Baltimore News: Baltimore at the Grammys, Matthew Hyleck at Clayworks, Stolen Sculpture Returned

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This week’s news includes: Joyce Scott’s Araminta with Rifle and Vévé stolen staff returned to Banneker-Douglass Museum, Matthew Hyleck named new director of Baltimore Clayworks, Rap Research Lab at UMBC, Lavett Ballard on the cover of Time, Walters workers closer to  forming a union, New BMA Director wants to celebrate the diversity of Baltimore, Baltimore at the Grammy’s, Erin Fostel’s charcoal drawings, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image:Tahir Hemphill’s Rap Research Lab exhibition focuses on the artist’s many multimedia works and data visualization. (Paul Newson/The Baltimore Banner)


The Story Behind TIME’s ‘Division & Destiny’ Cover
by Victor Williams
Published February 2 in Time

Excerpt: For a corresponding visual narrative to accompany a new piece by Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, TIME turned to artist Lavett Ballard, to create a cover that would—like Wilkerson’s work—present a challenge to the reader and to America: How did we arrive at this moment, a moment when the barriers to equality in America are so clear? And what is the way forward?

Ballard, who created cover art for TIME’s 100 Women of the Year project in recognition of the women who led the civil rights bus boycotts of the 1950s, brought together images speaking to themes including the history of American slavery, book banning, and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But she also reached for images of people who show an alternate, positive side of American history, from Martin Luther King Jr. to lesser-known figures such as Viola Liuzzo.



Matthew Hyleck Named Executive Director of Baltimore Clayworks
Press Release, February 2

On behalf of the Baltimore Clayworks’ Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce the promotion of Matthew Hyleck to the position of permanent Executive Director of Baltimore Clayworks. We are delighted to welcome him and are fortunate to have him guiding our incredible team. Matt’s experience and enthusiasm will help further advance our organization’s mission as we approach our 45th anniversary in 2025.

Matt became Baltimore Clayworks’ Interim Executive Director in September 2022, and has managed the Education Program since 2000. He holds a B.F.A. in Ceramics from Xavier University and has a broad knowledge of the field of ceramics. Matt maintains a studio practice and is a highly accomplished ceramic artist who has the respect and admiration of his colleagues in clay and in the Baltimore community at large. He has a reputation for artistic excellence in his work that has built his reputation nationally and internationally.

“I am both humbled and excited to have this opportunity to further the mission of Baltimore Clayworks and to continue advancing our passion for ceramic arts”, says Matt Hyleck. “It goes without saying; Baltimore Clayworks has played a significant impact on my life over the past 22 years. It remains my goal for the organization that we continue to thrive as a creative community while keeping ourselves focused on our core values and demonstrating those values on a daily basis through our program actions. We are privileged to have a dedicated core staff, a talented class of resident artists, a fully engaged Board of Directors, tremendously gifted teaching artists and a fabulous community of supporters.  As we begin the visioning process in preparation for our 45th anniversary, it’s hard not to be excited about the future for Baltimore Clayworks”.

As Executive Director, Matt will manage all day-to-day operations of Baltimore Clayworks. In collaboration with a dynamic and energetic staff, he will lead the organization in all of its activities including all programming, and fundraising, marketing, and community engagement initiatives.

“Matt has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the organization and the community it seeks to serve. His values and performance validate the Board of Directors’ choice of Matt to lead Baltimore Clayworks into the future as its executive director,” says Founding Director Deborah Bedwell.

Join us as we congratulate Matt on his new position and thank him for his years of dedication to Baltimore Clayworks.




Harriet Tubman Statue Vévé Returns to the Banneker-Douglass Museum
Press Release, February 8

On January 25th, the vévé, or staff, of the monumental Harriet Tubman statue, Araminta with Rifle and Vévé (2017), was returned to the Banneker-Douglass Museum. Executive Director Chanel C. Johnson and Curator of Collections Schillica Howard retrieved the piece from the Annapolis Police Department station after investigation efforts led to its recovery.

