Baltimore News: Paul Rucker, The Parlor, Murjoni Merriweather

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This week’s news includes: a former funeral home transformed in Station North, finding the beauty in Baltimore, new bookstore in Highlandtown, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: The Parlor in Station North. Photo by Ed Gunts via Baltimore Fishbowl.


Artist Paul Rucker Has Received $2 Million in Grants to Open a Permanent Museum About the History of Racism in the U.S.
by Sarah Cascone
Published November 15 in Artnet News

Excerpt: For the last 10 years, the artist Paul Rucker has been obsessively collecting artifacts that factually illustrate the systemic racism that lies at the foundations of U.S. society, sustaining racial inequity into the present day.

Now, he is the recipient of $2 million in grant money from the Mellon Foundation and the Art for Justice Fund, and plans to use the money to open a multidisciplinary arts space and lending library in Richmond, Virginia, to house, display, and share this archive. Called Cary Forward, it is set to open in fall 2024.

“It’s an interpretive arts center operating at the intersection of art and artifacts and history,” Rucker told Artnet News. “And this is an art piece that I want to have a life on its own.”

In addition to displaying artifacts, Cary Forward will also give artists the opportunity to create work responding to challenging material, such as Ku Klux Klan robes, lynching postcards mailed to commemorate the public murder of Black men, and all manner of knick knacks depicting Black people as garish caricatures.



Former funeral home in Station North is finding new life as The Parlor, a mixed-use arts hub whose first event will be art exhibit next week
by Ed Gunts
Published November 11 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The former Stewart & Mowen funeral home on West North Avenue is finding new life as Station North’s newest arts hub, with a proposed bar or speakeasy, exhibition area, “creative office space” and upper-level arts studios, under a $2 million plan by developer John Renner.

The first event is scheduled to start next week, when part of the building will be the site of an art exhibition, “Memento Mori,” that will open Nov. 18 and continue on weekends until Dec. 17. A pop-up vintage store will follow in February 2023.

Renner, the head of Timshel Development, announced plans this fall to convert the funeral home into “The Parlor,” a mixed-use space that takes advantage of its location in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and the building’s past.

Constructed as a single-family residence in 1878, the building at 108 W. North Ave. was converted to a funeral home in 1914 and was operated continuously as a funeral parlor until 2021. The longest occupant was the Stewart & Mowen Company, Undertakers, from 1914 to 1985.



Murjoni Merriweather: “The Walk”
by Teri Henderson
Published November 15 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: Murjoni Merriweather: The Walk, the new exhibition on display from October 28 to December 3 at Creative Alliance, provides space for a transformative and engaging visit with both the artwork and with the artist’s practice. There is an abundance of visual information: sculptures, process drawings, video, books, as well as decorative objects like candles, plants, drapes and lights. The journey of this exhibition, with these artworks — and, by extension, with the artist — is never cold or solemn. The Walk is full and grounding.

Baltimore native Murjoni Merriweather is a sculptor who creates figurative busts of Black people. They are adorned in jewelry, dusted with glitter, and are on display in the full and expansive range of Black life — one figure’s full beard is accompanied by a lush afro; others have locs piled high and wrapped in fabric. Merriweather was formerly a resident at Creative Alliance (2019-2022), and the show features works pulled from that period, as well as her 2022  Alma Lewis Artist Residency, a three-month long residency in Pennsylvania where artists receive private studios.



What makes Baltimore beautiful: Beyond the White L to the Black Butterfly
by Leslie Gray Streeter
Published November 14 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Is Baltimore beautiful? And if so, what parts? And what does “beautiful” actually mean?

Those questions are constantly present for those of us who live in the city and feel we have to justify that fact, both to ex-residents who hate it and want everyone else to, and to those who only know of Baltimore from crime shows and assume it’s basically haunted.

Those of us who live here and love it post photos of the things that explain the beauty we see in our backyard. But what if all of the pictures tend to be of the same backyard? This came up during a recent thread on Twitter, where residents debated why so many shots seem to be of the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Canton and other locations within what Lawrence Brown, former Morgan State University professor and author, terms the “White L.”



Highlandtown’s new bookstore wants to amplify underrepresented voices in comics
by Clara Longo de Freitas
Published November 15 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Miranda Nordell stumbled into an imaginary, comic book-based support group out of serendipity.

It began when Nordell saw ”Jessica Jones,” a Netflix show based on the Marvel Comics ex-superhero turned investigator who has post-traumatic stress disorder. Nordell saw aspects of her own experience in Jones that she couldn’t then express or articulate.

