News Briefs: Hugo Crosthwaite Wins NPG Portrait Competition, $5 Million for MICA, Tributes to Elijah Cummings

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This week: MICA receives $5 million for a new entrepreneurship center, BOPA announces 11 Neighborhood Lights Community Grants and Baltimore-based authors, Baltimore Center Stage hosts new civic dialogue series, Hugo Crosthwaite is the winner of the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, and cultural organizations remember beloved Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings as a strong supporter of the arts.

Hugo Crosthwaite wins Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition

A stop-motion animation won Hugo Crosthwaite the $25,000 first prize in the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The three-minute animation, “A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez” (2018), tells the story of a woman traveling from Tijuana, Mexico, to the US “in pursuit of the American dream.” Crosthwaite, born in Tijuana, is the first Latinx artist to win this prize.

Sam Comen of Los Angeles won second prize for a photograph titled “Jesus Sera, Dishwasher” (2018). Third prize was a tie and went to Richard Greene for a photograph, “Monroe, LA” (2016) and Wayde McIntosh for a painting, “Legacy” (2017). The remaining finalists, Natalia García Clark of Los Angeles and Mexico City, Lauren Hare of Portland, OR, and Adrian Octavius Walker of Oakland, were commended.

The winners were announced today at a press preview of The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The first-prize winner also receives a commission to make a portrait of a living person for the museum’s collection. Amy Sherald won the 2016 Outwin Boochever competition, and was subsequently chosen by Michelle Obama to paint her portrait.

The National Portrait Gallery shook things up a little for the 2019 portrait competition. Previously, they took a traditional approach for the triennial competition and “solicited products of direct encounters between artists and sitters.” Basically, this is what you think of when you think of portraiture. This year, though, they considered “indirect encounters, such as portraits that employ appropriated or readymade imagery as a means of responding to history,” as well as “conceptual portraits that utilize archival research to challenge and engage the social and political landscape of our time.” This includes finalist Sheldon Scott, whose performance-art piece was a first for the competition.

The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, featuring the 50 finalists, will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery October 26 through August 30, 2020. It will then tour across the US. Scott’s performance piece, “Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down),” is a tribute to the artist’s enslaved ancestors in South Carolina; he will perform from sunrise to sunset every day from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2 except Sunday.

Artists on display: Paul Adams/Jordan Layton, Luis Álvarez Roure, Shimon Attie, Tom Atwood, Claire Beckett, Quinn Russell Brown, Ruth Leonela Buentello, Antonius-Tin Bui, Mike Byrnside, Kate Capshaw, Daniel Centofanti, Joshua Cogan, Sam Comen, Larry W. Cook Jr., Carl Corey, Carla Crawford, Hugo Crosthwaite, David Antonio Cruz, Caledonia Curry/Swoon, Ronald Diamond, Jenny Dubnau, Jess T. Dugan, Nekisha Durrett, Nona Faustine, Genevieve Gaignard, Natalia García Clark, Anna GarnerRichard Greene, Lauren Hare, Sedrick Huckaby, Zun Lee, William Lemke, ADÁL, Patrick MartinezWayde McIntosh, Louie Palu, Joel Daniel Phillips, Deborah Roberts, Devon Rodriguez, Sheldon Scott, Federico Solmi, Sandra Steinbrecher, Julianne Wallace Sterling, Lava Thomas, Michael Vasquez, Adrian Octavius Walker.

(Rebekah Kirkman)

MICA receives $5 Million grant for Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship

As one nears the end of their art-school education, the question of what the hell to do with such an expensive education looms large for most. (Disclosure: I went to MICA and felt this immensely.) MICA has ramped up its career development resources over the past several years, thanks in part to three big donations from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation. The latest and biggest donation from the Ratcliffe Foundation was announced this week: $5 million over the next six years for the development, launch, and growth of the Ratcliffe Center for Creative Entrepreneurship.

The Ratcliffe Center will be part of MICA’s Center for Career Development, and will bolster the school’s stated “commitment to helping creatives develop innovative, socially-conscious businesses… Its activities reflect a comprehensive range of strategies, including curricular, co-curricular and experiential programming; and competition and entrepreneurship showcases. Business skills and 21st-century entrepreneurship training will be embedded into MICA’s curriculum.” These services will be available to undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students as well as alumni.

“With the rich range of initiatives that the funding supports, MICA takes a collegewide approach to infuse creative entrepreneurship training into art and design education,” MICA President Samuel Hoi said in a press release. The Ratcliffe Foundation’s previous gifts to MICA have all dealt with creative entrepreneurship initiatives. A 2015 donation of $600,000 which helped establish the MICA UP/Start Venture Competition and the MICApreneurship program. A second donation in 2017 of $600,000 gave those programs three more years of funding.

This $5 million donation will also support the school’s development of a creative entrepreneurship concentration, which “will incorporate hands-on learning, networking, budgeting, project management, and critical-thinking skills that help artists and designers forge purposeful and successful lives and careers.” The programming is expected to begin in spring 2020, and the Center’s home is slated to open in the fall of 2021 in a building on Mosher Street.

