“We Are Human.” Baltimore’s Nicole King Offers an Excellent Response to Trump’s Vicious Baltimore Assault
Nicole King’s August 1 Newsweek op-ed, Trump’s Dehumanizing Attacks on Baltimore are Hiding an Awful Truth–And He Knows It, is a solid response to the president’s racist comments about our city. Rather than being reactionary or trading insults, King, a UMBC American Studies professor and the co-editor of the newly published Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City, offers a broad and historical context for the attack.
“It is not an accident that the president attempts to distract us from the inhumane detention of families on the U.S.-Mexico border with social media attacks on Baltimore’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods,” King writes.”These forms of containment come from the same inability to recognize the humanity of people of color.” Rather than merely pointing out a problem, King calls back to a Toni Morrison essay and offers a solution: “We must be human and block the dehumanization of kids here in Baltimore, as well as those inhumanely interned on the border. We must not be distracted. We are human.” (Cara Ober)
Remembering Toni Morrison
The world was shocked to learn on Tuesday that the incomparably great American writer Toni Morrison had died. The first thing I read upon learning this was Morrison’s 2015 essay in The Nation on the power of artists in society: “I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence,” she wrote. “Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.”
Artists and writers have responded accordingly. Within hours of the news announcing her death, Baltimore artist Ernest Shaw, Jr. painted an enormous mural of the author in Graffiti Alley. In a video posted to Instagram, Shaw said, “I chose to come out today to honor her, and to just pay tribute to the wonderful work she’s done for all people but in highlighting the lives and experiences of Black folk.” (See also: Sameer Rao’s story in the Sun)
Baltimore poet Tariq Touré wrote a poem in her honor: “The Day The Pens Broke (Mama Morrison).”
The local reading series/Black women writers’ community Zora’s Den announced an event on Aug. 15 at the Eubie Blake Center to pay homage to Morrison, featuring writers Abdu Ali, Cherrie Amour, Deidre Badejo, Clynthia Burton Graham, Tracy Chiles McGhee, Tyrese Coleman, Kondwani Fidel, Sharea Harris, Cija Jefferson, Victoria Kennedy, Ron Kipling Williams, Christine Lincoln, DeJuan Mason, Andria Nacina Cole, Bilphena Yahwon, and Koko Zauditu-Selassie.
In the Washington Post, Stacia L. Brown, journalist and host of the podcast Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City, praised Morrison’s liberating views on being a single mother while working as a full-time writer: “Black women have single-parented and helped one another single-parent for centuries. Stigma enters the picture only when we internalize family values that are imposed from outside our own communities. She refused to cede power to that imposition. Instead, Morrison spent much of her life encouraging us to consider that single motherhood wasn’t just ‘doable’ but desirable.”
(For more on Morrison’s views of family and parenting, see this excerpt from a TIME interview. For more on Morrison’s views on individualism, exploitation, and the need for writer solidarity, see this Jezebel post.)
The tributes will keep coming, multidirectionally—but I’ll plug just a couple more for now: For The Atlantic, WNYC radio host Rebecca Carroll wrote about writing her forthcoming memoir, Surviving the White Gaze, for Morrison and The Bluest Eye protagonist Pecola Breedlove, who “lost her mind because she wanted the blue eyes set inside the ceaseless standard of white beauty—a gaze so narcotic that it ravaged her body from flesh to bone—and I almost did, too.”
And Doreen St. Félix, in the New Yorker, wrote about growing up on Morrison’s stories and connecting with her mother through them: “Morrison invalidated the lie, which taints black minds especially, that our people are either one way or the other. To her, we were naturally literary and epic.” (Rebekah Kirkman)
Ladies! Ladies! Ladies! The Baltimore Museum of Art has announced 2020 Vision, a year of exhibitions and programs dedicated to female-identifying artists.
Grace Hartigan, “Ingres Bath,” 1993
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment (August 18, 1920), the BMA is devoting the year to present “the achievements of female-identifying artists,” including 13 solo exhibitions and seven thematic shows starting in fall 2019.
Exhibits will include a Mickalene Thomas lobby commission, a Joan Mitchell retrospective, Candice Breitz’s video works, as well as By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists featuring Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez, and Georgia O’Keeffe; Free Form: 20th-Century Studio Craft, innovative embroidery, ceramic, and jewelry artists, such as Baltimore-based artists Gloria Balder Katzenberg and Betty Cooke; and Adorned: African Women & the Art of Identity, an exhibit of two dozen works that demonstrate the critical role of 20th-century African women in shaping and maintaining social identities through objects created in clay, cloth, and beads.
But that’s not all! According to the release, “every gallery in the BMA’s Contemporary Wing will also be in alignment with 2020 Vision. This includes a newly commissioned work by German artist Katharina Grosse, as well as focused solo exhibitions of works by Sharon Lockhart, Ana Mendieta, Howardena Pindell, Tschabalala Self, and Lisa Yuskavage, and Baltimore-based artists Grace Hartigan, Valerie Maynard, and Jo Smail. On the first floor of the museum, Ellen Lesperance: Velvet Fist will present a suite of seven exquisite paintings from the artist’s ongoing Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp series shown with her Congratulations and Celebrations Sweater participatory project.” And in the following summer of 2020, the museum will present an exhibit of beaded works by 19th-century Lakota women who subversively incorporated the American flag into traditional Native American designs, an exhibit on rebellious women and protest, and even more.
