Baltimore News: Walters Workers United, Church Bar, Darienne (Dare) Turner

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This week’s news includes: Union unity at The Walters, behind the scenes of Church Bar, the Brooklyn Museum names BMA’s Darienne (Dare) Turner its first-ever full-time curator of Indigenous art, Baltimore Club music, MSGargaritas, an arepa cookbook from Alma Cocina, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, Artnet News, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Walters Workers United Facebook


Workers at Walters Art Museum win union election
Press Release :: June 15

Nearly 80 museum workers at the Walters Art Museum have overwhelmingly voted to form their union with AFSCME Maryland Council 3. The election was conducted by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) on Thursday, June 15, 2023; workers voted 60 to 5 in favor of their union. The new bargaining unit will consist of staff from retail operations, conservation, curatorial, safety and security, building operations, marketing and communication, installation and collections, learning and community engagement, and others. Walters Workers United (WWU) first announced intentions to unionize in spring 2021. Workers formed their union to address concerns regarding health and safety, pay equity, a voice in the workplace, and paths to career advancement among other reasons.

Throughout the organizing process and the long road to this moment, workers steadfastly fought for a wall-to-wall union — one union for all workers across the museum. Workers felt strongly that they should not be divided into two different bargaining units with multiple unions.

“After more than two years of organizing, we are excited to see Walters Art Museum workers win their union election. Today’s victory brings Walters Workers United closer towards a workplace where their talent and contributions are valued and their input and voices are respected and heard. We’re honored to have the members of Walters Workers United as part of the AFSCME Maryland family because all workers deserve the right to organize for the pay, respect, and better working conditions we deserve,” said Patrick Moran, President of AFSCME Maryland Council 3.

This victory is the third big win in the past year for Baltimore’s cultural workers organizing with AFSCME. Last year, workers at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Enoch Pratt Free Library both won their union elections with AFSCME. This wave of organizing is part of a national movement of workers at cultural and arts institutions coming together and organizing with Cultural Workers United, AFSCME. CWU is a national program that has seen workers at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Chicago Sciences Academy, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Academy Museum, the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and other institutions organize and win.

Quotes from Walters Art Museum Workers and Community Supporters:

Safiyah Cheatam, Manager of Teen Programs: “I can see the budding joy of my workers as we get closer to finalizing our union! We’ve worked so hard, and I am already benefiting from our courage and determination. Soon, I hope to be able to enjoy my religious holidays without the worry and navigation of using my PTO for it. I look forward to everyone receiving a living wage for their work!”

Garrett Stralnic, Gallery Officer, “I will never forget this moment. It takes a certain kind of bravery to question the status quo and a certain kind of courage to envision a more inclusive future where we can collectively advocate for ourselves. I am endlessly thankful for the opportunity to build community with my caring and impressive coworkers. I am endlessly proud to have witnessed them exhibit bravery in many forms. We have accomplished a lot in these long two years, and now I’m ecstatic to see how we will make the Walters an even better institution for ourselves and our community.”

Will Murray, Lead Maintenance Technician, “I’m so overwhelmingly proud and happy to be a part of this amazing accomplishment. I’m in awe of my courageous colleagues who fought to make this happen. This is a great day and will be a lasting legacy we leave behind for future employees of the Walters.”

Mary Cochran, Associate Registrar, “I’m so proud of my colleagues and their commitment to each other during this long process, especially as we won our union today. I’m looking forward to negotiating a contract that ensures that we have the job protection and stability we deserve.”

Will Hays, Associate Registrar: “I’m so proud of my colleagues. From the very start of our organizing campaign, our core value has been that all workers — both back-of-house and front-of-house — should be able to join together and fight for better working conditions. Now, we’ve won our wall-to-wall union. I’ve been a registrar at the Walters Art Museum for 10 years, so I know firsthand just how many people it takes to make a museum work. It takes all of us, and we are only stronger together. We all work for the same goal. The Walters is one of Baltimore’s treasures and strengthening our workers means strengthening our community.”

Jemal Cherry, Maintenance Technician: “I’m looking forward to the next phase and negotiating a contract. I’d love to see yearly raises and a more fair policy around people who leave the museum getting their PTO paid out.”

Lex Reehill, Monitor Room Officer: “This is a culmination of so many folks’ hard work, from all corners of the institution. From Security to Conservation to Maintenance, we really did it! I am proud to be a part of a huge change for the Walters, and this is a considerable step forward towards equity, transparency, and accountability.”

