Baltimore News: Rap Research Lab, Let the Right One In at CPM, Walters Union Vote

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This week’s news includes:  Dereck Stafford Mangus on UMBC’s Rap Research Lab for Hyperallergic, Rob Lee interviews Hyperallergic founder Hrag Vartanian, Haley Tilt’s review of “Let The Right One In” at CPM, Alanah Nichole Davis’s rundown of the Rubys, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: King’s Court, 2023, by Sanah Brown-Bowers from CPM’s Let the Right One In exhibition



Installation view of Tahir Hemphill: Rap Research Lab at the Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (all images courtesy the artist, photos by Tedd Henn)

Hip Hop and the Machine
by Dereck Stafford Mangus
Published March 6 in Hyperallergic

Excerpt: The Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” is often considered the first hip-hop track. That steady, percussion-like delivery of lyrics layered over that familiar, bouncing bass line combined to create the perfect remedy to the excesses of pop music in the late ’70s. Yet “Rapper’s Delight” heralded a cultural moment several years in the making. In 1973, DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican immigrant now considered one of the founding fathers of hip hop, hosted with his sister the “Back to School Jam” in the recreation room of their Bronx apartment building, an event now regarded as the advent of hip hop.

Five decades later, hip hop has indelibly influenced contemporary culture — from dance and fashion to advertising and cinema. With Rap Research Lab, on view at the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture (CADVC) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), technologist and multimedia artist Tahir Hemphill takes hip hop as his object of study.

Curated by Rebecca Uchill, director of CADVC, Rap Research Lab is divided into discrete sections that can be experienced in any order. The series Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement comprises an installation of black-and-white photographs and a vitrine showcasing small golden sculptures, similar to the images on the walls. Locational cues, as in direct references to places, culled from hip-hop lyrics were translated into commands for a robotic arm gripping an LED light to create curvilinear “light drawings” in the air. Through long exposures, Hemphill photographically documents the formations made by the apparatus and names the finished products after the rappers whose lyrics were processed, including Jay Z, Missy Elliott, and Nas. The golden objects in the display case are 3-D versions of the light drawings. According to the artist, Maximum Distance. Minimum Displacement was inspired in part by Picasso’s similar series of long-exposure “light drawings” captured by Albanian photographer Gjon Mili for Life Magazine in 1949.



before the Sun comes up, 2021, Dave Eassa

Let the Right One In
by Haley Tilt
Published March 3 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Entering the gallery, you are confronted by the glassy-eyed gaze of a taxidermy crow, perched atop Oletha DeVane’s delicate, black assemblage sculpture. As you move around the sculpture, a small black square becomes visible on a landing halfway up a set of stairs. If you’re curious enough to walk up to it, you’ll see a tintype photograph by Elena Volkova of another assemblage–a paper crane resting atop a pile of small objects.

Let the Right One In, a group show of seven Baltimore artists at CPM Gallery, is a collection that rewards curiosity and second impressions. Like the 2008 Swedish vampire film for which it was named, this show explores the power of thresholds, invitations, and the distinction between external appearance and internal condition. Likewise, the seven artists–Sanah Brown-Bowers, Oletha DeVane, Dave Eassa, Alex Ebstein, Toskago, Elena Volkova, and Andersen Woof–were assembled on the basis of personal introduction to the gallery over the two years since CPM has moved to Baltimore. The work and the manner of its meeting remind us: it matters whom we trust.



The Walters Art Museum. (WJZ-TV)

Baltimore’s state senators approve bill allowing union at Walters Art Museum
by Pamela Wood
Published March 3 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Maryland lawmakers moved forward a bill that would enable workers at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum to form a union, the latest step in an ongoing organizing effort at the museum.

“It’s the right step forward to save the Walters and help it flourish,” Baltimore Sen. Jill P. Carter said Friday, after her fellow senators agreed to advance legislation allowing workers to unionize. Baltimore’s members of the House of Delegates previously voted to support a slightly different version of the same bill.

