News Briefs: Lots of Money for Artists, Natural Dye in Baltimore, & Deborah Willis and Bill Gaskins at MICA

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2019 Rubys Grantees Announced

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation has awarded $150,000 this year to 19 projects in the visual arts, literature, performance, and media. (Full disclosure: BmoreArt is largely supported by the RWD Foundation.) The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance administered the Rubys Artist Grants Program during its first five years, with funds from the RWD Foundation. In 2018, GBCA and RWD Foundation announced the planned transition of the Rubys Artist Grants Program to the Foundation’s direct administration. “We started the Rubys in 2013 to support and empower all types of artists to set ambitious goals and to receive the resources necessary to bring them to life. Our city benefits as a whole when arts and culture, and those who make it, are able to succeed,” said Jane Brown, the Foundation’s president, in a press release.

This year, the awardees were announced all at once instead of in two separate cycles, and the 2019 Rubys recipients are:

Adetola Abdulkadir & Safiyah Cheatam: for their speculative fiction podcast series Obsidian which will tell stories exploring intersections “of Blackness, technology, and science, and will tackle issues such as surveillance, artificial intelligence, and alternative realities.”
Abdul Ali: for a manuscript of poems exploring “the history of parenting by African Americans, with a particular focus on the perspective of fathers.”
Kevin Blackistone: for multimedia installation “Extensions of the Self,” which will use virtual reality to “explore the current state of interpersonal understanding” and giving “participants a view of their immersed selves through another’s eyes.”
Precious Blake: for the pilot of multidisciplinary project Celestial Beings, “a collection of oral stories, portraits, and visual ephemera documenting Black femme creative spiritual practices that will culminate in audio recordings, an illustrated zine, and community healing events.”
Phill Branch: for a one-person storytelling show, Rolling Stops, “that examines living outside the prescribed definitions of blackness and masculinity.”
Caitlin Carbone & Josh Thomas: for a “hip hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which will focus on Brutus and Cassius’ relationship as complex, emotional, and intimate in order to challenge the idea of ‘Roman stoicism’ as a pillar of masculinity.”
Rachael Uwada Clifford: for What the Year Will Swallow, a “novel-in-stories” about three interconnected Black families in the US and Nigeria, examining “what it means to come of age through the context of migration, both forced and voluntary, past and recent.”
Shannon Leah Collis: for Strata, an immersive exhibition featuring video mapping and sound, offering an experiential story about “the oil extraction industry in Northern Alberta, Canada, and its environmental effects.”
Chelsea Lemon Fetzer: for the YA novel The Shape of a Boat about “a biracial fifteen year old living in a small Minnesota town in 1990 and Samuel, a southern U.S. born enslaved man brought by his owner to the same landscape in the 1840s.”
Anna Fitzgerald: for When You Make a Broken Heart, “a crankie-based performance that will explore stories of motherhood, destruction, broken hearts, and finding peace in chaos.”
Helen Glazer: for multidisciplinary project investigating “climate change through the lens of a remote Arctic village in Greenland.”
JaMar Jones: for experimental short film 11:11, exploring “near death experiences, precarious lives, mortality, and celestial bodies on earth and other planes.”
Travis Levasseur: for multimedia installation Döner Party, which will be “centered around a pioneer-themed playground that explores the continuing manifestation of theft, violence, and greed as principles that founded the United States.”
Jackie Milad: for It Means Desert Desert, “a body of work featuring collage and experimental animation that will explore the artist’s Egyptian ancestry and its shifting histories, ideas, aesthetics, and philosophies.”
Michele Minnick: for House Calls, “a performative response to the climate crisis and participatory art process that invites strangers to consider together our past, present, and future as inhabitants and stewards of planet earth.”
Lisa Moren: for Stories Under the Bay, “which imagines the underwater life of the Chesapeake Bay through originally composed music, stories, and visualizations and which will be accessed via an augmented reality application.”
Clarence Harlan Orsi: for the book of essays Still in the Body I’ve Always Had, which “focuses on the cultural conversations by and about transgender people in the 21st century United States, from stand-up comedy to radical pornography.”
Candace Scorborough: for velvet pony, “the first of a series of dance episodes that uses rhythmic footwork, mapped pathways, imaginative storytelling and guitar to introduce an audience to an eccentric land and fictional universe.”
Jung Yun: for O Beautiful, “a novel set in the oil fields of western North Dakota, which follows a journalist who returns to her home state to write about the oil boom and the prosperity and challenges that come along with it.”

