Rubys Grantees and Program Changes in 2023

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The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation has officially announced the 2023 Rubys Artist Grants, which will support individual artists and the creation of eighteen new, innovative, and experimental projects that have significant impact across the Performing Arts, Media Arts, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts. Initially launched in 2013, the Rubys supports artists in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. In this cycle, the grant will provide over $250,000 to 18 new projects across the four disciplines, as well as introducing new areas of funding, including alumni and microgrants.

“​​The biggest changes to the structure this year were a two-round application, with a shorter round one application, and the fuller application packet completed only by those projects that were advanced to the second round,” says Senior Program Manager Alex Ebstein. “This shorter application was less daunting for artists, and used word limitations similar to applications for other grants and professional opportunities, making the Rubys application process more accessible.” The new applications asked artists to focus on the description, urgency, audience and personal impact of their proposed projects in the first round. 

“The second important change was the additional support, mentorship and services the awardees will receive,” says Ebstein. “The effects of this change–and likely due to the hiatus of the grant in 2022–were that we had the largest number of applications in the grant’s history.” 

“We are excited to announce the new Rubys Artist Grant Program, which now includes a year-long mentorship from our esteemed jurors,” says Rhea Beckett, Arts Program Coordinator for the Rubys Artist Grants. “This support system will give ongoing guidance and nurture stronger connections, interdisciplinary collaboration, and artistic growth. The program is deeply committed to celebrating diversity, as demonstrated by the 18 talented grantees from various disciplines representing our community’s vibrant tapestry. Our mission is to empower artists, foster innovation, and continue the legacy of visionary Ruby Lerner. We look forward to seeing the program’s transformative impact on our grantees and the creative community.”

This year, the Rubys partnered with Open Works and Creative Study to provide access to tools and resources to support the awardees as they work on their projects, and are tailoring additional services to the needs of the artists as they may arise.

Ebstein explains that, “The desired future effect is that these artists feel that Baltimore is a place where they can continue to create work and sustain their careers. Additionally, many of this year’s jurors will also serve as mentors, providing feedback in the form of meeting or studio visits with the artists in their discipline, broadening the jury’s engagement with Baltimore-based artists, potentially leading to additional opportunities and connections.”

This year marks the first for a brand new grant from the Rubys called the Alumni award, “created after looking to Creative Capital’s model of a one-time award, while acknowledging the scarcity of funding for artists in the Baltimore area, and our desire to continue to support and connect with previous grant recipients,” explains Ebstein. “The artists awarded the alumni grant, in addition to working on their project, will offer professional development conversations to the new Rubys cohort.”

In addition, the Rubys are giving microgrants of $5000 available to alumni for pursuing a specific growth opportunity–like participating in a film festival or residency, or to take a class in a new material or fabrication process.


The 2023 Rubys Grantees

According to a release from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, this year’s projects exemplify the program’s values of experimentation, risk-taking, and creative innovation.

The 2023 Awardees are:

Abigail Lucien – to support Mood Come Alive, which centers around sculptural poetics to create scaled recreations of Sans-Souci Palace and imagine a speculative future for the Republic of Haïti.

Alejandra Nunez – to support Memory Mist, a series of improvised sound pieces that uses distorted samples, instruments and DJ equipment to explore and reimagine dance music for a meditative listening experience.

Aliana Grace Bailey – to support Soft Gather, an installation series of healing spaces using fiber and color theory, where Black communities and individuals can comfortably gather, reflect, rest, and build relationships.

Ami Dang – to support Bhai Vir Singh’s Lost Melodies, a song cycle and installation featuring lyrics and music compositions from Kambdi Kalai, a poetry collection by Vir Singh (the artist’s great, great grandfather) with original musical arrangements for sitar, voice, harmonium, dilruba, tabla, and electronics.

Cheyanne Zadia Givens – to support Vacants, an episodic series depicting a poetic portrait of a seemingly decaying West Baltimore

Colette Krogol & Matt Reeves – to support A&I, a new performer and AI (Artificial Intelligence) operated dance and multimedia performance that uses smart home technology on a theatrical scale. The work questions how we see and care for the technologies we have created, which hold up the fragile ecosystems of modern society. Once complete they will present A&I with their company, Orange Grove Dance.

Diana Wharton-Sennaar – to support Carry On, a new American musical that tells the story of tribulations and triumphs for a group of senior living facility residents at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elena Volkova – to support Faces: Ukrainian Portraits, a participatory arts project using a historic photographic process to create a visual archive that bears witness to the Ukrainian women and children displaced by war.

Jalynn Harris – to support Oh, Baltimore!, a collection of poems using the site of Druid Hill Park and the artist’s embodied experiences as a Baltimore native as the central subjects, in order to create art that redresses the narrative of a city wrecked by negative representation in the media.

