Baltimore News: Abdu Ali, National Museum of Women in the Arts to Reopen, 2023 Ruby Grants

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This week’s news includes: Abdu Ali in conversation with Lawrence Burney about his USA Artist Grant for $50k, big news from two DC museums, changes to the Ruby Project Grants for Artist Program, Derrick Adams profiled in The New York Times, J.M. Giordano’s photo essay of the Baltimore jazz scene, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Abdul Ali performs at Ottobar as part of the “Love is Always Here” artist showcase in June 2022. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)


Abdu Ali poses for a portrait in their neighborhood, in Baltimore, Monday, February 13, 2023. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

Abdu Ali sees beyond music and Baltimore with national arts grant
by Lawrence Burney
Published February 17 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Abdu Ali’s musical journey began in late 2012, when they released their debut mixtape, “Invictos.” That 12-track introduction to the world was tightly positioned somewhere in the crevices between rap, ballroom and Baltimore club music. Lyrically, though, it felt like something you may hear at a poetry reading, with mystical incantations and a showering of self-love.

It felt like a fresh moment for Baltimore’s underground: There was a healthy indie/punk crowd, a rap movement that was in its infancy but starting to take shape, and a club music community that was trying to find its post-K-Swift identity. Ali was part of a new class of artists in the city that helped pull together all those listeners and energies into one space.



photo credit: Thomas H. Field

National Museum of Women in the Arts to Reopen October 21, 2023, After Transformative Renovation
Press Release: February 15

The National Museum of Women in Arts (NMWA), the world’s first major museum solely dedicated to championing women artists, reopens its extensively renovated building on October 21, 2023. The transformed museum will feature new exhibition spaces, re-envisioned public programming areas, improved amenities and increased accessibility for visitors at its historic home at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. In addition to an expansive reinstallation of the collection, NMWA will present an inaugural exhibition, The Sky’s the Limit, featuring powerful monumental sculpture and immersive installations by a dozen contemporary women artists, in an innovative presentation not possible prior to the renovation.

“NMWA has a distinctive role in the art world. As both a museum and a megaphone, we advocate for gender equity through excellence in the arts,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “We have continued to do this work virtually and off-site during our closure, but we are really looking forward to reopening our building this fall. Our renewed and reimagined spaces will enhance our ability to share great works of art, engage with our visitors and reach out to new audiences.”

NMWA’s $67.5 million project, designed by Baltimore-based architectural firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates, is the museum’s first full renovation since it opened in 1987. It honors the legacy of the 1908 Classic Revival structure while improving its interior spaces, façade and infrastructure. Updates include gallery spaces enlarged by more than 20% to showcase historic and contemporary artworks and installations; a new Learning Commons, featuring an Education and Public Programs Studio for hands-on workshops as well as an improved Research Library; an updated, state-of-the-art Performance Hall; and more efficiently designed museum collections storage and conservation areas.

The grand reopening celebration will feature public programs for audiences of all ages. More details will be announced in the coming months.




Derrick Adams’s “Onward and Upward” (2021) in his new show, “I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You.”Credit...via the FLAG Art Foundation; Photo by Steven Probert

Derrick Adams Takes Off
by Roberta Smith
Published February 16 in The New York Times

Excerpt: In “I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You,” his knockout show at the Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea, Derrick Adams does just that. What he mainly reveals is a new level of maturity and ambition in his already distinguished art, with its layered view of Black life and culture in America.

Whereas much of his previous paintings explored portraiture, the ones in his “Motion Picture Paintings” series sometimes grow to mural size (up to 16 feet across), allowing for a more complex sense of narrative, space and form, while also giving his larger-than-life figures room to move.

The larger size also shows off Adams’s meticulous technique, a canny blend of traditional painting, illustration and geometry. His faceted figures and faces in particular are astonishing made things that reach back through Cubism to the carved figures of African sculpture.



The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Announces the 2023 Rubys Artist Grant Relaunch
Press Release: February 16

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation is pleased to announce the relaunch of the Rubys Artist Grant.  Founded as a project-based funding opportunity for artists in Baltimore city and county, the relaunched program will continue to invite artists to propose new, innovative, and experimental projects for consideration in an annual, open call while offering supplemental support to the awardees. More than a dozen Rubys will be awarded, totaling $225,000 in grant money.

