The State of Contemporary Art in Baltimore

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The 2017 Sondheim Finalists at The Walters: Video Documentary by Phallon Beckham

I am not convinced that art prizes are the best way to distinguish a great artist, but I do appreciate the energy that the Sondheim Artscape Prize brings to Baltimore’s cultural landscape each summer. This year boasts its twelfth annual exhibit of finalists and semi-finalists, sponsored by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) and hosted and co-sponsored by The Walters, respectively, and MICA.

The Sondheim exhibit of finalists is a litmus test of sorts; it measures of the pulse of contemporary art in Baltimore, and offers a succinct and sometimes disconcerting synopsis. It also functions as an informal betting pool, a horse race, and a forum for discussion. What makes an artist great? Why do different jurors select the same finalists over and over? Who will win vs. who should win this prize?

This year, in addition to our critical review written by myself, Bret McCabe, and Angela N. Carroll, we decided to try something new: to create a a mini-documentary to introduce you to the 2017 Sondheim Prize Finalists, so that you could hear about their work directly in their own voices.

As part of our press preview, filmmaker Phallon Beckham and I spent time in the galleries at The Walters with each of the seven finalists to gain a personal insight into the artwork which has propelled them into the top spot with this year’s jurors.

We hope that you will join us and them at The Walters on July 15 to award the $25,000 prize. (Cara Ober)

The 2017 Sondheim Prize Finalists by BmoreArt from Bmoreart on Vimeo.

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony and reception at the Walters on Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m., with extended gallery hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. This year’s jurors are: Ruba Katrib, curator at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York, where she organizes exhibitions, educational and public programs, and publications, and coordinates program presentation; Clifford Owens, a New York-based contemporary artist who works in performance, photography, text, and video; and Nat Trotman, associate curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

The Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize is held in conjunction with Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, and is produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. Artscape runs from July 21 through July 23 along Mount Royal Avenue and North Charles Street. Additionally, an exhibition of the semifinalists’ work is shown in the Decker and Meyerhoff galleries at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Friday, July 21 through Sunday, August 6.

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