“Words cannot describe how relieved we are to get back this precious artwork by Dr. Joyce J. Scott. I want to thank the Annapolis Police Department, Delegate Shaneka Henson, Dr. Scott, Goya Contemporary Gallery, museum staff, and the community-at-large for working together to get the missing work back to the museum,” said Chanel C. Johnson, Executive Director of Banneker-Douglass Museum and the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

Damage to the vévé is still being assessed, and the museum staff are working with the artist, gallery, and insurance company on a path forward. It is undetermined at this time whether the vévé will be re-installed to the statue.

The monumental statue Araminta with Rifle and Vévé (2017), which was installed in September 2022, is still on view in front of the museum along Franklin Street as a part of the exhibition The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy. The artist, Dr. Joyce J. Scott, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is known as the “Queen of Beadwork” for the intricate, handcrafted beading that is featured on the statue. Araminta with Rifle and Vévé (2017) is on loan from Goya Contemporary Gallery in Baltimore.

See also:

Stolen staff from defaced Tubman statue returned to Banneker-Douglass Museum
by Marcus Dieterle
Published February 8 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Arena Players, The Oldest Black Theater in America, Continues to Set the Stage at 70
by Oyin Adedoyin
Published February 7 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: On a Monday afternoon, it’s difficult to find Donald Owens. With a yellow highlighter and black pen tucked into his shirt pocket, he’s rarely in his office, instead shuffling throughout the Arena Players building, meeting with members of his cast and crew or planning out the theater’s upcoming season schedule. It’s not uncommon for the artistic director to work until close to midnight.

It’s been more than 50 years for Owens, pictured above, but he still remembers the day he first learned about this theater, now located on McCulloh Street in West Baltimore. He was a student at Coppin State College when a professor named Samuel Wilson Jr. took him under his wing. Wilson had heard that the young man was an aspiring thespian and he thought he might like to join his community theater troupe.

“At first, I acted, and then I would direct,” says Owens, looking back over the decades, “and then I would teach.”



Rap Research Lab takes an analytical look at the artistry of hip-hop
by Lawrence Burney
Published February 4 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: When you step into the gallery at University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Fine Arts Building, one of the first things you see is a large multicolored graph on the wall. On it are the names of world-class rappers such as Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Lupe Fiasco in company with visual artists who’ve accomplished immortality through their work: Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rembrandt. Circular nodes surround the names with lines connecting them to other familiar figures such as Ja Rule, J. Cole, Andy Warhol, Vincent van Gogh and A$AP Rocky, whose names are also incapsulated in circles of different colors. The network graph shows the relationships between rappers and the painters they’ve name-dropped in their music, the larger nodes indicating who’s been mentioned the most throughout hip-hop history.

The mentions “could be for a number of reasons,” said Tahir Hemphill — whose “Picasso, Baby!” piece is part of a larger exhibition called Rap Research Lab — as he gives me a tour through the space. “It could be because people like Pablo Picasso, or it could be a shorthand for mastery and wealth. But also in terms of alliteration and rhyme, it’s kind of easy to rhyme. I mean, ‘I’m trying to cop those colossal-sized Picassos’ — it’s easier to rhyme compared to other artist’s names.”



After a lifetime of practice, a Baltimore artist’s work reaches heights of ‘maturity and sensitivity’
by Rafael Alvarez
Published February 6 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: It’s not quite the only thing she’s ever been good at, but it’s close.

And now, after a lifetime of practice, Baltimore artist Erin Fostel is very good indeed.

A 2004 graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, the Mayfield resident meticulously draws images of whatever catches her eye, a calling from her childhood.



New BMA Director Asma Naeem Wants the Museum to Reflect the Cultural Vibrancy of its City
by Lauren LaRocca
Published February 6 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Asked what she thinks the role of an art museum is today, Naeem says, “That’s the million-dollar question that all of us, as stewards of a collection, are trying to work toward, making sure we’re preserving the integrity of our communities around us. What we need to be doing as museum leaders is building a collection of artistic excellence that goes beyond certain cultures and histories that have previously been championed.”