Greg Bailey, Senior Objects Conservator: “I continue to be inspired by my colleagues’ commitment to each other and to this institution. With the recognition of our union, together we can build a more inclusive future in which all workers are safer, more secure, and supported in the work they do.”

Evan Carroll, Gallery Officer: “I’m anticipating the agency we’ll be afforded as a union, united with other museum staff. Representation is key to a lot of us whose work goes unseen and underappreciated.”

Delegate Robbyn Lewis, “Congratulations to the workers at the Walters Art Museum on their union election victory! I’m proud to stand with the Walters Workers United members who have been organizing in my district for over two long years to form a union with AFSCME. Here’s to winning the dignity and respect that only a collective bargaining agreement with your employer can provide.”



From left, Marisa Dobson, Chelsea Gregoire and Martha Lucius, the founders of the queer and women-owned bar Church. (Kirk McKoy/Kirk McKoy)

The Dish: Church bar aimed to create a queer-friendly utopia. It went up in flames.
by Christina Tkacik
Published June 21 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Standing behind a hostess stand built to look like a pulpit, Kristin Potler smiled earlier this month as she greeted guests at Church bar. Her daughter waited tables as diners sat in pews, ordering $13 cocktails from a menu that looked like a Bible. On a bright, early evening, blackout curtains and electronic music made the space feel like the home of a hip vampire.

There was little evidence of the firestorm that has engulfed the Old Goucher establishment, which recently reopened after a monthlong shutdown during which it changed hands. During that closure, Church was named one of the top bars in the country by Esquire magazine — a choice that baffled employees and investors who say the reality of the bar never lived up to its lofty aspirations and glossy images. Former employees have taken to social media to blast Church and in particular, one of its founders, Chelsea Gregoire. And they have questions about the bar’s new owners and their plans for the business going forward.

Former employees and investors interviewed by The Baltimore Banner said Church’s original owners sold them on a vision for the bar that espoused transparency and equality at a time of reckoning in the hospitality world. But under Gregoire’s leadership, they said, Church became an unusually chaotic and dysfunctional place where workers and vendors were frequently paid late and both employees and investors were misled about the bar’s finances and operation.



Dare Turner. Photo Christina Chahyadi, courtesy Brooklyn Museum.

The Brooklyn Museum Has Hired Its First Full-Time Curator of Indigenous Art
by Brian Boucher
Published June 16 in Artnet News

Excerpt: Darienne (Dare) Turner has been appointed the Brooklyn Museum’s first-ever full-time curator of Indigenous art. She is currently assistant curator of Indigeous art of the Americas at the Baltimore Museum, and takes up her new post in August.

“The Brooklyn Museum’s collection is simply remarkable, and I am thrilled to work alongside brilliant colleagues and Native community members to share it with the public,” Turner said in a statement. “The opportunity to re-present a historic collection at an institution dedicated to rethinking representation was one I couldn’t pass up. The artworks in the museum’s care offer the keys to understanding who we are as living Native communities, and they highlight the ways in which Native people have thrived on this continent since time immemorial.”



Perfomances lasted all day at AFRAM Juneteenth Festival on June 17, 2023 at Druid Hill Park. This is the first official Baltimore Club Music Day. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Baltimore Club Music Day celebrated at AFRAM
by Kaitlin Newman
Published June 18 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: AFRAM, one of the largest African American festivals on the East Coast, celebrated its seventeenth year at Druid Hill Park Saturday. That day was also, for the first time, designated Baltimore Club Music Day. Festival goers witnessed several pioneers of the club scene perform Saturday.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott worked to create the celebration of the Baltimore Club scene, which he experienced growing up in the city.

“This was a perfect time for us to celebrate the entire history — 30 years-plus of that history — and what better place to do that than at Baltimore’s festival, Baltimore’s favorite festival, Baltimore’s Blackest festival, AFRAM?” Scott said last week.

See also:

With Baltimore Club Music Day, a culture-defining genre gets its flowers
by Taji Burris and Tramon Lucas
Published June 17 in The Baltimore Banner



The liquor license has expired for Central, an LGBTQ+-affirming nightclub in Mount Vernon. A state hold must be resolved before the city liquor board can issue a new license to the business. Photo by Ed Gunts.