Jimmy Joe Roche – to support A Complete History of the Known Universe, an experimental, narrative feature film about a group of eccentric drifters gathered on the fringes of society, planning for the end of the world.

Jung Yun – to support her third novel, tentatively titled WAKE, which follows three groups of passengers on a cruise to Bermuda shortly after 9/11.

Laura Laing – to support Three: A Memoir, a fractured, non-chronological exploration of coming-of-age and coming-out memoir told through the lens of mathematical proof and structure.

Laura Wexler – to support American Love Story, a docu-play created from the verbatim transcript of an infamous 1925 trial in which a husband seeks to annul his marriage, claiming his wife defrauded him by failing to divulge her “Colored blood.” American Love Story places the audience inside the courtroom to experience this Jazz Age spectacle, which culminates in an unforgettable act that reveals both the absurdity and the tragedy of American racism.

Lawrence Burney – to support Revisiting Ramona, the feature-length documentary debut by the artist, writer and journalist about the East Baltimore neighborhood of his youth.

Marnie Ellen Hertzler – to support ETERNITY ONE, a feature-length film that imagines possible futures for a young girl and her small crabbing community on an island in the Chesapeake Bay as they face the immediate effects of the climate crisis.

Nate Larson – to support El Puente: On Juvenile Incarceration in Argentina, an empathetic documentary project using photography, oral history interviews, and direct collaboration to honor and empower incarcerated youth in Argentina.

NIA JUNE – to support What Goes Down When You Love Somebody, a visual poem and three-part episodic series illustrating milestones of Black love. It follows one family’s evolution through the decades with each episode set in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, all against the tapestry of a Baltimore row home.

Zara Kahan – to support Come Into My Arms, a film which follows a Filipino-American archivist on a quest to uncover the origins of a mysterious film, leading her to confront her repressed emotions over her abusive mother’s death while a dashing ghost from her homeland haunts her.


The jury also selected two additional, outstanding projects to receive the Rubys MicroGrants and access to the Rubys artist services:

Aditya Desai – to support Bombay, Oregon, a novel manuscript following two branches of a working class Gujarati American family across generations as they mourn loss and survive economic precarity.

S. M. Prescott – to support Already, Not Yet, a collaborative audio book of liturgies for trans lives and subsequent installation.

More information: Now in its tenth year, the Rubys Artist Grant Program has established itself as a vital opportunity for artists in the Baltimore region. The Rubys provide direct funding to individual artists, prioritizing new artistic endeavors, and the belief that artists should be paid for all parts of their creative work, not only for the final outcome.

Past recipients of the Rubys have achieved critical acclaim and received fellowships from prestigious institutions such as the Guggenheim Foundation, United States Artists, and Halcyon Arts Lab. They have also showcased their projects at renowned venues like the Maryland Film Festival, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Rubys Artist Grant Program draws inspiration from the work of Creative Capital in New York City and is named in honor of its visionary founder, Ruby Lerner.

In its new phase, the Rubys Artist Grants, as part of the broader arts and culture grantmaking strategy of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, aims to deepen its impact by providing more grants to a wider range of projects. Additionally, the grant program will provide professional development opportunities, network building, artist services and technical assistance for awardees.

The Rubys will partner with several Deutsch Foundation projects, such as Open Works, Motor House, BmoreArt, and Connect + Collect, to outfit awardees, when relevant to their work, with access to tools, technologies, equipment, performance, and event space, exposure, and dialogue. 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.

The 2023 Rubys cycle introduces a new alumni grant program and recognizes a new, innovative project by former Rubys recipients. This grant kicks off what will be an annual commitment of this kind, available to former recipients of the Rubys Artist Grants. The Rubys, which up until this point has allowed re-application by former grantees, will, in 2024 and onward, be a one-time award. Alumni will have the opportunity to apply to one larger project grant, and smaller, professional development grants through the Rubys Alumni network. Look out for more information about this program toward the end of 2023.

This year’s alumni recipient is a collaboration between former Rubys grant recipients, Angela N. Carroll and Kibibi Ajanku: Sankofa Dance Theater: 30 Years of Music Movement and Folkways, a limited-edition coffee table book, reviews the work of Sankofa Dance Theater as a cultural ambassador that bridged communities between Baltimore and West Africa. This is the first publication to illuminate Black dance’s history in Baltimore.

The 2023 Rubys jury panels for visual, media, performance, and literary arts were comprised of the following esteemed professionals, many of whom will serve as mentors to the awardees this year:

Ajay Kurian – Kurian was born in Baltimore, Maryland and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is an artist, writer, and educator. He is represented by 47 Canal and Sies+Höke. He is the founder of NewCrits, a global platform for virtual studio visits.

