It’s hard to believe that the Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize is now in its 18th year of existence. The first Sondheim Exhibition was hosted in MICA’s Meyerhoff galleries during Artscape in 2006; multidisciplinary sculpture and performance artist Laure Drogoul was the first winner of the then-$25,000 prize, which at the time seemed astronomical in size, the first of its kind in Baltimore. Fast forward eighteen years and there are many more fellowships, grants, and opportunities to exhibit in museums for regional living artists, a testament to the influence of this award.
Each year the exhibition of Sondheim finalists (as well as another of semi-finalists) functions as a bellwether for talent in the region, offering a collective space for cutting-edge contemporary art selected by esteemed jurors, artists and curators with a global reputation and mostly from outside the region.
Hosted alternatively at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters, with one exception in 2020 when it was a virtual COVID exhibition to mixed results, this annual show is worth paying close attention to each year. And now, close two two decades in, the Sondheim boasts a long list of highly successful award winners and finalists, who were given their first museum exhibitions through the award, which is an incredibly valuable and rare opportunity for Baltimore artists, though thankfully becoming less rare.