by the NEA, the East Baltimore Survey was unique for having been conceived, led, and carried out by women photographers—Elinor Cahn, Joan Clark Netherwood, and Linda Rich. With significant support from the community, it was also one of the most highly acclaimed at a national level. Rich, Netherwood, and Cahn were welcomed into the homes and private lives of the neighborhood of East Baltimore. They photographed a cross-section of its residences and businesses, celebrating its traditions while also acknowledging its many challenges. The tension between ethnicity and Americanness was a sustained theme of the Survey, as was its recognition of residents’ fight for their community’s survival, insisting on basic social services and defending against efforts to divide it politically or economically.
Thirteen of the completed photography surveys, including the East Baltimore Survey, were transferred from the NEA to SAAM. Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980 features nearly 100 photographs from this survey, now part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collections.