Allie Linn – curator, artist, writer, and arts administrator motivated by collaborative institution-building, site-responsive practices, and crowd-sourced archives. They currently work as Initiatives Manager at United States Artists, where they collaborate on several arts fellowship programs and oversee Shift Space, an online publication reflecting on the field of art and technology. They have previously served as Curator-in-Residence of Gormley Gallery at Notre Dame of Maryland University; Studio Coordinator of Facebook’s Analog Research Lab; Co-organizer of the Publications and Multiples Fair; and Co-founder of the Artist-Run Art Fair and Spiral Bound Book Fair, in addition to positions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Contemporary, and Recess in Brooklyn. From 2014 to 2016, alongside a cohort of six other artists, they co-founded Bb, an artist-run gallery and programming space in downtown Baltimore and a 2015 grantee of The Grit Fund. They hold a BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture and Art History and an MFA in Curatorial Practice from MICA, where they have also taught as a visiting professor. Their writing has been featured in the International Awards for Art Criticism and Post-Office Arts Journal.

Amber Esseiva – curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and Curator at Large for the Studio Museum in Harlem

Gee Wesley – Wesley is an arts organizer born in Monrovia, Liberia, and based in New York where he works as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Media and Performance at the Museum of Modern Art. Prior to joining MoMA, Wesley held roles as Program Director at Recess (Brooklyn, NY), Curatorial Fellow at SculptureCenter (Queens, NY), Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia, PA), visiting instructor at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY), and adjunct faculty in the Curatorial Practice MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD). Wesley is a co-founder and board member of Ulises, a nonprofit art bookshop based in Philadelphia. His work explores the relationship between publics and publications and how independent arts initiatives incubate new modes of curatorial and artistic practice. Wesley received his M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies, at Bard College.

Koa Beck – the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind. She is a recipient of both the Joan Shorenstein Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Alan Jutzi Fellowship at The Huntington.

Martha Joseph – is a curator and writer specializing in performance and sonic practice. At the Museum of Modern Art, she is part of the curatorial team for The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, MoMA’s space for performance and time-based art. Martha’s writing has appeared in publications by the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA as well as Flash Art and Frieze Magazine. Before joining MoMA she worked at The Whitney and The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). She received her Masters degree in the History of Art from Williams College; a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Oberlin College; and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Oberlin Conservatory.

Meghan Gordon – is the Director of OCHI, a contemporary art gallery with locations in Los Angeles, California and Sun Valley, Idaho. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Project X Foundation for Art and Criticism, the publisher of X-TRA. Gordon’s writing and curatorial work celebrates the intersections of labor, language, love, and pleasure, while her gallery and administrative work focuses on storytelling, mentorship, and sustainable practices.

Josef Palermo – From 2016 to 2020, Josef Palermo was appointed to the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, where he worked to advance the interests of independent artists and small arts organizations in Washington, DC. Prior to his service in public arts administration and cultural policymaking, Josef established a career leading collaborative community-based arts projects for diverse audiences through experiential exhibitions. A second-generation “mixed” American born to biracial and multi-ethnic parents, Josef seeks to amplify underrepresented identities in all aspects of the art world.

Lex Brown – Lex Brown is a multimedia artist who uses poetry and science-fiction to create existential narratives about the Information Age. Working fluidly between installation, film, live performance, painting, and sculpture her work contemplates spiritual experience through humor and satire. Brown has performed and exhibited work at the MIT List Center, New Museum, the High Line, the International Center of Photography, and The Kitchen. Her films have been presented at e-flux Screening Room, New York; Transmediale, Berlin; and the East End Film Festival, London. Brown received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and an MFA from Yale. She was a 2021 United States Artist Fellow.

Penny Lane – has been making award-winning, innovative nonfiction films for over a decade. This includes six features – most recently Confessions of a Good Samaritan, premiering at SXSW 2023 – and over a dozen short films. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, Lane has also received grants and awards from the Sundance Film Festival, Cinereach, Creative Capital, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Tribeca Film Institute, Wexner Center for the Arts and many others.

Sarah Melendez – Curator of Music at Ballroom, Marfa and founder of their musician in residence program. She lives and works in Marfa, TX.

Stephanie Barber – Stephanie Barber is a writer and artist who has created a poetic, conceptual and philosophical body of work in a variety of media. Often literary/visual hybrids, these works dissolve boundaries between narrative, essay and dialectic. Her work considers the basic philosophical questions of human existence (its morbidity, profundity and banality) with play and humor.Stephanie is currently the program head of Film and Digital Cinema at Moore College in Philadelphia, PA

For more information on the Rubys Artist Grant Program, please visit:


Editor’s Note: The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation is a significant supporter of BmoreArt and our team works collaboratively, whenever possible, with the foundation and specifically with the Rubys Grants team.


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