As Baltimore Pride weekend approaches, LGBTQ-friendly Central Bar and The Manor in Mount Vernon are closed and their liquor licenses have expired; Stable & Saloon still awaiting new concept; fundraiser set for Clifton Pleasure Club
by Ed Gunts
Published June 21 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: As Pride weekend approaches in Baltimore, two LGBTQ-friendly gathering spots that were open last year in Mount Vernon won’t be part of the festivities this year, and their liquor licenses have expired.

Both Central Bar at 885-889 North Howard Street and The Manor restaurant and ultralounge at 924 N. Charles Street have signs on their front doors indicating that the closures are temporary, but each business has been dormant for more than a month.

The two businesses had active liquor licenses until April 30, when they expired and were not renewed. According to Nicholas Blendy, deputy executive secretary of the liquor board, the operators of both businesses applied to renew their licenses for the year starting May 1, 2023, but the board was unable to do so.



A couple dashes of MSG solution round out this layered take on the tequila classic.

I Will Now Spike Every Margarita With MSG
by Jess Mayhugh
Published June 8 in Punch

Excerpt: Just when you think you’ve tried every style of Margarita under the sun, a new version comes along that subverts all expectations. At the newly opened Coral Wig in Baltimore’s historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood, the menu leans tropical, with cocktails that do not shy away from bold, theatrical garnishes. Hidden among drinks like the Mango Boy, served with a speared caper berry and sprinkles of pistachio and pink peppercorn, or the Flamboyán cachaça cocktail, topped off with a wafer-thin safflower, sits the unassuming Banana Hammock. On the surface, it looks just like any other fruited Margarita, but from the first sip it’s clear this recipe has a few secrets.



The Truth In This Art Podcast and Ceremony Coffee Roasters Conclude Successful Collaboration, Raising Over $2,200 for Baltimore Improv Group Theatre
Press Release :: June 16

The Truth in This Art podcast, hosted by Rob Lee, and Ceremony Coffee Roasters are proud to announce the successful conclusion of their collaborative partnership. The collaboration, which began in February 2023, has not only delighted coffee enthusiasts but has also made a significant impact on the Baltimore arts and culture scene.

The highlight of this partnership was the creation of a special roast named Ecuador Amaluza under Rob’s podcast brand. This exclusive coffee blend was crafted with precision and passion by Ceremony Coffee Roasters, a renowned and beloved local coffee establishment. As a dedicated champion of Baltimore’s vibrant arts and culture, Rob Lee’s collaboration with Ceremony Coffee Roasters was a natural fit, bringing together three outstanding brands.

Throughout the duration of the collaboration, a portion of the proceeds from each bag and pour-over of Ecuador Amaluza coffee were dedicated to supporting the Baltimore Improv Group Theatre (BIG Improv), located in Station North. The joint effort between The Truth in This Art podcast, Ceremony Coffee Roasters, and BIG Improv raised an impressive amount of over $2,200 to benefit the theater.

“I love BIG Improv and a good cup of coffee, so when the opportunity to partner with Ceremony was presented, it made so much sense,” said Rob Lee, host of The Truth in This Art podcast. “I’m glad it turned out well and folks enjoyed the coffee. Honestly, it’s pretty dope to be a podcaster with coffee.”

The success of the collaboration between The Truth in This Art podcast and Ceremony Coffee Roasters paves the way for future endeavors aimed at nurturing Baltimore’s cultural landscape. This partnership demonstrates the importance of leveraging shared passions and resources to uplift and support local arts and community organizations.

For more information about The Truth in This Art podcast, please visit To explore the exceptional coffee offerings from Ceremony Coffee Roasters, please visit For inquiries regarding BIG Improv, please visit



—Photography by Micah E. Wood

Alma Cocina Latina’s Irena Stein Writes the World’s First Arepa Cookbook
by Jane Marion
Published June 15 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: In 2017, Alma Cocina Latina owner Irena Stein was meeting with her then-chef Enrique Limardo and a Venezuelan food distributor when an idea began marinating.

“He and Enrique were talking about doing ‘a little something’ with arepa recipes,” recalls Stein, pictured above. “I said, ‘Let’s not do a little thing, why don’t we do a big thing?’”

After the meeting, she did some online research to see what coverage already existed on this popular sandwich-like street food of her home country, and she was surprised to learn that the staple Venezuelan corn cakes, stuffed with myriad fillings, dating as far back as 1,000 B.C., had never exclusively been the star of their own cookbook.



