BOPA Announces Three 2023 Sondheim Finalists

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The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) announced the finalists for the 18th annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Art Prize. The 2023 finalists are Abigail Lucien, Kyrae Dawaun, and Nekisha Durrett.

This year’s finalists were selected by a panel of jurors that include scholar and curator Kelly Baum, artist and curator Devin Morris, and archivist and curator Ingrid Schaffner.

This year, the Sondheim Art Prize will award $30,000 to the selected artist. BOPA will also award two residencies to finalists not selected for the prize: a six-week, fully funded residency at Civitella Ranieri in the Umbria region of Italy, and a residency at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore.

The three Sondheim finalists will have their work exhibited in the Walters Art Museum (WAM) this summer as part of the Sondheim Finalists’ Exhibition, working with Walters curators and staff to create the exhibit.

On Saturday, July 22, 2023, the jurors will meet with each artist for up to 45 minutes in their exhibition space for a final interview. After the interviews, the jurors will meet and decide the recipients for the Sondheim Art Prize and the two residencies. The winners will be announced at the award ceremony and reception at the Walters Art Museum on Thursday, August 10, 2023.



Abigail Lucien, portrait by Justin Tsucalas for BmoreArt

Abigail Lucien ( is a Haitian American interdisciplinary artist. Working in sculpture, literature, and time-based media, Lucien’s practice addresses themes of (be)longing, futurity, myth, and place by considering our relationship to inherited colonial structures and systems of belief/care.

More info: Read BmoreArt’s Art AND Interview with the artist from 2021 here.

Quote: “I find it difficult as a Haitian woman to not have some sort of faith, to not believe in anything. The power of will and the power of manifestation and the power of belief—those things are very real to me. They’re very tangible to me. There is also this space in Haitian culture that allows for conflicting ideology, conflicting beliefs to co-exist. That is something that I’m incredibly interested in: how do these things that seem like they could negate each other exist in the same place and also have such parallelism?”

Foreground: Abigail Lucien, Holding Your Name Like Butter in Your Palm, 2021, cocoa butter, bronze, sea salt, chicken feet, matches, soy wax, acrylic and vinyl on steel, Dimensions variable. Photo courtesy of SculptureCenter, by Kyle Knodell. Background: Work by Quay Quinn Wolf
Kyrae Dawoun portrait via the New American Paintings website

Kyrae Dawaun ( maintains a practice centering on the human dependence on inorganic matter and nonhuman existence and explores these geological transactions as they implicate human relationships. His approach to his work is influenced by his avid studies, speculation, and experience around architecture, hospitality, and the fluid and fickle nature of language.

More info: Read BmoreArt’s Art AND interview with the artist here and look for his portrait in our new print journal, due out in May 2023.

Quote: “There is something super beautiful about the fugitivity of certain colors. With organic pigments, you have a greater access to that; they’re gonna be a bit more fleeting in some way.” For the artist, materials that are ephemeral contain a looseness that is compelling, and he enjoys “calculating the spirit of things to find their own way to balance,” he relays.

Kyrae Dawaun, a convincing, oil on wood, 16”x28”x2.5", 2022, Photo by Dev Hein
Nekisha Durrett, photo by Grace Roselli for the Pandora's BoXx Project

Nekisha Durrett ( is a mixed-media artist invested in foregrounding issues of Black life while creating a space where fantasy, imagination, and history converge. Durrett creates both large-scale and intimate installations that aim to make the ordinary enchanting, while summoning subject matter that is often underrepresented or overlooked in our day-to-day lives.

More info: Nekisha Durrett was selected to be one of two commissioned artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art from a proposal-based call to design artistic reactions to Fred Wilson’s Artemis/Bast sculpture, which opens Sunday, April 28.

The resulting exhibition, Histories Collide: Jackie Milad x Fred Wilson x Nekisha Durrett, explores critical questions integral to Milad’s and Durrett’s practices, while also examining the complex and unresolved legacies in Wilson’s art. Contemplative and immersive, the experience invites visitors to unpack the myths and histories through which we understand ourselves and our societies in the two galleries adjacent to the John Waters Rotunda from April 26, 2023, through March 17, 2024.

Nekisha Durrett, Magnolia (installation view), Magnolia leaves, poplar, velvet, acrylic, LED lighting, 2020-21 Photograph by Luke Walter Photography

More information about the 2023 Sondheim Prize:

This year, the Sondheim Art Prize will award $30,000 to a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Baltimore region. BOPA will also award two residencies to finalists not selected for the Sondheim Art Prize: a six-week, fully funded residency at Civitella Ranieri in the Umbria region of Italy, and a residency at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore.

Civitella Ranieri ( is a residency program for international writers, composers, and visual artists. Since 1995, Civitella has hosted more than 1,000 Fellows and Director’s Guests, enabling them to pursue their work and exchange ideas in a unique and inspiring setting.

The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower has been transformed into studio spaces for visual and literary artists. Located at 21 S. Eutaw Street in the heart of the Bromo Arts & Entertainment District, the 15-story city landmark is the ideal location for artists to explore their practice.

BOPA will curate an exhibition of Sondheim Semi-Finalists again this year at School 33 Art Center.

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