GBCA Announces the 2019 Baker Artist Awards

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Afro House is Disruptive Music Culture

This year, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) and the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund have awarded six $10,000 Mary Sawyers Baker Prizes, discipline-based awards, with one designated to each of the following genres: Visual, Literary, Film/ Video, Performance, Interdisciplinary, and Music.

Congratulations are in order to the 2019 winners, selected by a secret jury:

Leslie Harrison, Meshelle, The Indy Mom of Comedy (Performance)
Scott Patterson (Music)
Elissa Blount-Moorhead (Film)
David Page (Visual)
Selin Balci (Interdisciplinary)
Leslie Harrison (Literary)

Awardees were selected from over 900 Baltimore-region artists who created a free online Baker Artist Portfolio. According to the press release, “Selected artists exemplify a mastery of craft, depth of artistic exploration, and a unique compelling vision.”

From the six artists, Scott Patterson has been selected to receive an additional, and much larger award: the Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize, which includes an additional $30,000. At $40,000, this is the largest art prize in the region. “Scott is forging new territories for music in Baltimore, and it’s an honor for Baker to recognize and support his incredible work,” says Connie Imboden, President of the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund.

“The Baker Awards come with no strings attached, so can act as a vital catalyst to forward area artists’ careers and practices“ says Jeannie Howe, Executive Director of the GBCA, the cultural organization responsible for managing the awards and selection process. “The awards are an affirmation of excellence and encouragement. GBCA is grateful to have a long-term partnership with the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, proud of all we have accomplished together over the past ten years, and honored to be a part of the lives of so many exceptional artists.”

This year’s awardees in Visual and Interdisciplinary Arts will present their work at the Baltimore Museum of Art in Fall 2019, along with the 2020 Awardees in the same categories. 2019 Awardees in other disciplines will present a showcase of their work at in Fall 2019. If you would like to check out the work of past Baker award-winners, there is a Baker 10 Year Retrospective exhibition up at Maryland Art Place through June 15.


$40,000 Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize: Scott Patterson, Music

Press: Scott Patterson is featured in “Afro House is Disruptive Music Culture” by Sam Sessa in the BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas: Issue 06, Home. (Patterson is third from left)

Scott Patterson is a pianist, composer, lyricist and librettist of incomparable talent. Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewdescribes Patterson’s playing as, “a masterly blend of virtuosity, singing style and beautiful voicing.” His blend of classical, soul and rock music is futuristic, emotive and luxuriant. Since 2012 Patterson has toured with Camille A. Brown & Dancers. He is contributing composer of the Bessie Award winning Mr. TOL E. RAncE and Brown’s critically acclaimed work, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play and ink. His compositions for each work have been performed for audiences at numerous venues, such as, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Belfast Festival at Queen’s, White Bird, and The Joyce Theater.

Patterson’s work extends beyond dance. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Afro House, a music-driven performance art house based in Baltimore, MD. At the center of Afro House stands the Astronaut Symphony, a contemporary music ensemble that creates symphonic performance art pieces, such as the Afrofuturistic opera-ballet, Afro Punk Ballet and the sci-fi tone poem, Ebon Kojo: The Last Tribe. Patterson also serves as the Music Director of the organization’s Afro House Concert Series. A Baltimore-based concert series that celebrates the city’s extraordinary maker scene. The series features Afro House ensembles (including the Astronaut Symphony), special guests, and local food, beverage and tech makers.

Patterson is the recipient of the Creative Baltimore Fund Project Support Grant, an award funded by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts. He also the recipient of Baltimore Councilmen Ryan Dorsey’s Artist/District Award. He studied under Richard Fields at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and Phillip Kawin at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM).

$10,000 Mary Sawyers Baker Awardees:

Meshelle, The Indy Mom of Comedy, Performance

Innovative, Independent with Individuality are the words that best describe MESHELLE “The Indie-Mom of Comedy.” With countless television and theatrical appearances, MESHELLE is redefining comedy in America.

A graduate of Bowie State University and a former Temple University Doctoral level student; MESHELLE opted for an extended leave-of-absence after 3 years of matriculation in the Department of School Psychology to pursue her comedic career. MESHELLE is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a 2010-2012 Open Society Institute Community Fellow. As an Alumni Fellow of this noted social justice organization; offering funding for programing/initiatives in 57 international countries and the United States founded by George Soros; MESHELLE implemented Goaldiggers The Sankofa Project , connecting inner city teen girls of African descent to education and tools to gain college access; by introducing them to the study of their ancestry and ethnic identity reinforcing a positive self-concept. Anthropological methodology, genealogical research and DNA testing will uncover and assure their ethnic identity with a culminating voyage to Ghana, West Africa.

Elissa Blount-Moorhead, Film/ Video

Elissa Blount Moorhead is an artist and producer exploring the poetics of quotidian Black life, to emphasize gestural dialectics of quiet domesticity and community building.

Moorhead has created public art, film installations, and cultural programs for the last 25 years. She is currently a principal creative partner at TNEG film studios, Moorhead co-founded Red Clay Arts in NYC. She has co-produced and curated over 20 exhibitions and multimedia projects including Random Occurrences; Cat Calls (Street Harassment project); Practicum; FunkGodJazzMedicine; and Art in Odd Places. She was awarded Creative Capital (2019) MD Arts Council Artist Award (2019) the United States Artist Award in (2018), Saul Zaentz Innovation Fellowship (2017), Ford Foundation /Just Films/Rockwood Fellowship (2017) and Ruby Award (2016). She is currently producing a documentary film on Gil Scott Heron and a projection installation called As of A Now. She is the author of P is for Pussy, an illustrated “children’s” book and is featured in the anthology How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance released in March 2019.