In addition to project funding up to $15,000, the Rubys will provide awardees with professional development services, networking opportunities, and an enhanced community of alumni and mentors. The Rubys will also partner with several Deutsch Foundation projects such as Open WorksMotor HouseBmoreArt and Connect + Collect, to outfit awardees, when relevant to their work, with access to tools, technologies, equipment, performance and event space, exposure, and dialogue.

The relaunched Rubys will introduce a new, two-phase application, which opens at the end of February 2023. The award invites artists in all four categories, Literary Arts, Media Arts, Performing Arts, and Visual Arts, to apply, and projects will be reviewed by experts in each discipline. Outstanding projects will move on to round two, where applicants will be asked to outline their full project narrative, budget, and public components.

Since its launch in 2013, the Rubys Artists Grants have become highly valued opportunities for Baltimore area creatives and have helped to fund a diverse range of projects by 158 artists.  By supporting future projects holistically, the Rubys aim to support Baltimore’s creative community to enable artists to continue to have sustainable and successful careers.

More information about the Rubys Artist Grants may be found at:

The Rubys Artist Grants were established in 2013 to support the local artistic community of performing, visual, media and literary artists through meaningful, direct project funding. The Rubys were inspired by Ruby Lerner, the visionary founder of Creative Capital in New York City.

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation invests in innovative people, programs and ideas that promote arts and culture, economic and community development, and social justice, with a primary focus on the City of Baltimore.



Dindga McCannon Woman #1, 1975–1977 acrylic on canvas overall: 106.68 × 83.82 cm (42 × 33 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of Funds from Agnes Gund

Agnes Gund Donates $1 Million to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, for Acquisitions of Art by Black Artists
Press Release: February 16

The National Gallery of Art announced today that arts patron Agnes Gund has donated $1 million to the museum to fund the acquisition of work by Black artists.

“We are incredibly grateful to Agnes Gund for this vital gift, which supports our mission to serve the nation by welcoming all people to explore art, creativity, and our shared humanity. We are eager to engage new and familiar audiences with remarkable works of art representing the perspectives and lived experiences of Black artists,” said Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art.

To date, three works have been acquired, in whole or part, with funds from Gund’s generous gift. All are by preeminent Black artists of the 20th and 21st centuries: Woman #1 (1975–1977) by Dindga McCannon; Farmer (1965) by Benny Andrews; and The Manger (1945) by Romare Bearden.

McCannon’s Woman #1 is emblematic of the creativity of Black feminist artists as they faced challenges of work and motherhood in the mid-20th-century art world. Farmer is the first painting by Andrews to enter our collection and evokes the artist’s early life in Georgia, an experience that informed Andrews’s art making throughout his career. Both works will be on view in a new installation in the East Building, The Interior Life: Recent Acquisitions, from March 17 through August 2023.





‘Round Midnight: Baltimore’s Jazz Scene Comes Alive at Night
by J.M. Giordano
Published February 16 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Walking through Baltimore on a rainy winter night you can practically see the music. Traces of Baltimore’s jazz DNA seep up in the steam released from underground. You feel it from the lone workers you greet as they labor in the lobbies of high-rises or deliver goods to the city’s markets after hours. You can almost hear the melancholy notes of an alto sax as you look up at the black cube of Charles Center or the New York-style Bank of America building on Light Street, lights blazing in the office windows long into the night. Walking by all the old spaces like the Mayfair and Royal theaters, the Sphinx Club, Buddies on Charles—all long gone—you can picture the ghosts of legends like Billie Holiday, Ethel Ennis, Cab Calloway, and band leader Chick Webb, still playing for the crowds.