The show drew her to the comic book series and ultimately to other stories, Nordell said, often featuring heroines who were “beautifully flawed,” who had gone through trauma and were able to brush themselves off. They helped Nordell pick herself up again.



Local hardcore band Turnstile nominated for 3 Grammys
by Dylan Segelbaum
Published November 15 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile on Tuesday earned three Grammy Award nominations for songs off its critically acclaimed 2021 album, “Glow On.”

The band is nominated in the category of Best Rock Performance for “Holiday” as well as Best Metal Performance and Best Rock Song for “Blackout.” The Recording Academy presents the awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry.



This Land Was Their Land: Baltimore’s Lumbee Indians Claim Their History
by Ron Cassie
Published November 11 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: “People were basically running here to get away from farming,” says Jeanette Walker Jones. The 80-year-old Lumbee tribe member is sitting on her porch, near her flower bed and three flags—American, Maryland, and Lumbee—which are softly waving in the afternoon breeze as she recalls her first impressions of Baltimore. “Any job was better than that. But I didn’t want to move to Baltimore. I was 15 in 1957 and didn’t have a choice. The first time I’d visited, I saw these tall buildings and people eating what I thought were ‘bugs,’ which is what crabs looked like to me. I came from a house with three rooms and no indoor plumbing. I begged my mother to leave me with my grandparents in North Carolina.”

Her sister, brother-in-law, and their four kids, members of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe, had migrated to Baltimore several years earlier. Her sister’s husband found employment as a commercial painter and eventually the family moved into a three-bedroom, second-floor apartment in Upper Fells Point. Jones’ father had passed away years before and soon enough her mother, along with Jeanette and her younger sister, moved north as well. Rural, low-income Robeson County offered little work outside share cropping and little in general beyond family, farming, and familiarity. The social structure was built upon a tripartite system of bigotry that divided public life—schools, theaters, buses, restaurant service, swimming pools, bathrooms—into “White,” “Indian,” and “Colored.”



Making the Painful History of Maryland Lynchings More Visible
by Rebekah Kirkman
Published November 11 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: No matter how gigantic or modest, memorials and monuments retain a certain power that we can feel when we encounter them. There are remnants of demolished workhouses in Western Ireland, worn down to lumps of stone foundations, that would go unrecognized if not for a good tour guide pointing them out. And there are specially designed architectural and immersive experiences like Berlin’s holocaust memorial, whose concrete blocks rise and tower over you the deeper you descend into the stark grid.

The Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, produces a similarly visceral effect. As you travel through rows of tarnished steel columns inscribed with the names (if known) of several thousand Black people lynched in various counties throughout the United States, the blocks come to resemble hanged bodies raised higher and higher above you, forcing you to crane your neck as a witness.

Building upon the EJI’s research into the victims of racial terror lynchings, the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project (MLMP) aims to recognize sites where those crimes took place in this state—to make them visible with sign markers, and to honor the victims through ceremonial practices. Of the nearly 6,500 racial terror lynchings between 1865 and 1950 that EJI has documented, at least 38 were in Maryland. That number is smaller by orders of magnitude compared to those in former Confederate states, emphasizing the personal nature of the crime and the importance of remembering the victims.



More Black candidates ran for office in Baltimore County than ever but diversity remains unchanged
by John Lee
Published November 10 in WYPR

Excerpt: Despite months of legal wrangling over how to improve the odds for people of color to be elected to Baltimore County Council, the racial diversity of the board remains unchanged after Election Day. In May, there were Black candidates running in five out of seven districts across the county but this month only one candidate, an incumbent, was victorious. Baltimore County’s population demographics have shifted over the years.

About 20 years ago, nearly 75% of residents were white. Now that’s closer to roughly 50% of residents are white but six out of the seven county council seats are held by white people.

The county is about 30% Black and will continue to have just one person who is Black on the council.



Like Baltimore mayors before him, Scott seeks to curb squeegeeing
by Fern Shen
Published November 14 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: In a 1985 television news report preserved as a YouTube video, the motorists’ eyeglass styles were big, the young boys darting into the streets with squeegees wore knee socks and the mayor was William Donald Schaefer.

But then just as today, Black youths trying to wash windshields for money at downtown intersections were a subject of intense civic debate in Baltimore.

After a City Council vote (that split along racial lines) to ban the practice outright, Mayor Schaefer had brokered a compromise, the TV report said.

The youths were instructed in “how to wash windshields courteously,” given special “I am a trained squeegee kid” buttons, and were allowed only to approach cars that pulled over into a designated area in the curb lane.

It was a bust.



Header Image: Artist Paul Rucker places racist artifacts for display during installation of "REWIND Exhibition" at Sculptureworks in Ferguson, Missouri

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