Museum workers have been trying to form a union for two years, but the effort ran into thorny legal and political issues.

In Maryland, workers at government agencies often need to have a state law approved in order to begin the process of forming a union.




Baltimore artists: The Rubys, professional development, networking and grant funds? Oh my!
by Alanah Nichole Davis
Published March 6 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Established in 2013 and stewarded by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, The Rubys Artist Grant program is relaunching in the Baltimore area with a new two-phase application process for its 2023 grant cycle.

Last granted in 2021 and known as “the Rubys,” the program has always maintained the goal of providing financial support for Baltimore-based artists who are working on innovative projects that could significantly impact their communities. In an email release, the Deutsch Foundation invited artists — and, seemingly aspiring technologists with artistic projects in mind — to submit new proposals in four categories: literary, visual, performing and media arts.

The Rubys share a name with Ruby Lerner, whose work creating New York City-based holistic arts support program Creative Capital inspired the grant program. Lerner highlighted the increasing relationship between, and impact of, art and tech in a fundraiser blurb for an unrelated project she’s curating.



Jada Pickett Smith, Moses Ingram, Isis King and Mo’Nique all hail from the Baltimore region. (Getty Images)

Something in the water? Black actresses with Maryland ties flourish in television and film
by John-John Williams IV
Published March 8 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Actress Moses Ingram vividly remembers working a number of odd jobs while attending college in Baltimore, including at an Amazon shipping facility and a local theater.

When auditioning, Ingram would take the 5 a.m. Megabus to New York City and get there early enough to find places to hang out for a couple hours beforehand.

Ingram said these experiences, and years being raised in Baltimore, where she attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, helped mold her into the Emmy-nominated actress she is today.

“I think in large part it has to do with the city itself,” she said. “It’s the day-to-day of just being here. I remember going to school you pass a cast of characters. There are such vivid, vibrant people to study.”



State of Maryland Announces 2023 Heritage Award Winners
Press Release: March 6

Maryland Traditions, the traditional arts program of the Maryland State Arts Council, has announced the winners of its 2023 Heritage Awards. The awards recognize long-term achievement in the traditional arts, and nominations are accepted in three categories: Person or People, Place, and Tradition. Six awards are given this year, each featuring a $10,000 grant.

The awardees are:

* Michael Friend (Montgomery County) is a performer and respected percussionist in a variety of African-American, West African, and Latin American percussion traditions. Since he founded the Soul In Motion Players in 1984, Michael has led the ensemble in presenting African dance and drum performances around the world. (Person or People award category.)

* Linda Goss (Baltimore City) is a sixth-generation storyteller, educator, poet, and author. A 2019 NEA National Heritage Fellow and acclaimed performer, Mama Linda co-founded the National Association of Black Storytellers in 1983 to support the history, heritage, and culture of African Americans. (Person or People award category.)

* Gertie Hurley (Prince George’s County) has been making dolls for over 80 years. Nationally recognized in the tradition of Black doll-making, Gertie uses her dolls and the children’s books she writes featuring them as teaching aids to promote personal and community health and wellness. (Person or People award category.)

* Pianist and fiddler Donna Long (Baltimore County) is a pillar of Irish traditional music in Maryland and around the world. A former member of the internationally-acclaimed ensemble Cherish the Ladies, she is featured on numerous recordings and her piano arrangements are included in the performance curriculum at Ireland’s University of Limerick. (Person or People award category.)

* Located on the site of a former segregated school, the Kennard African American Cultural Heritage Center (Queen Anne’s County) now combines a community center and museum, chronicling local African American life and culture through its African American History Museum. A space for community gathering, the Center also offers education, scholarships, and mentoring for Queen Anne’s County residents of all ages. (Place award category.)

* Created in the 1840s, the Baltimore Album Quilts (Baltimore City) tradition continues to thrive in an ever-increasing local and international community of quilters. Taking designs appliqued onto cloth squares, quilters piece together quilts that document the cultural stories of their everyday lives. (Tradition award category.)



