Baltimore News: Rubell Museum DC, Legacies of the Great Migration, Devin Allen

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This week’s news includes: Bertha’s closing its doors, Red Emma’s opens theirs, a new contemporary art museum for DC, the latest BMA exhibition, questions in Adan Syed case, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times


Miami Collectors Shake Up a D.C. Schoolhouse
by Robin Pogrebin
Published October 27 in The New York Times

Excerpt: Opening a new contemporary art museum as you enter your 80s in a city not known for contemporary art, when you already have a large museum in Miami, and when cultural institutions all over the country are still recovering from a pandemic contraction, would at first seem foolhardy, if not downright reckless.

But then, the Rubells have never played it safe when it comes to collecting art.

“We’re crazy, right?” said Mera Rubell, on a recent walk through the new museum. “Do you think we’re obsessed?”

Donald, her husband, added: “We’re addicted.”





Photographer Devin Allen highlighted in ‘Impact of Images’ exhibit
by Aaron Morrison
Published October 28 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Devin Allen admits that he occasionally behaved like a knucklehead, growing up in Baltimore. But he was not so irreverent as a tenth grader that he could see an image of Emmett Till’s open casket and not find it arresting.

The story of the 14-year-old Black boy who was lynched in Mississippi became widely known because his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, asked a press photographer to document Emmett’s funeral. The horrifying 1955 photographs depicted tangible evidence of how violent racial hatred was plaguing the U.S., catalyzing the civil rights movement.

“Back then, I was like, ‘Wow, that happened so long ago. It would never happen now,’” Allen said, recalling the first time a high school history teacher showed him the images.

Yet, roughly 10 years later, Allen himself would capture searing images of protests and civil unrest in Baltimore after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died in police custody. Allen’s reverberant black-and-white image depicting protester running from a line of charging police officers made the cover of Time magazine that year and is in the Smithsonian collection.



Q&A with Jordan Lawson, the artist behind a new mural on the Patterson Park basketball courts
by Jane Sartwell
Published November 1 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The basketball courts at Patterson Park recently got a makeover after Baltimore-based artist and entrepreneur Jordan Lawson painted a mural depicting Baltimore rowhomes.

Baltimore Fishbowl talked with Lawson about his new mural, his artistic process, and his biggest inspirations.



The Story of the Great Migration Comes to the Baltimore Museum of Art
by Teri Henderson
Published November 1 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: A Movement In Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration features the work of Akea Brionne, Mark Bradford, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates Jr., Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, and Carrie Mae Weems.

These 12 Black contemporary artists, some with direct ties to the South, and a few with direct ties to Baltimore, created newly commissioned works that debuted first at the Mississippi Museum of Art in April 2022, and now at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The exhibition was co-curated by Jessica Bell Brown, curator and department head of contemporary art at the BMA, and Ryan N. Dennis, chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art and Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

From 1910 to 1970, more than six million Black Americans fled the American South to escape racist violence and the social, cultural, and economic oppression of Jim Crow.

For eons our ancestors have moved and migrated, involuntarily and voluntarily. Each movement, in each direction, extended legacies that Black folks embody and live out every day.

See also:

Baltimore Museum of Art’s Great Migration exhibit opens Sunday
by Imani Spence
Published October 27 in The Baltimore Banner



Regulars Pay Respects to Bertha’s—The Bar That Changed Fells Point
by Grace Hebron
Published October 27 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Standing in the sunshine on the narrow, brick-paved corner next to Bertha’s on South Broadway, Andy Norris takes a moment to reflect.

Last week, the owner of the Fells Point institution announced that the landmark bar, restaurant, and music venue that his parents, Tony and Laura Norris, founded 50 years ago would be going up for auction on Nov. 15.

“I’ve been talking to some of my employees and customers, reminiscing on some of the things that have happened at Bertha’s and where we are now,” Andy says. “We’re not looking at the [closure] as a negative. We’re looking at it as a celebration of our part in this community over the past 50 years.”

Addressing the reasons behind the closure, Andy says, “It was just time,” reiterating that his family is satisfied with Berthas’ lasting tenure in the community. “I think we feel fulfilled, and now we’re able to pursue some other things we want to do. Change is good.”



Red Emma’s cements radical legacy with move to ‘forever home’
by Imani Spence
Published November 1 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Ken Brown pumped up the crowd as he welcomed them to a book discussion with Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who spent nearly a year in solitary confinement for leaking confidential government data and recently released a memoir about her time in the military.