The homes of some of these musicians are gone, too, with Calloway’s house torn down last year and ironically replaced by a piano fence. But as these spaces fade from modern memory, new places rise. Keystone Korner and Caton Castle in West Baltimore take the place of the bigger clubs, and smaller venues across the city, like 1801 in Canton, R. House in Remington, An Die Musik and Marie Louise Bistro in Mount Vernon, and Werner’s downtown, fill in for those intimate venues that used to pepper Penn North and Baltimore Street. One certainly can’t leave out the Baltimore Jazz Alliance, huge promoters of the jazz scene, when talking about the future of the music in the city.



Jami Washington, a Baltimore City Public Schools kitchen manager, poses in front of a portrait of herself that is part of the new "Food for Thought" exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Photo by Ed Schrader.

New audio-visual ‘Food for Thought’ exhibit honors Baltimore schools’ food service workers
by Ed Schrader
Published February 17 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: A new audio-visual exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry is shining a light on the work of Baltimore City schools’ food service workers.

The “Food for Thought” exhibit is a collaborative effort between The Office of Food & Nutrition Services for Baltimore City Public Schools and The Baltimore Museum of Industry, who teamed up with WYPR producer Aaron Henkin and award-winning photographer J.M. Giordano.

At an opening reception last week, folks munch on free samples of actual cafeteria food like chicken teriyaki, mini PB&J sandwiches and cookies – all welcome departures from the Cold War frozen patties of yesteryear that many remember from their childhood lunches.



Photography by Tyrone Syranno Wilkens

Artist James Evans Uses Photographs and Words to Combat Prejudice in Nature
by Janelle Erlichman Diamond
Published February 20 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: At 6’3” and 240 pounds, wildlife photographer James Evans is often perceived as a threat, but it’s not the birds who are afraid. It’s the humans. And it’s not about his size, but rather his skin color.

“People don’t expect for brown and Black people to be in these spaces,” says Evans. He’s been called the N-word, watched suspiciously, and asked if his camera was a gun. “What you are really saying is, ‘You don’t belong here.’”

It’s something Evans has been dealing with his entire life—as the Black kid who liked and excelled at art. He grew up off Park Heights Avenue, just south of Northern Parkway, and the Baltimore School for the Arts changed his life.



Artist and Love Groove Festival organizer John Tyler. Photo by Schaun Champion.

Baltimore Music Right Now: Flatspot Records, Zulu, End It, and John Tyler
by Teri Henderson
Published February 21 in The Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: Baltimore’s hardcore and punk scene is thriving. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen more sold-out shows, more local bands going on tour, and more cross-collaboration between bands. The first hardcore and punk shows I attended were at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas, decades ago. I remember vividly being one of a handful of black folks in attendance. I cannot remember seeing a hardcore band led by a Black singer until I moved to Baltimore. The experience of seeing bands like Zulu, Soul Glo, and End It since moving here seven years ago has been remarkable. At the same time, I’ve seen news of John Tyler steadily producing his Love Groove festival and his own blend of R&B, jazz, and pop music.

In this occasional section, Baltimore Beat will check in with movers and shakers in Baltimore’s music scene.



The spicy pepperoni pizza at Baltoz Bakery & Cafe, a new arrival to 6709 York Road. Owner Vlado Petrovski resists categorization, saying “My pizza is my pizza.” (Christina Tkacik/The Baltimore Banner)

The Dish: Meet 3 people changing Baltimore’s pizza game
by Christina Tkacik
Published February 22 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Talking about pizza spikes people’s heart rates, as I learned from the deluge of responses to my colleague Jamyla Krempel’s recent column, “Baltimore: The Greatest (Pizza) City in America.” Her list of the best slices inspired a separate piece made up of readers’ own suggestions.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of our polarized times. In the past few decades, we’ve seen renewed interest in true Neapolitan pizza, but also something of a backlash to it. No, Neapolitan isn’t the best; it’s New York-style. No, it’s Detroit-style. Yes, pineapples are an acceptable topping. Wait, no, try pickles on your pie instead.

But who gets to make the rules when it comes to pizza?

See more:

Baltimore: The Greatest (Pizza) City in America
by Jamyla Krempel
Published February 9 in The Baltimore Banner



Header Image: Abdul Ali performs at Ottobar as part of the “Love is Always Here” artist showcase in June 2022. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

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