Baltimore News: John Waters, Mink Stole, and Calvin Klein, MICA’s MFA Mamas, Baltimore’s Culinary Snub

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This week’s news includes: Poet Nia June appears on Rob Lee’s The Truth in This Art podcast,  Baltimore musician Alison Ramírez of Peach Face, tenant power, and more reporting from The Atlantic,  Nonprofit Quarterly, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.


John Waters and Mink Stole featured in new Calvin Klein ad campaign
by Ed Gunts
Published May 24 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Writer and filmmaker John Waters was the face of Nike in 2019. He modeled for Saint Laurent in 2020. This year, nothing comes between Waters and his Calvins, as he and best friend Mink Stole appear in a new ad campaign for Calvin Klein Inc.

Waters and Stole are two of the personalities chosen to promote Calvin Klein’s “This is Love” fashion line, which celebrates “chosen families” and was launched in time for LGTBQIA+ Pride Month in June.

The campaign features videos of different sets of “nontraditional” yet “unconditional” lovers, discussing their relationships and what family means to them – all while sporting items from Calvin Klein’s collection.

Seated on a posh living room sofa and holding hands at one point, Waters, 76, and Stole, 74, are filmed talking about how they met and why they think their friendship has lasted so long.



Nia June
Interviewed by Rob Lee
Aired May 20 on The Truth in This Art Podcast

Excerpt: In this episode of the truth in this art, Rob Lee is in conversation with Nia June. Nia June is a Baltimore native, published poet, filmmaker, performer, dancer, arts educator, and author of Paper Trails of the Undying. In 2020, she was recognized by Baltimore Magazine as Best Poet of Baltimore.



MICA’s MFA Mamas reunite at the Fred Lazarus IV Center
by Jannette J. Witmyer
Published May 23 in The AFRO

Excerpt: If while driving through the 100 block W. North Avenue late Monday (5/9) afternoon you thought you witnessed four Black women seated in encircled chairs in front of the Maryland Institute College of Art Fred Lazarus IV Center, deeply engaged in conversation, you absolutely did. Seated in the midst of the noise, grit, and commotion of passing of cars, trucks, buses, and people, Mamas Kibibi Ajanku (‘16), Rashida Forman-Bey (‘22), and Sallah Jenkins (‘23), spoke about the individual journeys that placed them on the path to become past, present and future graduates of Maryland Institute College of Art MFA programs, respectively.

Having just completed her first year in MICA’s Rinehart School of Sculpture MFA program, Mama Sallah planned to host the interview in the space where her art resided. Instead, she arrived to find workers sweeping up the remains of her work, which had been unceremoniously disassembled with neither her permission nor knowledge. No other artists’ work had been touched. She was distraught. Then, the other Mamas swooped in, consoled their disrespected sister, and addressed the situation, refusing to allow it to impede them from completing the original task at hand. Basically, they just did what mamas do.



Peach Face’s Alison Ramírez Is a Next-Gen Baltimore Musician to Watch
by Lydia Woolever
Published May 25 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: If you were to put together an all-star roster of next-generation Baltimore musicians, Peach Face would be in the starting lineup. The musical project of 23-year-old singer-songwriter Alison Ramírez is a gauzy, indie-pop daydream, marked by lush, synth-fueled songs of love, loss, and identity, such as her cell phone-recorded first single, “Grilled Cheese,” which has over 2.5 million streams on Spotify. Her debut full-length album, Grocery Store Flowers, comes out on June 20.

Ahead of the release, we sat down with Ramírez to discuss her roots, musical inspirations, and what comes next.



Building Tenant Power: A Growing Movement Rises in Baltimore
by Anneke Dunbar-Gronke
Published May 25 in Nonprofit Quarterly

Excerpt: Detrese Dowridge has been organizing tenants in Baltimore, Maryland, since she herself had to face down her landlord, Sage Management, in 2014. “I always knew there was something going on. I just couldn’t put my finger on it,” Dowridge explains. “I was working with temp agencies where my hours would fluctuate, so I was sometimes late on my rent, but I would eventually get paid.” But when she would pay the amount due on the court notice, Sage Management would send another notice demanding additional payments. Dowridge was skeptical. To add insult to injury, she was being forced to pay extra for a unit that was shoddy. “I was having issues with the rodents, with the roaches…it was horrible.”

Around this time, Baltimore tenant organizing group Right to Housing Alliance (RTHA) knocked on Dowridge’s door. “They were trying to identify certain property managers who always had court dates and filed a lot,” Dowridge says. “I took it upon myself to go to one of their meetings to see what it was about.” Soon after, Dowridge faced down retaliation and multiple eviction filings with the robust support of RTHA members. Dowridge recalls, with a proud smile across her face, that “[RTHA] would sit in the court with tenants, and when my case was called, everyone stood up with me.”