We applaud the museum for featuring women so prominently in 2020, The Year of The Woman, as some are calling it. It is a great way to bring attention to the inequalities that continue to plague the (art) world. We hope that along with it comes systemic change outside of the institution, as well as an institutional recommitment to ongoing systemic change within, rather than a one-off, year-long Lillith Fair for visual art. No more status quo! (CO)
The Walters Presents World’s Most Comprehensive Showing of the Glasgow Style in a Touring Exhibition this Fall
Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style envisions connections between Glasgow and Baltimore via their shared pasts as industrial cities with iconic artistic styles. It’s a welcome challenge and an opportunity to consider what Baltimore may become in the future. The exhibit includes graphic design, posters, furniture, textiles, interior treatments, watercolors and many other iconic works by Mackintosh, an architect, designer, and artist most closely associated with the genre, although there were around 75 designers who operated in Glasgow from the 1890s to around 1914. Although their work was largely local to the city of Glasgow, it had a far-reaching impact across Europe and its elegant design often compared with Art Nouveau continues to attract worldwide interest.
“Baltimore and Glasgow are industrial cities that produced rich artistic traditions and cultures as they grew. With Designing the New, we get a chance to tell a story of young artists, designers, manufacturers, and industrialists all working together to create something that is now iconic, the Glasgow Style,” said Jo Briggs, Associate Curator of 18th and 19th Century Art and curator of the exhibition for the Walters, in a recent press release.
Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, opens October 6, and is a touring collaboration with The American Federation of Arts and Glasgow Museums. The exhibit presents the most comprehensive showing of the Glasgow Style ever assembled in the United States and will feature approximately 165 works of art and design, the majority of which will be on view for the first time in North America. (CO)
Drawing Attention to the Campaign to #FreeKeithDavisJr
After four murder trials over the course of several years, Keith Davis Jr. was found guilty of second-degree murder on July 26, 2019 for the murder of Kevin Jones, a man found dead the morning of June 7, 2015. The story is exceedingly more complicated than that, though, rife with inconsistencies and misconduct from the State’s Attorney’s Office and police. On that June morning, police shot at Davis, who they’d suspected had robbed a “hack” driver (later disproved in court); bullet fragments lodged in Davis’ neck, requiring emergency surgery. Davis was arrested on theft and gun charges and has been incarcerated since then, and has always maintained his innocence, tirelessly supported by his wife Kelly Davis among many other activists who have worked to raise awareness of his case.
Acquaint yourself with the gritty details of Davis’ case by listening to the Undisclosed podcast, which pokes gaping holes in the State’s case against Davis and highlights myriad damning flaws in the State’s investigations. Artists in the city have followed along with Keith, too. The experimental duo So Nice Yesterday released a shimmery dance track, “Stevonnie (Posi Vibes),” which is “in celebration of Pride” but was also released to raise money and awareness on Davis’ case prior to his last trial. Adam G. Holofcener and John McCartin also recently released “Dispassionate Convictions,” directing listeners to contribute directly to a fund that supports Keith and Kelly Davis. Keith’s team is planning an appeal and continuing to fight for him. (RK)
Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Announces Quanice Floyd as New Executive Director
“Excited to announce that I have accepted the Executive Director position at the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance,” said Quanice Floyd, most recently the director of Learning and Leadership Development at the National Guild for Community Arts Education in New York City. Floyd is also the founder and director of the Arts Administrators of Color Network, an organization committed to empowering artists and arts administrators in the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas.
“Now, I have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of students, families, and communities to ensure that ALL 850,000+ students in Maryland Public Schools receive equitable access to high quality arts education,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Arts Education is a CIVIL RIGHT!!!” The arts advocate started her first career as a music teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools, with additional teaching experience in Baltimore County and Montgomery County schools. Floyd was born and raised in NYC, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Howard University and Kent State University. She later earned a second masters degree in Arts Management at American University and is currently a doctoral student at Drexel University.
AEMS is a “non-profit arts education organization is dedicated to advancing quality arts education for all Maryland students,” said a press release. Floyd succeeds Lori Snyder, who retired after four years as AEMS executive director and from a long and distinguished career in arts education in Anne Arundel County schools. (CO)
Make Studio Kicks Off Its 10th Anniversary
Make Studio, the nonprofit organization that offers studio space to artists with developmental disabilities, is already starting to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a slew of programs and events and collabs. Dedicated to providing opportunities for artists to delve into their art practice, Make Studio has long connected and collaborated with local galleries and artist-run spaces and other arts organizations to get their resident artists’ work seen and sold. (After admiring her art for months, I recently purchased a drawing by the great Margie Smeller—a colorful maximalist with an inspiring sense of shape, scale, and depth—at the Artist Books, Prints, Multiples & Editions Fair at Artscape.)
First up is an exhibition at artisan shop Trohv, opening September 6 and running through the end of October—a satellite pop-up connected to Make Studio’s group exhibition Cordially Invited, featuring Make Studio’s own artists as well as those from other progressive art studios based all over the US and in Australia, Japan, and China. The opening reception will take place in the Showroom Gallery at the Schwing Art Center on October 4, and there will be other pop-ups, artist talks, and other programming, which will be announced in September, throughout the exhibition’s run.
The artist-run Waller Gallery will host Make Studio artists alongside art by poet Saida Agostini, up September 20 through November 8, and then back at the Showroom Gallery, a two-person show with Andy Dedominici (aka The Ray Wells Orchestra) and Sam Barsky, beloved for his handknit sweaters depicting landmarks, locations, and special occasions such as Passover, the Patterson Park pagoda, Times Square, the Maryland Alpaca Festival, and more.
Make Studio is one of my personal favs around town, not only because their artists create work that’s consistently visionary, funny, profound, and beautiful all at once but also because Make appreciates and accommodates neurodiversity rather than stigmatizes it. And by partnering with artists and galleries all over the city, they resist the all-too-common othering/silo-ing of artists who happen to have disabilities. (RK)
Top Image: Joan Mitchell, Bracket, 1989, from the Baltimore Museum of Art
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