Baltimore News: Charles Mason III, Selena Carter, Rebecca Hoffberger’s Last AVAM Show

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This week’s news includes: Tawny Chatmon interviewed for Anthology Magazine, E. coli bacteria in city water, “everybody’s unionizing” in Baltimore, and more reporting from The AFRO, Baltimore Beat, The Daily Record, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Artist Chris Roberts’ fabric appliqué and embroidery piece “Antieau Animalium” is part of an exhibition curated by American Visionary Art Museum founding director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger that will close Sept. 4. Art courtesy of Chris Roberts, photo by Dan Meyers, via Baltimore Fishbowl.


Charles Mason III Talks Growth, Change, and Dumpster Diving
by Lisa Snowden
Published September 7 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: There’s no part of growing that isn’t retracing your steps. It’s a complicated, one-step-forward-two-steps-back process that, while frustrating, eventually helps grow you into a different version of yourself.

In late August, artist Charles Mason III talked about this process and how it is influencing this stage of his career. The conversation was part of the Station North Arts District Art Walk, a series of events held this summer that gave residents a close-up look at various facets of Baltimore’s arts community. Sitting inside the Waller Gallery, Mason spoke on how changes in his life are reflected in his work. He said he’s still adjusting to being at the Waller and figuring out where he goes from here.

“It’s about realizing that I’m in an uncomfortable state and growing at the same time,’ he says. “It’s this weird feeling where you don’t know where you’re about to land at, but life is still happening, and you have to deal with what’s happening in life.”




Artist shares her light with others … and it’s neon
by Jasmine Vaughn-Hall
Published September 7 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: If you ask her, how she started making neon lights was a happy accident.

Selena Carter was working in the Built Environment Applied Research Lab at Morgan State University, learning how to laser cut plywood. One day, she came across a piece of slime green-colored fluorescent acrylic in the lab and started thinking about how something like that would look lit up.

After several Amazon purchases, trips to Home Depot, broad discussions about electricity with her father, and a lot of experimenting, she made her first neon sign. It took almost a year and many more signs after that to perfect her practice, she said.



Tawny Chatmon: If I’m no longer here, I wanted you to know
by Edel Cassidy
Published in Anthology Magazine

Excerpt: Drawing inspiration from the Byzantine period, American photographer Tawny Chatmon adorns Black bodies with gold and semi-precious stones to express her love for family and friends.



Rebecca Hoffberger’s final curated exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum closes Sept. 4
by Ed Gunts
Published September 2 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: This weekend is the last chance to see the current “mega-exhibition” at the American Visionary Art Museum, the last one co-founder Rebecca Alban Hoffberger curated while she was director.

“Healing & the Art of Compassion (And the Lack Thereof!)” will close on Sept. 4 to make way for a new exhibit opening next month.

Since it debuted in 1995 as America’s “official national museum for self-taught, intuitive artistry,” AVAM typically has presented one mega-exhibition per year, starting just after Labor Day and running for 11 months.

Hoffberger, who retired in April as the only director in the museum’s history, has said the “Healing” exhibit constitutes “my final love song before my retirement.”



‘In Baltimore, everybody’s unionizing’: Workers weigh in on wave of labor organizing campaigns
by Alissa Zhu and Imani Spence
Published September 5 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Hoisting signs and sharing a microphone, more than two dozen people rallied outside the front steps of the Maryland Institute College of Art on Tuesday afternoon in support of an upcoming vote to unionize full-time faculty members.

One purple-haired student paused halfway up the steps to listen to a speaker, raised a fist in solidarity and shouted, “Yeah!”

Across the city, people are organizing for better wages, improved working conditions and more power in the workplace. A tech retailer, a coffee shop, an organic grocery store, art museums, libraries and community colleges have all experienced union pushes in recent months in the Baltimore area. This wave of collective bargaining has been catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing wealth gap, according to workers, labor organizers and experts.



** UPDATE **
Officials reduce boundaries of boil-water advisory and announce plan to discount water bills citywide by 25%
by Emily Sullivan and Adam Willis
Published September 7 in The Baltimore Banner

West Baltimore grapples with E. coli bacteria in tap water as officials test again
by Bethany Raja
Published September 6 in WYPR

Excerpt: Dante Gaines pulled a red wagon with two gallon jugs of water from a West Baltimore distribution site on Tuesday morning. His neighborhood of Harlem Park was among those advised to boil tap water by city officials on Labor Day. Gaines, who lives with five other people, has never experienced a boil water advisory and was frustrated by the situation.