Fifteen jurors—many local or regional—in each of the four categories selected this year’s grantees. In the Literary Arts: Mejdulene Shomali, Derrick Weston Brown, Gregg Wilhelm, Yolanda Wisher; Media Arts: Carver Audain, Sara Zia Ebrahimi, Arden Sherman; Performing Arts: Arielle Julia Brown, Kurt A. Douglas,  Neena Narayanan, Juanita Rockwell; and Visual Arts: Zoë Charlton, Hoesy Corona, Elisa H. Hamilton, and Charlie Tatum. (Rebekah Kirkman)

MICA Announces Dr. Deborah Willis as Inaugural Photography Department Endowed Chair for 2019-’20; Bill Gaskins as Director of Photographic and Electronic Media MFA

Dr. Deborah Willis is the first to fill the Stuart B. Cooper Endowed Chair, a critic-in-residence program for the undergraduate Photography department. In this role, Willis will share with students her practice as artist, curator, and critic through lectures and critiques, and “engage with students in critical discussions about their emerging practices” over the course of eight visits through the 2019-2020 academic year.

MICA alumnus Stuart B. Cooper credited a visit from photographer Minor White when Cooper was a student as his inspiration to fund this position. “Dr. Deborah Willis has opened our minds to seeing beyond ourselves and helped us to see what had way too long been ignored. She stands as a unique figure in the betterment of art, education and society as a whole,” Cooper said in a press release.

Willis will give a free public lecture and curate an exhibition called Migrating Bodies: Artists Reimagine Migration along with her mentor role.

Last month, MICA also announced artist and educator Bill Gaskins as the Photographic and Electronic Media MFA director, taking the place of the retiring former director Tim Druckrey, who led the program for 10 years.

Gaskins intends to lead the program with an “entrepreneurial spirit” and “envisions PEM as an internationally recognized destination program that develops thought leaders through photography and media,” according to a press release.

A MICA alum himself, Gaskins arrives in his new position at MICA from the art department of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. His art has shown at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute, among many others, and his writing has appeared in The Society of Contemporary Craft, the New Art Examiner, Artsy, and others.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and provost David Bogen added among Gaskins’ accomplishments his “rich and deep experience as an artist, an educator and a national leader on issues of equity and inclusion in the arts and arts institutions.” (Rebekah Kirkman)

By Their Creative Force at the Baltimore Museum of Art

“Red Bowl,” 1953 by Grace Hartigan

When she painted it in 1953, Grace Hartigan called herself George Hartigan so that “Red Bowl” and other works would be taken seriously by collectors, galleries, and curators. Hartigan’s work should be in good company in By Their Creative Force: American Women Modernists, curated by Virginia Anderson, and the first of a year’s worth of exhibits highlighting women-identifying artists. The new exhibit opened last weekend and features 20 works by artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Maria Martinez, and Georgia O’Keeffe to recognize the innovative contributions women artists have made to the development of American modernism.

The exhibition title is taken from a 1929 Virginia Woolf quote, stating that women’s creative output had been pent up to such a degree they were ready to burst: “by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force.” According to the BMA’s press release, the show is “drawn primarily from the BMA’s collection, the selection of painting, sculpture, printmaking, and ceramics spans four decades to showcase women artists’ engagements with the major art movements of the 20th century, including Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. The subjects include figures, still lifes, landscapes, and non-representational abstraction. Notably, several of the artists—including Simone Brangier Boas, Grace Hartigan, Elsa Hutzler, Helen Jacobson, Amalie Rothschild, and Grace Turnbull—were based in Baltimore for much of their careers.”

By Their Creative Force also makes an effort to feature a number of women artists who have historically been left out of major collections, including Marguerite Zorach, one of the few American women artists whose work was included in the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show, Maria Finkelstein, who exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1928 and 1930, Gertrude Greene, a founder of American Abstract Artists and helped establish the Unemployed Artists Group (later known as the Artists Union), Simone Brangier Boas, one of the founding members of the Sculptors’ Guild whose work was included in the 1939 World’s Fair American Art exhibition, and Helen Jacobson, the only Marylander invited to show in the Art: U.S.A.: 59exhibition at the New York Coliseum. These new discoveries, combined with some familiar favorites, should begin to tell a new story about modernism and the significant role that women artists have always played in American art. (Cara Ober)

Natural Dye Initiative Brings Together Artists, Farmers, Researchers in Baltimore

A natural dye farm/art project has taken root aiming to “explore the cultural and economic impacts of growing and using natural dyes in the region.” In partnership with MICA for this project, the Parks & People Foundation hired part-time farmers/artists Kenya Miles and Sun English, who will help yield “local knowledge related to the growing, processing and use of natural dyes” in collaboration with Baltimore-based artists and businesses. Another natural dye garden will come to Hidden Harvest, a farm in Greenmount West. Miles, Rosa Chang, and Kibibi Ajanku were hired as researchers and artists-in-residence who will develop programming involving natural dye in Baltimore and Maryland, linking it to “different issues and communities in the city.”