Why Can’t Baltimore Get Any Culinary Respect?
by Suzanne Loudermilk
Published May 23 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Before it closed in 1986, the Chesapeake Restaurant in the Baltimore neighborhood now known as Station North attracted diners from all over the country. Washingtonians would regularly step off the train at Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station and walk a block or so to spend an evening at the elegant spot. Musicians, movie stars, athletes, and locals sought a table in one of the six dining rooms in the multi-story building on North Charles Street to feast on dishes such as charcoal-broiled steaks, two-pound lobsters, jumbo imperial crab, and Caesar salad.

But as city dwellers relocated to the county, neighborhoods changed, and palates shifted to lighter fare, venerable dining establishments like the Chesapeake—and Danny’s, Haussner’s, and Pimlico Hotel—started to shutter, and Baltimore’s restaurant scene took on a different perception nationally. Though those of us who live here know better.

In a 2021 article, Forbes magazine noted that for years, “dining options in [the] Inner Harbor were mostly limited to fast food, big-name chains, and other mediocre spots targeting tourists.” Today, Baltimore restaurants garner the occasional mention in the national media. In fact, we have so much hometown pride, that every time it happens, you’d think we really rate, which we know we do, but not with the critics.



Baltimore works to expand bicycle infrastructure as city celebrates Bike to Work Day
by Marcus Dieterle
Published May 20 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: City officials encouraged Baltimoreans to ride bicycles to their jobs, school and other destinations to mark the city’s 25th annual Bike to Work Day on Friday.

Mayor Brandon Scott said during a press conference Friday morning that the city is working to make it easier for residents to get around Baltimore without a car.

“As we celebrate Bike to Work Day, I encourage residents to consider biking as a viable option for commuting to work and wherever else that you need to go,” Scott said. “Not to mention, and even more importantly, [biking is] a good way to participate in a healthy lifestyle and build community with folks in your neighborhood, in your family and across the city.”

Quinton Herbert, director of human resources for the city, extolled the benefits of biking, including reduced annual medical costs, less time missed from work due to illness or injury, and increased work productivity.

Biking to work also helps reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, city officials said.



Is Larry Hogan Living in a Fantasy World?
by Mark Leibovich
Published May 23 in The Atlantic

Excerpt: Larry hogan, the republican governor of Maryland, gave a speech this month at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, in which he declared that the GOP was “desperately in need of a course correction.” He called on the so-called Party of Reagan to end its dependency on Donald Trump and return to the heyday of the 40th president, Hogan’s hero. “America can once again be that shining city on a hill that Reagan talked about,” he told a politely nodding assembly of a few hundred guests. He spoke with an aura of sentimental duty, in the shadow of the same Air Force One that Reagan had ridden 660,000 miles on as president. He mentioned Big Tent conservatism, after-hours drinks with Tip O’Neill, the whole bit.

Oh, bless your heart, governor.



‘Build from strength’: ReBUILD Metro, community partners work to restore vacant homes in East Baltimore
by Marcus Dieterle
Published May 25 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: When fire engulfed the Dawson family’s home in East Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood in October 2002, two of Pastor Calvin Keene’s brothers and his mother were living three doors down.

A man had set the Dawsons’ home ablaze in retaliation for Angela Dawson and her husband Carnell alerting police to drug activity. Angela, Carnell and five of their children died as a result of the fire.

Rocked by the tragedy, the community turned grief into action.

“That was part of the impetus behind us making a declaration that that wasn’t going to happen again in our community,” said Keene, the pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Oliver since 1993.

Twenty years after the Dawson fire, community members and organizational partners are still working to address vacant homes and foster an all-around healthier community. Hundreds of houses have gone up; the community has fought to keep schools open. And while they’ve seen success, the efforts show just how much work it takes to rebuild a community where decades of disinvestment ravaged the fabric of the neighborhood.



Curio Wellness launches a new app to help patients personalize medical cannabis
by Donte Kirby
Published May 24 in Baltimore

Excerpt: One of the Baltimore region’s biggest names in medical cannabis aims to make its customers’ lives easier — and their experiences with the company’s products more personalized — with a new app.

Baltimore-founded Curio Wellness’s mobile app offers patients a guide to its products while allowing for orders to be placed at dispensaries across Maryland. The app was designed by Severna Park, Maryland-based company Accella, whose expertise and portfolio (including cannabis businesses) sufficiently convinced Curio Wellness that it could deliver the minimum viable product that the Maryland-based company sought.

“The basic content that you need in there relative to your brand goals but also the stickiness of why somebody is going to keep using and going back to this app is what contributed to picking [Accela],” Curio Wellness’s chief brand officer and public policy director Wendy Bronfein explained to



Header Image: Mink Stole and John Waters in a new ad for Calvin Klein.

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