Everyman Theatre Presents: A Night for Baltimore
Press Release :: June 17

Everyman Theatre Presents: A Night for Baltimore, a new annual special event, will take place on Saturday, September 30, 2023, co-chaired by Everyman Theatre Board Members Drew Tildon Reis of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP and Christopher Uhl of Baltimore’s own Sweet Spot. This extraordinary celebration supports Everyman’s education programming and community accessibility initiatives including its deeply discounted Pay-What-You-Choose offerings for every show.

A Night for Baltimore brings Everyman’s annual fundraiser back to its home at 315 West Fayette Street for an evening of performance, exquisite food and cocktails, theatrical fun, and a dance party. The event will feature a live musical performance by the incredible E. Faye Butler and her band as well as a post-show celebration with Baltimore icon, singer, songwriter, DJ, and producer Ultra Naté, named one of Billboard Magazine’s Greatest of All Time: Top Dance Club Artists. Guests will enjoy a broad selection of heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and drinks, including a secret signature cocktail.

Everyman Theatre’s Founder, Artistic Director Vincent Lancisi shared, “The goal of the event is to throw open our doors for all Baltimoreans to celebrate together and raise some money for Everyman’s education and community programs. Sponsors will welcome party-goers of every walk of life who share a love for the arts and this great city. We are excited to have our newest board members leading the charge to create a new signature event that is fun and open to all.”

Bringing a new energy and relevancy to the format of a traditional nonprofit arts organization’s gala, event co-chairs and Everyman Theatre Board Members Drew Tildon Reis and Christopher Uhl are looking to bring Baltimore’s community members into the theatre alongside Everyman’s long-time supporters. This celebration of Everyman’s contributions to Baltimore over the last 33 years will play a vital role in supporting Everyman’s future and everyone at Everyman cannot wait to share this space with long-time friends and new faces. This year’s event will use the entire Theatre building on West Fayette Street from the public lobby spaces and theatre to the amazing rehearsal hall. It will be an evening to remember!

“This is an event for Baltimore, for the entire community, celebrating the people who make the Baltimore arts scene incredibly vibrant,” says co-chair and Everyman Theatre Board Member Christopher Uhl. “Everyman has been one of Baltimore’s best-kept-secrets – but now it’s time to let the city know who we are and what we can do!”

Sponsorships (ranging from $25,000 to $1,000) and tickets (early bird tickets $100 through July 21, regular tickets $125, post-show celebration tickets $50) are available for purchase now. Please contact Sara Kissinger ( or 410.615.7055 x 7124) for more information.



Folding Processional Icon in the Shape of a Fan (detail), Ethiopia, late 15th century. Museum purchase with funds provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund, 1996.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads debuts December 2023 at the Walters Art Museum
Press Release :: June 21

On December 3, the Walters Art Museum debuts Ethiopia at the Crossroads, an extraordinary display of Ethiopian art exploring over 1,750 years of Ethiopian culture and history through over 225 objects. Co-organized by the Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art, Ethiopia at the Crossroads is the first major art exhibition in America to examine an array of Ethiopian cultural and artistic traditions—from their origins to the present day—and to chart the ways in which engaging with surrounding cultures manifested in Ethiopian artistic practices. The Walters, which holds one of the most extensive collections of Ethiopian art outside of Ethiopia, is uniquely suited to explore this artistic, cultural, and religious history.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads delves into Ethiopian art as reflective of the nation’s notable history, including its status as an early adopter of Christianity, and demonstrates its enormous cultural significance through the themes of cross-cultural exchange. In particular, the exhibition traces the creation and movement of art objects, styles, and materials into and out of Ethiopia, whether across the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean, or within the African continent, including across the Sahel and along the Mediterranean coast.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads moves beyond the traditional Western perceptions of Ethiopian culture and re-centers both our understanding of the country’s significant artistic traditions and its connections to the wider world. This exhibition demonstrates Ethiopia’s foundational role in world culture, religion, and the humanities, while illuminating the specific ways in which Ethiopian artists and communities encountered and exchanged ideas with other cultures near and far,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “Over the last three decades the Walters has built the most important collection of Ethiopian art outside of that nation, devoted curatorial resources to explore this collection area, and invested in conservation research and treatment for these objects. This new exhibition is the culmination of this long-term investment, an outstanding opportunity to share these remarkable works with our community, including the significant Ethiopian diaspora community in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.”