Daveology, known more formally as David Felder II, is an incredibly in-demand DJ. (Daryll Estep)

How Daveology went from college party crasher to in-demand Baltimore DJ
by Taji Burris
Published March 3 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: A mix of Brent Faiyaz’s “All Mine” lyrics over the late Young Dolph’s “Preach” instrumental blasts from the speakers at Noir Ultra Lounge. Bargoers joyfully nod their heads and attempt to sing along to the dual track. It’s Friday night, which means Daveology is behind the music.

Daveology, known more formally as David Felder II, is an incredibly in-demand DJ. Spinning on “Faded Fridays” at Noir is the 26-year-old’s current bread and butter, and he’ll soon start performing there on Sundays, too. His mixes can also be heard at least three or four times a week at other venues, such as his regular gig at Vibes Hookah Lounge for “Smoke Out Thursdays,” or his stints at Rosa’s Bar & Grill.

Daveology favors popular genres like hip-hop and R&B for his sets, but his seamlessly polished transitions and outside-the-box mixes are what make him stand out among a sea of DJs. Mashups like Faiyaz and Young Dolph showcase Daveology’s knack for blending, and he’s always revealing more: He recently posted Instagram reel previews for mixes that pair Peezy’s popular “2 Million Up” single with Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go,” and another of SZA’s “Snooze” over the instrumental from Michael Jackson’s “The Lady in My Life.”



Photography by Christopher Myers

These Instrument-Making Baltimore Brothers are Old-World Craftsmen
by Ron Cassie
Published March 8 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: For decades, Mead Notkin searched for the perfect cello. A Silver Spring marketing professional who once dreamt of a career in music, he had stopped playing altogether out of his frustration at not being able to find an instrument to his liking.

“l’d been all over the East Coast,” says Notkin, a hint of irritation, but mostly now relief and joy in his voice. “Then I went to Perrin and Associates looking for a bow and heard about their luthier, Ryan Fini, and basically played another cello Ryan made for two years while waiting for the completion of this cello,” he says, handing the already beloved instrument (value: $36,000) to Ryan’s brother Aaron.

Sitting in Perrin’s sun-lit second-floor showroom in Mount Vernon, Aaron begins to glide a bow that he’s made across the strings, filling the space with rich, baritone-like tones.



Hrag Vartanian

Interview with editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian
by Robb Lee
Aired March 7 on The Truth in This Art Podcast

Excerpt: In this episode of “The Truth in This Art”, host Rob Lee interviews Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. With expertise in contemporary art and its intersection with politics, Hrag shares insights on his journey as an art critic, curator, and lecturer. He talks about his founding of Hyperallergic in 2009 and how it has grown to reach over a million readers and listeners a month through its award-winning reporting, informed opinions, and quality conversations about art. Hrag also discusses his interest in decolonization and shares details about some of his notable curatorial projects, including the world’s first multi-disciplinary exhibition of social media-related art. Listeners will gain a deeper understanding of the power of journalism and the cultural and economic realities that shape the world of art, culture, and politics.



A mural in Baltimore that read “THIS MUST BE THE PLACE” was painted by Stephen Powers, known as ESPO. The new tenants of the building have painted over it. (Courtesy Photo/Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts)

This was the place: How Baltimore gained — and lost — a beloved mural
by Cody Boteler
Published March 2 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: For years, drivers on MD-295 in Baltimore could look east and see large block lettering that declared “THIS MUST BE THE PLACE.” It was like a warm welcome into the city.

But in December, a Reddit user noticed that part of the mural had been covered up with garish yellow paint. More recently, it’s been tagged with graffiti.

The mural — which read in full “HOME THIS MUST BE THE PLACE” — was painted by artist Stephen Powers, know as ESPO, as part of a series called “Love Letters to Baltimore.”



Header Image: King’s Court, 2023, Sanah Brown-Bowers from CPM's "Let the Right One In" exhibition

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