According to MICA’s press release, the school is expanding the Fiber department curriculum to more thoroughly study the ecological benefits of natural dye and “investigate the social, historical and economic implications of the cultivation and use of natural dyes in Baltimore and beyond.” That is, another facet of the project involves reckoning with slavery and colonization involved in commodity crops, as well as education about “rich dyeing traditions of Africa, the Americas and Asia… through research and programming with honored practitioners.”

For this project, MICA has partnered with and/or is supported by South Korea’s Naju Natural Dyeing Cultural Center, Parks & People Foundation, and a host of state agencies and public-private entities including the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Maryland State Arts Council, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp., the Baltimore Development Corporation—and First Lady Yumi Hogan, an artist and erstwhile MICA instructor herself, and the wife of Larry Hogan, Maryland’s governor who started his tenure exhibiting his lingering distaste for Baltimore when he canceled the Red Line and then later excluded the whole city of Baltimore from a transportation map. (Rebekah Kirkman)

The Rothman family has invested deeply in the Baltimore School for the Arts for 40 years. And now Tom and Jessica Rothman have created the Rothman Endowed Fund in Visual Storytelling

In the 1980s, Donald Rothman, a noted trial attorney and longtime supporter of the Baltimore School for the Arts, helped to raise the school’s first $1 million, along with his wife, Bette. Now that the school has reaching its 40th anniversary, the Rothman’s children, Julie and Tom, Chairman of the Sony Pictures Motion Group, are continuing their parent’s legacy. Julie currently serves as the vice chair of the BSA Board of Trustees and Tom and his wife, Jessica, have donated $250,000 to the Charles C. Baum Film and Visual Storytelling Department to establish the Rothman Endowed Fund in Visual Storytelling. The fund will support interdisciplinary collaborative initiatives such as artists-in-residence, master classes, special student projects, and film productions.

“The Rothman family has played an incredibly important role both in the life of the Baltimore School for the Arts and in the city at large,” said Chris Ford, director of the BSA in a press release. “This gift will help us provide an excellent education to Baltimore’s young storytellers for generations to come. It also celebrates what’s possible when we all come together to build a brighter future for the city and its children.” (Cara Ober)

Creative Baltimore Fund Gives $252,000 to Cultural Organizations and Projects

This year’s awardees from the Creative Baltimore Fund included five community projects and 48 nonprofit cultural organizations within Baltimore City. Money for the Creative Baltimore Fund comes from Baltimore City’s “general fund,” and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts administrates the award to support individual projects as well as “general operating support” for cultural organizations, each in the amount of $5,000.

There’s probably a good percentage of the arts organizations in Baltimore that you’re already acquainted with who won awards from the fund this year, including 901 Arts, Arena Players, the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore School of the Arts Foundation, Inc., Baltimore Youth Arts, Center Stage, Everyman Theatre, GBCA, Make Studio, Maryland African American Museum Corporation (Reginald F Lewis), and numerous others. Project grants included the Charm City Night Market, High Zero Foundation, Little Italy Madonnari Festival, Peabody at Penn Station, and “See Also,” which “is a devised, immersive work, created by a collaborative of artists in conjunction with the In the Stacks Performing Arts Series (fiscally sponsored by Strong City Baltimore) and supported by Submersive Productions.” Visit BOPA’s website for the full list of awardees and more info.

Jurors included Claudia Freeland Jolin of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development, Garey Hyatt of Coppin State University, Terrence Jennings of the Mayor’s Office, and Lauren Schiszik of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. (RK)

More local art news:

Charm City Fringe Festival starts this week

The eighth-annual Charm City Fringe Festival runs until October 20, and it’s a whole lot, as you might expect. Puppet shows, musicals, dance, sketch comedy, one-person plays, and much more to check out. The titles alone are pretty enticing, including: Tres Brujas Productions’ Modern Witches; Ron Kipling Williams’ How Many Orgasms Does It Take to Stop Dropping Bombs?; Mary Goggin’s Runaway princess, a hopeful tale of heroin, hooking & happiness; Michael Burgos’ Tiramisu, among others. There’s also a special, maybe more child-appropriate Fringe Family Day on Saturday, and it is free.

BSO management, musicians agree on one-year deal with shortened season, pay raises

“After a lockout that ran through the summer, and more than half a year of its musicians playing without a contract, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s management and players have agreed on a deal running through Sept. 6, 2020,” wrote Brandon Weigel and Ethan McLeod of the Baltimore Fishbowl. The deal came in late September.

National nonprofit Artspace plans to repurpose NW Baltimore’s former Ambassador Theatre

Long abandoned and left to ruin, the Ambassador Theatre on Liberty Heights Avenue was purchased for $100,001 by the Minneapolis-based nonprofit arts developer Artspace, announced last month. Artspace’s plans for the theatre have not yet been finalized. According to the Baltimore Fishbowl, the Howard Park Civic Association has “held four community meetings with Artspace, and have asked for it to be rejuvenated as a community theater with equal focus on youth and adult programming, and staged productions.”

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