The exhibition features objects drawn from the Walters’ collection of Ethiopian art augmented with loans from other American, Ethiopian, and European lenders. Visitors will see painted Christian icons, church wall paintings, illuminated manuscripts, healing scrolls, metalwork crosses, coins, colorful basketry, ancient stone and 20th-century wood sculpture, contemporary artworks, and more.

“Much of the history of the Ethiopian nation can be understood through its art and related objects, telling the story of a nation whose rulers and priests expressed their royal ideals and religious beliefs through coinage, painted icons, objects used in corporate worship or personal devotion, and luxury copies of religious texts, while responding to contacts with people from Africa, Europe, and Asia,” said Christine Sciacca, Curator of European Art, 300–1400 CE. “From the 4th century to the present day, Ethiopian artists have developed distinctive traditions while drawing upon those learned from the cultures and people with whom they interacted, including Coptic Egypt and South Arabia, as well as Byzantium, Armenia, Italy, and India, among others. In the 20th and 21st centuries, artists belonging to Ethiopian diaspora communities in the United States and Europe have built upon this history. By examining these connections between Ethiopia and surrounding cultures, we can better understand the impact and artistic legacy of this great African nation.”

Home to over eighty different ethnicities and religious groups, a large portion of the historic artistic production in Ethiopia supported one of the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), all of which have early roots in Ethiopia. As one of the oldest Christian kingdoms, Ethiopian artists produced icons, wall paintings, crosses of various scales, and illuminated manuscripts to support this religious tradition and its liturgy. Visitors will learn the great religious significance of prayers to and images of the Virgin Mary, which were developed during this period under the patronage of Zar’a Ya’qob (1434-68). Bronze processional crosses and some of the earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts from Ethiopia are also on view. Other areas of the exhibition detail the Ethiopian relationship with other ancient Christian cultures, the arrival of Islam in Ethiopia in the prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, and the expansion of the local Christian culture between the 12th and 14th centuries.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads also offers insight into secular objects produced and utilized by Ethiopians. The earliest surviving objects from Ethiopia in the exhibition are the coins minted by generations of Aksumite rulers. In a new approach to this material, the study of the images that appear on these coins help characterize these rulers’ self-fashioning and self-representation. Well-established Indian Ocean trade routes were utilized for the import of textiles from the East. Often, textiles were incorporated into manuscript bindings and used to protect their illustrated pages. In other cases, locally produced fabrics were used to make garments, such as a royal cloak made of black velveteen and decorated with gold embroidery and sequins that belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie (1892-1975).

Works by living artists are integrated throughout the space and juxtaposed with the historic works to help visitors comprehend and connect with the multiplicity of cultures and histories presented. The exhibition considers the tangible effect the historic artworks have on contemporary Ethiopian artists, who often engage with historical artworks, frequently incorporating their themes, motifs, and stylistic features in varying degrees.

In 1993, the museum mounted African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia, the first major exhibition on Ethiopian art in America, which traveled to seven additional venues across the United States. After this landmark display, the Walters recognized not just an opportunity but an obligation to better serve the Ethiopian community in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area. Thanks to the diligent scholarship of Walters curators and conservators and several hundred acquisitions, the Walters arrives at this present moment in its 90-year history with an extensive collection of Ethiopian art objects and a unique approach to sharing the stories contained within them.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads is curated by Christine Sciacca, Curator of European Art, 300–1400 CE at the Walters Art Museum. The exhibition opens at the Walters on December 3, 2023, and is on view through March 3, 2024. The exhibition will travel to the Peabody Essex Museum April 14–July 7, 2024, and to the Toledo Museum of Art August 18–November 10, 2024.

An illustrated catalogue, edited by Sciacca and published by the Walters, will accompany the exhibition, along with a robust schedule of programs.

This Exhibition is co-organized by the Walters Art Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

Ethiopia at the Crossroads has been made possible in part by Exhibition Planning and Implementation Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

This project is also supported by the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, The Hilde Voss Eliasberg Fund for Exhibitions, contributors to the Gary Vikan Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Walters Women’s Committee Legacy Endowment, Nanci and Ned Feltham, and The International Center of Medieval Art and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Header Image: Walters Workers United Facebook

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