Baltimore News: BMA Security Guards Curate Exhibition, Art Health & Healing, Beach House’s New Album, and more

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This week’s news includes: New exhibition at the BMA curated by security guards, Art Health & Healing, COVID crushes music clubs, Beach House releases a new album, Marilyn Mosby’s blame game, Baltimore-based artists and culture workers discuss Chris Bedford’s legacy at the BMA, and more reporting from The Real News, Baltimore Fishbowl, NPR, and other local and independent news sources.



Baltimore native Kellen Johnson has been a guard at the BMA for almost nine years. Christopher Myers/Baltimore Museum of Art

Meet the security guards moonlighting as curators at the Baltimore Museum of Art
by Susan Stamberg
Published February 23 in NPR’s Morning Edition

Excerpt: Everyone I tell about this story immediately smiles — it’s such a great idea. Last year, the Baltimore Museum of Art invited their guards to curate an exhibition. And since then, BMA security officers have been working on it with professional curators and other staffers, leading up to its March 27 opening. Working with various museum departments, they learned what it takes to put up an exhibition — and got paid for it, too, in addition to their regular salaries. And they had a terrific time, at least according to the ones I spoke with. One of them, in fact, burst into song!

Kellen Johnson has been a guard at the BMA for almost nine years. He’s also studying vocal performance at Towson University in Maryland. He loves music, as well the extra money from the project. “I’m working my way through college” he says.



Photo by Justin Fenton

Family that owns home where firefighters died speaks out for first time, illustrates city’s challenges with vacants
by Justin Fenton
Published February 17 in Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Robert Shore Jr.’s family no longer wanted their home on South Stricker Street in Southwest Baltimore. And as the taxes accrued and the city put it up for auction, neither did anybody else.

The family had long ago relocated to a sleepy town in the hills of central Pennsylvania, and shut off the utilities to the home. For a time, they leaned on a relative still in the area to make sure the property was boarded up.

“We did what we could to keep it secured, but when shit happens, shit happens,” Shore said in a phone interview from Huntingdon, Pa.

On Jan. 24, the home went up in flames, and three firefighters died battling the blaze: Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler, and firefighter Kenny Lacayo. A fourth, John McMaster, was hurt. It was at least the second fire at the property in seven years, the previous also injuring four firefighters. Sadler had been at the first fire, too.

See also:

As a Banner unfurls, Baltimore’s media landscape is changing
by Tim Swift
Published February 16 in Baltimore Fishbowl


Harm reduction sticker spotted in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore. Photo by Brandon Soderberg

Baltimore Harm Reductionists Demand Democrats Finally Decriminalize Drug Paraphernalia
by Brandon Soderberg
Published February 18 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: “This should be a relatively easy bill for us because it’s something that we’ve passed before,” State Sen. Jill Carter told the Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at the end of a long day of hearings and testimony in Annapolis.

Carter was talking about Senate Bill 509, which would, if finally passed, ostensibly decriminalize drug paraphernalia such as syringes in the state of Maryland.

Currently, possession of paraphernalia can result in up to four years in prison and a $25,000 fine. It is a harsher penalty than possession of the drugs, which can result in one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

As Maryland Matters reported, a cross-filed House Bill 481 also had its hearing this week.



What’s Next for the BMA After Christopher Bedford’s Departure?
by Ed Gunts
Published February 18 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: The next director of the Baltimore Museum of Art should be Black, if the institution is truly going to fulfill its mission of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The next director needs to keep the museum in the national conversation, while also making sure it’s always free to visit, has evening hours, and otherwise serves area residents.

The museum should present art from around the world, but also provide exposure that elevates local artists.

It needs to unleash the staff. Continue with progressive curation. Expand programs. Support the city’s cultural workers.

Those are a few of the recommendations that members of Baltimore’s vibrant arts community have for the hallowed institution as it embarks on its next chapter, following the resignation of Christopher Bedford as the Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

After five and a half years in Baltimore, Bedford resigned last week to become director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His last day at the BMA will be June 3.



Emily Sullivan/WYPR

No carry-out concerts: local entertainment industry leaders lament COVID-19 trouble
by Callan Tansill-Suddath
Published February 22 in WYPR

Excerpt: Maryland’s arts and entertainment industry leaders told state Comptroller Peter Franchot Tuesday they took a financial beating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We saw a total economic loss of about $134 million, a loss of attendance of 15.2 million people, and a drop in visitor spending of $79.4 million,” said Steven Skerritt-Davis, the Executive Director of the Maryland State Arts Council.

Skerritt-Davis and other speakers said they were frustrated with the process of obtaining grant funding. They complained of a lack of a centralized directory of what grants are available, the need to jump through many hoops to apply and actually procure grant funding, and extremely long wait times.