Elissa was featured in Issue 05: Beauty of the BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas and you can read an earlier interview with Elissa Blount Moorhead here.

Selin Balci, Interdisciplinary Arts

Selin’s work is classified as bio-art, a new direction in contemporary art that employs living organisms. The marriage of her formal science and art education let her exploit this relatively new practice. She uses live microscopic mold that leaves physical inscriptions by direct contact on the surface of the paper, which creates a living platform. This artificially constructed platform serves not only as a vivarium for mold, but also a living studio in which unseen life forms emerge. Simultaneously natural and artificial, this platform provides a stage on which she acts as creator and curator. Merging traditional mediums with highly patterned and colored mold, she creates lushly visual and interactive biological landscapes.

Balci’s many accolades include the prestigious College Art Association (CAA) Professional-Development Fellowship, Goldhaber Travel Grant from University of Maryland, Hamiltonian Gallery Fellowship, numerous selections as a semifinalist and finalist for Bethesda Urban Partnership’s Trawick Prize, Smack Mellon’s Hot Picks Artist Award and Philadelphia’s Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA) fellowship. Numerous galleries have mounted solo and group exhibitions of Balci’s work including the Hamiltonian Gallery, DCAC (District of Columbia Arts Center), WPA (Washington Project for the Arts), ConnerSmith Gallery, Honfleur Gallery in Washington, D.C; Rush Arts Gallery and Smack Mellon in NY. Balci earned her BSc from Istanbul University, BFA from West Virginia University and MFA from University of Maryland

You can read our review of Under the Scope, a group exhibition at Goucher College that includes Balci.

David Page, Visual Arts

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, David Page earned a National Diploma in Fine Arts from the Cape Tecnikon in 1986 and received an MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002. Recent solo shows include Security Theatre at the Creative Alliance (Baltimore), God and Lunchmeat at Old Dominion University and “Staan Nader, Staan Terug!” (come closer, get away!) at Stevenson University.

He received the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award in 1996, 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014, was awarded Trawick Prize in 2004 and the University of Maryland’s Art for Peace Award in 2001, which included the commission of a small sculptural object that was presented to Nelson Mandela upon his visit to the university. Mr. Page is the Sculptor in Residence at American University and the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University and lives in Baltimore with his wife (and jewelry designer) Lauren Schott and pit-bulls, Voltaire and Hank.

Press: David is one of the featured artists in our “Wearable Art” photo essay in our upcoming journal 07: Body due out next week! Photo by Jill Fannon.

Leslie Harrison, Literary Arts

Leslie Harrison is the author of The Book of Endings (University of Akron Press, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Displacement (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), which won the Bakeless Prize in poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She was born in Germany and raised mostly in New Hampshire. She holds graduate degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and The University of California, Irvine. Poems have appeared in journals including Poetry, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, FIELD, West Branch, Pleiades, Orion and elsewhere.

A former photojournalist, book designer and publishing manager, Harrison has held a scholarship and fellowship at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a fellowship at The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In 2011 she was awarded a fellowship in literature from The National Endowment for the Arts. She was the 2010 Philip Roth resident in poetry at Bucknell University, and then a visiting assistant professor in poetry and creative nonfiction at Washington College. In the fall of 2012 she joined the full-time faculty at Towson University. Image from the Poetry Foundation website.

More on the awards:

The Baker Artist Portfolios were created to support artists and promote Greater Baltimore as a strong creative community. The online portfolios are open to artists working in all disciplines who live and work in Baltimore City and its five surrounding counties. The portfolios expose area artists’ work to regional, national and international audiences. The site has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of art lovers, critics, gallery owners, academics, and leaders in creative business in nearly every country around the globe. The program serves artists of all disciplines.

The portfolio website and awards are a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and are managed in partnership with, and funded by The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.

Baker Artist Awards
Artists who create a Baker Artist Portfolio are automatically eligible for one of six Baker Artist Awards, which include significant monetary prizes, exhibition and showcase opportunities, as well as a feature on Maryland Public Television’s Artworks program. Each year, selected artists share a total of $90,000 in prize money.
These prizes are awarded to artists who demonstrate excellence. Portfolios are reviewed by an anonymous jury in three areas: mastery of craft, depth of artistic exploration, and unique vision.

Mary Sawyers Baker Prize
Mary Sawyers Baker was one of Baltimore’s early philanthropists, studied voice as a young girl in Paris and embraced the arts throughout her life. She established the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund in 1964 to honor her husband, a well-known Baltimore civic leader.

Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize
Designed to be transformational to the life and career of one exemplary artist, the Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize was launched in 2016, when it was awarded to Joyce J. Scott. Mary Sawyers Imboden was the beloved niece of Mary Sawyers Baker and throughout her childhood traveled extensively with her aunt throughout Europe. Mary Sawyers Baker established The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund in 1964 and upon her death in 1976, was succeeded by Mary S. Imboden on its Board of Governors on which she served until 1999. During her tenure on the board, she was instrumental in forming the Fund’s guidelines and procedures to better reflect her aunt’s wishes. In addition to making sure each dollar was granted wisely, Mary Imboden wanted to make sure the fund was innovative and specifically met the needs of the city of Baltimore.

Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA)
The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance nurtures and promotes a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable arts and cultural community embraced by all as accessible, relevant, and essential to the region’s quality of life. GBCA connects artists and groups to one another and to vital resources, and advocates for the strategic issues facing the cultural community and the continued visibility and financial strength of the sector.

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