“I’m not getting started until I hear from some anti-militaristic, anti-imperialist people in here,” said Brown, who also goes by the nickname Analysis and is a spoken word poet and employee co-owner of Red Emma’s bookstore.

Manning was speaking at 2640 Space, a worker collaborative at 2640 St. Paul St. that hosts grassroots events. In 2007, Red Emma’s collaborated with St. John’s Methodist Church to start the space so that the church could keep their historic building and 2640 could host grassroots events. The crowd clapped and sat in contemplative silence as Brown recited a searing spoken-word poem indicting the military industrial complex, asking “What will she say when you beat her?”



A decades-old note helped Adnan Syed get out of prison. The author says it was misinterpreted.
by Tim Prudente and Dylan Segelbaum
Published November 1 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Some two decades ago, a Baltimore trial prosecutor conducted an interview about the murder of a high school girl and scribbled some notes on a yellow legal pad.

Today, that hurried handwriting has come to the center of debate over the decision to release from prison Adnan Syed of the hit podcast “Serial.”

Baltimore prosecutors cited the note as newly discovered evidence when they asked a judge in September to toss out Syed’s murder conviction. They told the judge the note reveals an alternate suspect in the murder of Hae Min Lee.

But documents obtained by The Baltimore Banner show the trial prosecutor maintains that he wasn’t referring to an alternate suspect — but Syed himself. The documents raise questions about how evidence has been presented during the reversal of Syed’s case.



The Wild Card: What Wes Moore Could Mean to State Politics
by J. Brian Charles
Published November 1 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: In early October, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore appeared at a panel discussion at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore. In a crisp blue suit, Moore directly addressed the problems Baltimore faced.

“What we’re seeing in the city of Baltimore, what we are watching is an intentional neglect that has led to generational impacts,” Moore said. “And in the time that you have had a generational pullback, the only way that you can address that is a generational buildup.”

But the biggest response came when Moore went on to tell the story he often recalls on the stump. The story is detailed in his book “The Other Wes Moore,” which focused on his single mother’s struggle to raise him. In it, he talks about his brushes with trouble as a young person, and his redemption as a teenager. Some have called the book exploitative for its inclusion of another Baltimore man named Wes Moore, who didn’t overcome the obstacles set in his path. The book gave some the impression the Democratic nominee is from Baltimore, which he is not. However, the story he tells is compelling to many, and when he told it at the panel discussion, four older Black women sat in the front row listening attentively.



By not paying a vendor’s bill, Baltimore jeopardized its drinking water, Inspector General finds
by Mark Reutter
Published November 1 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Three months before last month’s outbreak of E. coli, the 1.8 million customers of Baltimore’s water system narrowly escaped “an emergency health crisis” owing to the city’s failure to pay a vendor’s bill.

Last June, the municipal water system ran “critically low” of a chemical used to prevent drinking water from picking up lead, copper and other contaminants while running through the city’s aging water mains, Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming said in a summary report released today.

“If the water treatment chemical supply had been exhausted,” she wrote, “an emergency health crisis would have ensued,” citing an official who compared the incident to Flint, Michigan, where corroding water mains allowed lead to leach into the municipal water supply, sickening families and especially children.

A Public Works supervisor in Baltimore pleaded with the vendor for an extension when the city was two days away from running out of the critical material, the report notes.



When opportunity flips: Why a firm promising profits from vacants faces so many lawsuits
by Justin Fenton
Published November 1 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: In late 2020, from more than 5,000 miles away, a Chilean investor named Jaime Sepulveda purchased a single-family home in Southwest Baltimore.

It was a simple pitch: An American company, ABC Capital, would handle the entire process, acquiring the property, rehabbing it, renting it out and maintaining it. All he had to do was sit back and collect income.

But after just two months, the money stopped coming. Growing suspicious, Sepulveda, a retired member of the Chilean Navy, hopped on a plane to check things out. There was no tenant, though an upstairs bedroom had clothes scattered around. Piled together in the main room were ripped-out cabinets and drawers, a space heater, a microwave and a toilet. The white-and-chocolate-milk-brown color scheme looked from another era.

No renovation had taken place, even though his contract required him pay $48,000 for a complete demolition and renovation, on top of the $37,500 purchase price.



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