Baltimore News: Whitney Simpkins’ Personal Best Ceramics, Jonathon Heyward, Library of Things

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This week’s news includes: checking out more than books in Baltimore County public libraries, Trov lives on in Carmen Brock’s home, MOM’s in Hampden votes to unionize, and more reporting from Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Brew, Real News Network, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Whitney Simpkins’ ceramic “Speckled Everything” cups, c/o Personal Best Ceramics website.




Personal Best Ceramics pulls from Baltimore’s best ceramics community
by Imani Spence
Published August 26 in Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Whitney Simpkins has loved ceramics most of her life. “I was like 12 or 13 when I first learned to throw at a free class for middle schoolers,” Simpkins says. She attended an arts high school in Florida, where she’s from, focusing on 2D and painting work before coming to MICA to earn a degree in painting. In 2016, she started creating ceramic pieces for family and friends, and in 2018 she began Personal Best Ceramics. Through her business, she sells bowls, mugs, plates, planters and other goods. The company grew during lockdown, when Simpkins realized she could spend more time creating ceramic works that could sustain her.

Primarily educated as a 2D artist, Simpkins found that she enjoyed ceramics through classes at varying points in her life. During her time at MICA, she took a hand building class that reignited her spark for working with the tactile medium of clay. She remembers how much she came back to clay crafts as a child.



Q&A with conductor Jonathon Heyward
Interviewed by Robb Lee
Aired August 25 on ‘The Truth in this Art’ Podcast

In this episode of The Truth In This Art, Rob interviewed Jonathon Heyward, the Music Director Designate for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, and discussed why he chose Baltimore, conducting and much more.



At the Baltimore County Public Library, Residents Can Check Out More Than Just Books
by Janelle Erlichman Diamond
Published August 29 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: There are more than 1.8 million books that can be checked out from the 19-branch system of the Baltimore County Public Library. But many people don’t know that you can also borrow a loom or a fishing pole.

Jamie Watson has been the collection development manager with the BCPL for the past 12 years, but she has loved books for as long as she can remember.

“My dad was a baseball coach and his players taught me to how to read when I was three and I’ve pretty much read ever since,” says Watson, 57, who grew up in Ohio. “I had my own home library—this is going to make me sound so nerdy—with a little stamper and I’d put a date due and everything.”

That young bookworm ended up making a career out of it. And while buying books is the biggest part of her job, the Library of Things, a collection of non-book objects loaned through the library—from Catan board games to rock and fossil kits—has been a whole lot of fun for Watson and her 12-person team.



Police scale back accusations related to alleged threat on set of ‘Lady in the Lake’
by Justin Fenton
Published August 30 in Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Baltimore Police say an investigation into a purported threat that halted production of Apple TV+ miniseries “Lady in the Lake” offers a significantly different narrative, with police now saying the threats of violence and extortion do not appear accurate.

Police, citing officers working security on the set, told news media including The Baltimore Banner over the weekend that drug dealers had been upset with the production, threatened to shoot up the set, and demanded a $45,000 payment, causing production to be shut down for the day.

Production company Endeavor Content also released a statement saying two men confronted a driver on the production and one of them brandished a gun at him. The production increased security as a result.

Police continued to investigate and have made an arrest — but the account is much different.

See also:

Filming halted for Baltimore TV series ‘Lady in the Lake’ after violence threatened against the cast, crew, police say
by Jessica Calefati and Justin Fenton
Published August 27 in Baltimore Banner



PBS to air documentaries about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, co-produced by Maryland Public Television
by Jane Sartwell
Published August 31 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: “Harriet Tubman was a one-person Seal Team 6,” says Travis Mitchell, Maryland Public Television’s senior vice president and chief content officer.

In October, PBS will air two documentaries about Tubman and fellow Maryland-born abolitionist Frederick Douglass, co-produced by Maryland Public Television and Fireflight Films. This year marks the 200-year anniversary of Tubman’s birth.

The films, “Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” and “Becoming Frederick Douglass,” offer fresh and intimate portraits of Tubman and Douglass, two of Maryland’s — and the nation’s — most influential historical figures.

“If there was no Tubman, no Douglass, there would be no President Obama, no me. It’s that real,” Mitchell says.