“Hopefully the city will get better at responding to emergencies like this,” Gaines said. “Hopefully the mayor can do something because as you can see, he ain’t down here either.”

Dozens of residents across the affected neighborhoods stood in line at three distribution sites in West Baltimore. The Baltimore City Department of Public Works discovered E. coli bacteria after routine testing on Friday and confirmed by a second test on Saturday. Officials didn’t start recommending residents to boil their water until Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, communities across southwest Baltimore County were advised to boil tap water as a cautionary measure, including Arbutus, Halethorpe and Lansdowne.

See also:

Baltimore City officials awaiting updated test results as thousands remain under boil water advisory
by Adam Willis, Emily Sullivan and Penelope Blackwell
Published September 6 in The Baltimore Banner



Officials: Acquisition of historic Black-owned beach highlights new state parks initiative
by Josh Kurtz
Published September 2 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Carr’s Beach in Annapolis is an almost mythological name in Maryland history – one of a few Black-owned beaches along the Severn River that became a regular stop for top-flight performers on the “Chitlin Circuit” during the Jim Crow era, as well as a place of recreation for families shut out of the region’s segregated beaches.

Today, there isn’t much evidence that the place ever existed, except for a small spit of sand and a few historical signs along a wood-chip path off a side road near a bustling boatyard.

But within a year or so, that will change. With substantial financial help from the federal, state and Anne Arundel County governments, as well as a few nonprofits, the City of Annapolis recently purchased a six-acre plot of land that includes the beach, and local officials plan to build a waterfront park there that will pay tribute to the area’s history.

“This land will now be a place for everybody,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) said Thursday.



There’s a new sheriff in town-but why should you care?
by Tashi McQueen
Published September 3 in The Afro

Excerpt: Many in Maryland have their eyes set on the Governor’s race, but voters should also be concerned with who’s in the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff holds one of the highest offices in law enforcement in which voters have a say. In contrast, the police commissioner is selected by and reports directly to the mayor. Each sheriff represents a particular jurisdiction.

“The sheriff answers to the people and is elected by the people,” said Sam Cogen, the Democratic nominee for sheriff.

The incumbent of 33 years, Sheriff John W. Anderson, has been defeated by his mentee, Cogen, in the July 19 primary.



Baltimore mother reaches grand jury, capping lonely battle to prosecute police in son’s death
by Madeleine O’Neill
Published September 4 in The Daily Record

Excerpt: Sitting in her living room in Northeast Baltimore, Marcella Holloman can point to the exact spot where Baltimore police shot and killed her son 10 years ago.

A photograph of her son looks out over the living room, which in recent weeks has transformed into something besides the scene of a deadly shooting: the headquarters of Holloman’s legal battle to hold the officers accountable in court.

A laundry basket next to the couch holds a jumble of legal documents she’s compiled over the past decade.

Holloman’s last-ditch effort to have the officers prosecuted culminated last week in Baltimore Circuit Court. Relying on a little-known aspect of common law, Holloman assembled 100 pages of records to present to the grand jury on her own — a right afforded to every citizen of Maryland, though few people know about it.



In the 1870s, The Start of a New School Year Marked the Start of a New Era.
by Martha S. Jones
Published September 6 in Hard Histories at Hopkins

Excerpt: The 1870s radically altered Baltimore’s educational landscape. You’d be right if this brings to mind the beginnings of Johns Hopkins University. Inaugural President Daniel Coit Gilman assumed his post with an address delivered in February 1876. Two years later, in 1878, the university conferred its first degrees, four PhDs, while a foundation for the medical school was laid.

The research of Hard Histories Lab member Kevin LaMonica reminds us that the 1870s also were a watershed for young people in Baltimore City as Black children gained entry to public school classrooms for the first time. Kevin’s research into public records and period newspapers chronicles this story, the importance of which rivals that of the university’s beginnings.



Header Image: Artist Chris Roberts’ fabric appliqué and embroidery piece “Antieau Animalium” at the American Visionary Art Museum

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