As a MICA graduate with student loans, I’d love to see some more big money going towards scholarships or loan forgiveness for students. The crushing anxiety of debt is part of what makes the art world inaccessible and inequitable for many. So many artists find online loans and quickly result in a cycle of debt that means that their credit score and financial future is ruined. The ability to work with reliable lenders has partially offset this risk, but to say that a new borrower who has not been educated on the specifics of the lending scene can decipher what banks have their best interest in mind is shortsighted. The gift of being able to attend a program and graduate debt-free ensures that more artists—not just those with means—can freely pursue careers as successful artists and entrepreneurs and effectively put this new training to use. (Rebekah Kirkman)

Baltimore Center Stage hosts new civic dialogue series

Dr. Lawrence Brown, an associate professor at Morgan State University’s School of Community Health and Policy, is outspoken about racial inequity in Baltimore, and his research focuses on how historical trauma affects community health. Recognizing how racist policies created the hypersegregated city of Baltimore, He uses the term the “Black Butterfly” to refer to predominantly Black neighborhoods that receive “structured disadvantages” and which lie outside of the “White L” which “accumulates structured advantages.” (He also has a forthcoming book on this: The Black Butterfly: Why We Must Make Black Neighborhoods Matter.)

Referencing the work of Brown, Baltimore Center Stage has recently announced a new “civic dialogue series” called the Baltimore Butterfly Sessions, which starts Oct. 28. The series is free and open to the public and features music, poetry, and “thought-provoking keynote addresses” through the theater’s 2019-20 season.

“Like so much of the world, Baltimore is in the midst of some really complicated and consequential conversations and I believe that arts institutions are uniquely positioned to participate,” Artistic Director Stephanie Ybarra said in a press release. Annalisa Dias, the Director of Artistic Partnerships and Innovation, is producing the series.

The first session, on Monday, October 28 at 7 p.m., features Sheela Murthy, an immigration lawyer based in Owings Mills, and Kamyar Arsani, a musician, and it focuses on the theme of Home, delving into “immigrant experiences and immigration issues” and partners with the Olney Theatre Center. (Rebekah Kirkman)

BOPA’s reinvented Neighborhood Lights Program and recipients of the Neighborhood Lights Community Grant

The Baltimore Book Festival and Light City—now combined under the name Brilliant Baltimore—are fast-approaching. This week, BOPA announced the renovated “Neighborhood Lights Program and the 11 recipients of the Neighborhood Lights Community Grant, which together will create an immersive arts experience that will illuminate the city” during the ten-day festival, November 1–10. The $5,000 award goes to the Bromo Arts District, Canton, Frankford, Fells Point, Irvington, Mount Clare, Oliver, Patterson Park, Promise Heights, Reservoir Hill, and the Station North Arts District.

The funding will help the neighborhoods and districts put together their programs, which include a parade in Reservoir Hill, a dance party at the Patterson Park pagoda, a Día de los Muertos celebration in Mount Clare, an exhibition of costumes and props from Baltimore Rock Opera Society performances across the Bromo Arts District, and more. The Neighborhood Lights Program will use culinary arts, literary arts, performing arts, and visual arts to engage the communities. Eight branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library will host family-friendly book readings, drone workshops, and silent discos.

In addition, BOPA announced the Baltimore-based authors and artists who will join the lineup for the Baltimore Book Festival & Light City celebration. “Baltimore is brimming with artistic talent in every creative arena, from visual arts to culinary creations, world-class literature to showstopping theater,” said Kathy Hornig, Chief Operating Officer and Festivals Director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. “By elevating our Baltimore-based talent at the Baltimore Book Festival and Light City this November, the city has a golden opportunity to showcase to the world the cultural powerhouse that is Baltimore.”

Local artists and authors involved with this year’s festival include:

  • Kevin Blackistone, whose Light City installation ‘Radiant Flux’ explores the many facets of light
  • Sondheim Artscape Prize winner Erick Benitez and finalist Sutton Demlong and their sculpture ‘Where Pathways Meet,’ an interactive multimedia garden maze that brings flora and fauna from around the world to the city
  • Acclaimed author Barbara Bourland, whose breakthrough novel ‘I’ll Eat When I’m Dead’ was named one of the best books of 2017 by Refinery29 (and will be featured on a panel Nov. 1 organized by BmoreArt!)
  • Artist Michael Bowman and his interactive piece ‘Baltimore Fancy,’ a celebration of the city’s historic African-American Arabber street vendors
  • New York Times bestselling author and former award-winning sports columnist for The Baltimore Sun, Kevin Cowherd, who brings compelling insights into the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in ‘When the Crowd Didn’t Roar: How Baseball’s Strangest Game Ever Gave a Broken City Hope’
  • James Dolgin and his sculpture ‘Facades,’ which brings visitors into Baltimore’s historic row homes through an interactive display
  • World-renowned jazz musician Sean Jones, who brings his quartet to the Inner Harbor’s Literary Salon for an evening of classical music
  • Artist Jeffrey Kent, whose work, ‘An Abstract Baltimore Story,’ illuminates the dark history of medical experimentation on African Americans through the story of Henrietta Lacks, highlighting her story on a large LED screen in the city where she first sought treatment
  • Emmy-winning investigative journalist Brian Kuebler, who presents his debut novel ‘The Long Blink,’ a revealing and emotional investigation of the rapidly growing danger of American roads
  • Ellis Marsalis, whose captivating photography project ‘Masters of the Edifice’ contextualizes Baltimore’s historic murals through light box reproductions
  • Chef and activist Nichole Mooney, who serves up her culinary skills in tandem with a discussion of her non-profit organization Black Girls Cook, which teaches girls of color life-skills through cooking and gardening
  • Freelance writer Linda Morris, who brings her childhood experiences in Baltimore to bear in the engaging ‘Cherry Hill: Raising Successful Black Children in Jim Crow Baltimore’