She points to the ways in which, up until the 20th century, women artists did not have access to art schools or artistic materials like oil paints or canvases and would resort to what is known as the decorative arts, a topic which will be discussed in an upcoming exhibit, titled “Making Her Mark.”

“When I think of the ways in which we can tell a far more inclusive story of art-making in our current day, that means interweaving a number of different kinds of art forms,” says Naeem, suggesting incorporating the likes of fashion, and not just couture—but streetwear, too. “If we are going to be including in our permanent collection and displaying 19th-century African jewelry, why can’t we be displaying 21st-century African-American jewelry inspired by hip-hop?”



The Culture Report: Baltimore at the Grammys and a look back at a classic track
by Lawrence Burney
Published February 5 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: As a society, we probably still care a bit too much about the Grammy Awards, even though their validity has come into question more than ever in recent years. In a time where tens of thousands of songs are uploaded to streaming platforms daily, we have so much more autonomy over the music we absorb and are able to form opinions on that music independent of institutions.

Still, seeing your favorite artist awarded always feel good.



Walters Art Museum staffers are one step closer to forming a union
by Imani Spence
Published February 3 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Staff members of the Walters Art Museum have taken another step towards establishing a union at the institution.

Walters Workers United, which represents the workers’ collective bargaining unit, tweeted that the Baltimore City delegation on Friday “voted unanimously to support our #collectivebargainingbill, #HB116, as a Baltimore City House Delegation bill!” The move followed legislation introduced in the House and Senateby Del. Robbyn Lewis and Sen. Jill P. Carter, on behalf of Mayor Brandon M. Scott, that would allow for a process to have their union recognized, and if it’s successful, require Walters leadership to bargain with it in good faith.

… After the January hearing, Marciari-Alexander reached out by email to workers and said she would be willing to recognize the union if there is a third-party certified election. On Thursday morning, workers delivered an election agreement to Marciari-Alexander by email and in person. Conservator Bailey was “astonished” by the change in tune.

During Friday morning’s meeting in front of Baltimore City delegates, Lewis said HB116 “is designed to give working people the ability to have a voice over their working conditions, and I think this is something we can all get on board with.”

Karen French, senior conservator of paintings at the museum, reiterated the workers’ goals to the delegates: “The best way for us to move forward is with a single union representing all Walters employees.”


Black Catholic artist’s ‘Baltimore Pietà’ reimagines Michelangelo’s masterpiece through the lens of police brutality
by Christopher Parker
Published January 31 in America: The Jesuit Review

Excerpt: “EARTH and LIFE” is the name of the exhibit, and it’s going to be up through March 25. A lot of it is focused on civil rights icons or agents of change. It covers [Baltimore, Md.] Congressman Elijah Cummings, Frederick Douglass—and it covers Bob Marley, who doesn’t necessarily have a direct Baltimore connection, but what many people don’t know is that he was a peace agent who was recognized with a United Nations peace medal in 1978.

The biggest and most unsung hero in the exhibit is Mother Mary Lange. She was the founder of the Oblates Sisters of Providence, the first successful Black order of nuns. It was founded in the early 1800s in Maryland, which was a slave state, and Mother Mary Lange was an immigrant from Haiti who wanted to ensure that Black children could read so they could read the Bible. There was no emancipation, no legal mechanisms protecting her, and still she opened up a school at a time when Black people were not seen as human in the eyes of the law, not allowed to be free. The Oblates Sisters are still going strong today, with sisters in 25 different countries; all from this small, unassuming Black woman who was a giant and a lioness. It was really important for me to put her in there.



Header Image: Caste and Chaos,2023, Collage/Mixed Media on reclaimed wood fence, 29 x 31″ Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis.

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