Carmen Brock’s Charles Village Home is a Treasured Trove
by Janelle Erlichman Diamond
Published August 31 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Carmen Brock and her house felt like strangers in the summer of 2020. Brock, the beloved owner of home goods shop Trohv, had spend the past 14 years living and breathing her store on the Avenue, which often meant ignoring her Victorian-style rowhome on Guilford Avenue, in the heart of Charles Village. It was merely a place to rest her weary head.

When, due to the weight of the pandemic, Trohv closed for good in August 2020, suddenly Brock, who was a Baltimore City middle school teacher before opening Trohv, found herself only being at home. And a reintroduction began.

“It really was a refuge—with the shop and even when I was teaching, I just wasn’t here that much,” she says.

But when Brock found herself unmoored, it was her home that she craved.

“I’m truly head over heels for the comfort that your own space can bring you,” she says. “It’s not just comfort, it’s also a place where I was experiencing loneliness and heartbreak. A safe, tender place where I could mourn Trohv. It felt like it held me.”



State survey for people sickened after Baltimore Magazine party leaves Atlas restaurants off the list
by Fern Shen
Published August 31 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: After some of those who attended Baltimore Magazine’s annual “Best of Baltimore” party two weeks ago fell ill, attendees received an emailed survey from the Maryland Department of Health.

They were presented with a list of vendors who had provided nibbles at the August 18 event held at the American Visionary Art Museum and asked to check off whose food they had eaten.
But some people filling it out noticed an oddity:

All four restaurants providing food that were part of the Atlas Restaurant Group were missing from the list.

“We don’t understand why they weren’t there – we ate food from all of them,” said Cristina Layana, who said she had severe diarrhea and other symptoms that lasted for a couple of days after the event and that her husband is still seriously ill.



Ramos warns residents away from event by nonprofit that caused an uproar at City Hall
by Fern Shen
Published August 30 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The Boston-based nonprofit that had caused an uproar at a City Council meeting – its leader warning that the people he brought could turn riotous before insulting Mayor Brandon Scott and Councilwoman Odette Ramos – is holding an event next week in Baltimore.

And Ramos is advising residents not to attend.

“The whole City Council was sent emails inviting us to it. They’ve got a hell of a nerve doing that after what happened in April,” said Ramos, who used her weekly email to constituents to warn them away from the “Achieve the Dream” event scheduled to run September 8-12 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America (NACA) offers a program that tells borrowers they can purchase a home with no down payment and no closing costs.



Mom’s Organic Market Workers Vote to Unionize Baltimore-Area Store
by Rebekah Kirkman
Published August 31 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: MOM’s Organic Market boasts its values on walls and placards throughout its stores. Among the images of small farms, from which the company sources organic produce and meat, and infographics on the environmental harm of pesticides, a small quote attributed to Greenpeace USA’s Annie Leonard sits tacked onto an endcap displaying reusable storage containers: “There’s no such thing as away. When you throw something away, it must go somewhere.”

But workers at the MOM’s store in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood say they have felt disposable to the company, and that’s why they formed a union. On the evening of their secret ballot election on Friday, Aug. 26, a group of workers congregated on the sidewalk near the store. “I think it’s going to be a landslide,” someone in the crowd said while they waited for the verdict. Their hunch was right: With 58 voting “Yes” to just five “No” votes out of 75 eligible workers, the Hampden MOM’s workers won their union in a landslide and are now represented by the Teamsters Local 570.



Gifted Summer Programs Skew White & Wealthy. Not Baltimore’s — And It’s Free
by Asher Lehrer-Small
Published August 17 in The 74 Million

Excerpt: The course is “Cloudy With a Chance of Science,” and James Ramirez places his hand-fashioned tin foil boat into a bin of water, squealing with excitement as he discovers it floats. The first grader and his classmates are learning about density by testing how many pebbles each students’ contraption will hold before it sinks.

Ramirez tosses in every stone from his first handful — quickly surpassing the class record of five pebbles — and rushes back for more as his boat remains above water. The child, who is reserved and hasn’t spoken yet this period, keeps adding weight, laughing and wriggling his shoulders with each successful placement.

“…27, 28, 29…”

He has the attention of the class now and his peers count with him.

“…42, 43, 44…”

With each pebble, Ramirez is doing more than proving he crafted a sturdy ship. He is accomplishing something educators across the country are anxiously hoping he and millions of students like him can do: accelerate their learning to get back on track after COVID.



Header Image: Whitney Simpkins/ Personal Best Ceramics website

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