“The lights went out. The doors were locked. Thousands of layoffs occurred and spending in Maryland in the entertainment business was completely shut down,” said Ted Mankin, Senior Vice President of Booking for Live Nation and co-founder of MEIA, the Maryland Entertainment Industry Association.



A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a redistricting plan proposed by the Baltimore County Council. Screenshot.

Federal Judge Blocks Baltimore County Council Redistricting Plan
by Bennett Leckrone
Published February 22 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a redistricting plan from the Baltimore County Council that included just one majority Black council district and ordered county officials to adopt a new plan by March 8.

U.S. District Court Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby issued an order requiring county officials to adopt a new plan that “either includes two reasonably compact majority-Black Districts for the election of County councilmembers, or an additional County District in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice” and complies with the Voting Rights Act.

Five of seven districts in the plan that was approved by the county council in December were majority white and another had a 46.17% white plurality. Similar to current maps, just one district would have been majority Black at 72.59%, according to data released by the Baltimore County Council.

Roughly 30% of county residents are Black, according to U.S. Census data, and nearly half are people of color — reflecting increasing diversity in the county in recent decades.

The Baltimore County NAACP, Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and several Black voters in the county filed the federal lawsuit against the council’s redistricting plan in December, arguing that the plan violated the Voting Rights Act.



Once Twice Melody | Beach House
by Philip Sherburne
Published February 17 in Pitchfork

Excerpt: Beach House’s Once Twice Melody begins “out in the summer sun,” dawning strings and downy acoustic guitars sketching a scene of pastoral bliss, and ends, 17 songs later, reaching “into the darkness,” where “the universe collects us.” It is a fittingly epic span for a pair of Baltimore stargazers who have never been shy about courting infinity. Between those two ephemeral points, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally luxuriate in the interplay of shadow and light, the scent of night-blooming flowers, the rhapsody of sensation itself. The first album that they have produced on their own, it hews to Beach House’s trademark dream-pop reverie—eight albums in, it is clearer than ever that they have no interest in breaking character or changing up the scenery—while billowing outward in every direction. The operative term is more, the operative mode superlative: bigger but also gauzier; more sumptuous, more diaphanous, more dazzling. You don’t listen to Once Twice Melody, you dissolve into it.



Nick and Marilyn Mosby, from The People for Mosby, Facebook page, created in March 2021.

Marilyn Mosby says her husband’s tax decisions and lies placed her in legal jeopardy
by Fern Shen and Mark Reutter
Published February 21 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: In a slew of court filings over the weekend, Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s indicted state’s attorney, points a finger at familiar malefactors that she has been saying for months have it in for her.

The motion by her lawyers for dismissal of the federal charges against her is an animus-allegation-laden document – the word appears 78 times – replete with more of the zingers the public has come to expect from Mosby’s speeches, tweets and campaign fundraising material.

High on the list of those out to destroy her elected career is the “relentless and unethical” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise, one of the prosecutors leading the case against her.

There also are harsh words for Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming (the author of a critical report which Mosby had requested on her out of-town travels) who is described as “an undisputed political adversary.”

In the new court documents, Mosby blames additional individuals for events leading up to the four-count indictment she faces on charges of perjury and making false statements on loan applications.



Paul Braswell strives to develop ways to engage the community with Art Health & Healing. (Photo Courtesy)

At this Baltimore organization, art and healing go hand-in-hand
by Jannette J. Witmyer
Published February 21 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Paul Braswell is brimming with excitement about the work his nonprofit organization Art Health & Healing (AH&H) has been doing, using art as a source of healing, and how it all came to be. Actually, it was a natural fit. Braswell, a kidney transplant recipient who spent nine years on dialysis, has 35 years of experience as a registered nurse and began collecting art more than 25 years ago. As a patient with a professional background in healthcare, he saw how art affected his recovery, firsthand.

“I realized while recovering from my kidney transplant that the art within my home was healing for me,” Braswell said.

He recognized that if art could help him, then he could use it to help others.

“So basically, what I’ve been doing is using art as a therapeutic tool to assist individuals with chronic medical conditions or life-changing indicators, through different types of art,” he explains.



In the art world, John Waters zigs while others zag
by Ed Gunts
Published February 17 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: At a time of year when many art and film lovers are honoring the best of recent work — culminating with the Oscars — John Waters is going in a different direction.

“The Worst of Waters” is the name of an exhibit that will open next month at C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore, featuring visual art created by the Baltimore-based writer and filmmaker.

“Works never before exhibited in Baltimore” the gallery says on its website. “The rudest, the hardest to sell, the just plain wrong.”

Waters announced the show during his spoken word performance on Valentine’s Day at Baltimore Soundstage. “I try to keep all my brands going,” he said. “Come see it, come see it.”



Header: Harm reduction sticker spotted in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore. Photo by Brandon Soderberg

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