It is no surprise, in light of abrupt school shutdowns, mass furloughs and layoffs, and the record-breaking numbers of Marylanders filing for unemployment, that the Maryland Food Bank and similar organizations have had to rush to help as food security plunges drastically. Because of a severe drop in food donations, which the food bank typically relies on for a quarter of its monthly food distribution, MFB has had to purchase far more than usual. In a typical month, MFB spends $200,000 a month on wholesale purchases, but over the past month it reportedly spent about $3.6 million. Recently the food bank announced it will need to raise $12 million by the end of June to continue the rapid pace at which it is purchasing and distributing food to pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters.
Cho and Bell agreed to donate the Images for Baltimore proceeds to the food bank because it is an organization that is not solely responsive or reactive to a situation—along with food distribution, it proactively tries to “understand and eradicate the root causes of hunger” through a variety of community programs. “We also chose the MFB because unlike government grants and stimulus checks, the MFB is a resource open to all, regardless of immigration status,” they said.
Along with the main mission of fundraising, Images for Baltimore functions as a point of connection within the city’s expansive, and at times disjointed, visual art community. On social and personal levels, within this selection of artists there are elders of the art community along with younger generations, the self-taught next to the art-school graduates. But also on a technical/formal level, there are photographers and painters and sculptors working in figuration and abstraction and inventive combinations of all of these.
Bell, who has lived in Baltimore for about seven years, said that she is continually inspired by the sense of community in this city, and similarly heartened—but not surprised—to see the artists ready to participate in the project and to share it within their networks and on social media. She and Cho were eager to bring together artists who are less established with those who have been in the game for longer. One such emerging artist, Rohan Mattu, whose photograph of a dirt biker doing a wheelie down a blurry Frederick Avenue is included in the fundraiser, proclaimed in an Instagram post, “I’ve wanted to share prints for a while, and i’m really happy that my first time is as a part of @imagesforbaltimore !”