According to BOPA, “Baltimore’s creative workforce is an integral part of the city’s economy.” They cite the most recent Americans for the Arts report which states that more than 15,000 people are employed by nonprofits arts and cultural organizations in Baltimore, and their creative output generated more than $606 million in economic activity in 2017. For more info on other Light City events and Baltimore Book Festival, visit the Brilliant Baltimore website. (Rebekah Kirkman and Cara Ober)

Cultural tributes to beloved Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings

Photo by Justin Gellerson for NY Times

After beloved US Representative Elijah Cummings passed away, there was an outpouring of grief and tributes from his political colleagues, like Nancy Pelosi, who wrote: “In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, who pushed the Congress and country always to rise to a higher purpose, reminding us why we are here. As he said whenever he saw that we were not living up to our Founders’ vision for America and meeting the needs of our children for the future: ‘We are better than this.’”

However, we were most touched by a number of cultural institutions in Baltimore who wrote moving and personal accounts of their relationship with the congressman, expressing their respect and gratitude at his support for the arts in the region.

From Chris Ford, Director of the Baltimore School for the Arts: “I recall one extended conversation with him in the year his beloved daughter Adia graduated BSA. The conversation was not about Adia, but one of her classmates, a graduate who had made different choices than Adia made. The congressman let me know, with clarity and passion, that he felt the school should have employed more effort to help this young person see the long game and encourage this person to see grander possibilities. I took that lesson to heart and I hope he would think we met his challenge.

He was also passionate about helping the youngest of our children to see their potential, leading to his long term commitment to TWIGS. In one of his talks at BSA, we learned Elijah was “a frustrated horn player.” Growing up in South Baltimore, he said, there weren’t many activities, and he had just one dream: to join the band. But the horn rental was too expensive for his parents, and he never had the opportunity. That’s why, through the generous bequest of Sally Michel, a close friend of Elijah and another tireless advocate for our city’s children, we established the Elijah E. Cummings Endowed TWIGS Instrument Fund.

We have lost a great, important, and humble man who served Baltimore, Maryland, and America so very well.  We express our sincere condolences to his family, particularly his wife, Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings, and his youngest daughter, Adia Cummings.”

From the Baltimore Museum of Art: “Congressman Elijah Cummings’ passing is a great loss, and it is a loss that we feel personally at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Congressman and his wife, former BMA trustee Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, were supporters of the arts and frequent attendees of BMA exhibitions and programming. You may have seen them at our Jazz in the Sculpture Garden series, seated with friends and enjoying the evening. Congressman Cummings was devoted to Baltimore and championed living in this city. He was a proponent of social equity in our city and our country. We will honor his legacy in our own commitment to Baltimore and to equity. We will miss his presence in our city and within our Museum. Rest in peace, Congressman Cummings.”

From Reginald F. Lewis Museum Director Jackie Copeland: “The city of Baltimore, the State of Maryland and the Nation have lost a warrior and champion in Elijah Cummings. Cummings believed in democracy, and continued to fight for the civil rights of all people. He was a friend of the museum who will be dearly missed. A frequent visitor and supporter of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Cummings was a strong voice in support of our future and our children. His words “Our children are our gift to a future we will never see,” continue to resonate with us. A big supporter of the arts, his Congressional Art Competition for high schoolers in Baltimore was an event the community embraced every year. As the Lewis museum shapes its own future, we will be forever guided by the strength and wisdom of Elijah Cummings.”

From the Walters Art Museum (Instagram): “Just like the rest of Charm City, we woke up to the sad news of Elijah Cummings’ passing this morning. There’s no doubt that the Congressman made an unforgettable impact on Baltimore (and far beyond it), and he will be missed dearly by the Walters Art Museum. For years the civil rights leader hosted the annual Congressional Art Competition for the 7th District of Maryland. Winners of the competition, which is for high school students, are able to see their work on display at the U.S. Capital. In this photo in our sculpture court, Cummings poses with Jini Kim, the 2016 winner, and her work. “There are some who believe that art and music are luxuries that our schools can no longer afford,” Cummings said in his remarks during the competition. “I must disagree, both as a partner and as an elected representative.” (Cara Ober)

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