Baltimore Art News: Bishme Cromartie, Stevie Walker-Webb, Linda Smith

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This week’s news includes: Baltimore’s Bishme Cromartie wins Project Runway All Stars, Stevie Walker-Webb is Center Stage’s new Artistic Director,  the rediscovery of Linda Smith, where to watch John Waters get his Hollywood star, the photography of Amos Badertscher, Local Color podcast interviews Kirk Shannon Butts, Michelle Faulkner-Forson named director of Baltimore Improv Group, Edgar Allan Poe documentary, a review of SANA(A) at Pyramid Atlantic, Schroeder Cherry on PBS Craft in America , and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, East City Art, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: A collection of cassettes of Linda Smith’s music. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)



Bishme Cromartie, a contestant on Season 20 of Bravo's “Project Runway,” works on a design during the episode “Project Redemption!” Cromartie won the competition in an episode that aired Thursday. (Courtesy of Bravo)

Baltimore native Bishme Cromartie wins ‘Project Runway All Stars’
by John-John Williams IV
Published September 8 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Bishme Cromartie came full circle Thursday night, winning “Project Runway All Stars.”

The Baltimore native defeated two designers — Laurence Basse and Brittany Allen — in the finale of the Bravo network’s reality TV series. Cromartie dedicated his season to the memory of his older sister Chimere Faye Didley, who died of cancer last year.

In winning this fiercely competitive season, Cromartie, born Bishme Rajiv Patrick Cromartie, was awarded $250,000 in prize money, in addition to a feature in Elle magazine and a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

See also:

Bishme Cromartie Opens Up About His Bittersweet ‘Project Runway’ Win
by Max Weiss
Published September 10 in Baltimore Magazine



(VSDavis Photography)

Tony Award Nominated Stevie Waker-Webb Appointed Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director
Press Release :: September 7

Baltimore Center Stage announced today that Tony Award-nominated and Obie Award winning director Stevie Walker-Webb will join the company as Artistic Director. Walker-Webb will assume the role October 1, 2023, succeeding Interim Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin. He joins Adam Frank, BCS’s Managing Director, to form the BCS leadership team.

“From the moment I stepped into the lobby of Baltimore Center Stage, I intuitively knew that I’d found a creative home,” said Walker-Webb. “The rich history and undeniable heart of this city is unmatched. Baltimore has long been a cultural beacon, and I’m excited to use my experience and national reach to amplify what makes Baltimore so special.”

Walker-Webb continued: “This theater sits at the precise intersection of all the things that matter to me both as an artist and as a civically engaged citizen. I am honored to be leading an institution that has over 60 years of proven commitment to its community and intend to deepen that commitment by working with the Baltimore Center Stage team to bring only the most exciting and cutting-edge art to our city. This theater belongs to all of us, and my plan is to program plays that will make Baltimore fall in love with live performance again and again.”

“Stevie is a bold and thoughtful leader, who matches artistic brilliance and delight with a history of placing art at the center of the work to build healthier communities and a better world,” said Managing Director Adam Frank. “At this critical juncture in the American theater, his passion, energy and commitment to Baltimore make him an inspired choice for a vibrant future for BCS. I can’t wait to work with him to realize a beautiful new chapter for this amazing company.”

“Baltimore Center Stage has a long and storied history of daring and courageous leaders, from Irene Lewis and Kwame Kwei-Armah, to Stephanie Ybarra and Ken-Matt Martin. We are thrilled to pass the torch of leadership to Stevie Walker-Webb,” said Sandy Liotta, Board President of BCS.  “One of Stevie’s celebrated productions at BCS was Our Town, a story of community and life that Stevie staged as a compelling ode to the city of Baltimore and all its people. Stevie understands deeply the bond between the arts and our city, and with his and Adam’s leadership, BCS will strengthen that captivating bond for many years to come. It is a great day for Baltimore as we welcome Stevie back to our theater!”

Walker-Webb is a Tony Award nominated and Obie Award winning director, playwright, cultural worker and educator. His work has been commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union and National Black Theater, and he has been produced on and off Broadway. Select productions include Ain’t No Mo’ on Broadway and at the Public Theater,  Gun & Powder at Paper Mill Playhouse, One In Two at The New Group, black odyssey at Classic Stage, and Fairview at Woolly Mammoth. For television, he has written for the Emmy Award nominated hit comedy, The Ms. Pat Show, on BET.

Walker-Webb is also the founder of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS, an arts and advocacy organization that makes visual the suffering and inhumane treatment of incarcerated mentally ill people. He is a recipient of the Princess Grace Award for Theatre; The Lily Award, awarded by the Dramatists Guild of America; and was a 2050 Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. He is an artist and lecturer at Harvard University and is the Founding Artistic Director of the Jubilee Theatre in Waco, Texas. He has created art and theatre all over the world – in Madagascar, South Africa, Mexico, and across America.

His productions at Baltimore Center Stage include Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, R. Eric Thomas’s The Folks At Home, and, this past season, Life Is A Dream, an adaptation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s play by María Irene Fornés.

Baltimore Center Stage’s 2023/24 season – which kicks off September 14th with Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill – was programmed by former Artistic Director Stephanie Ybarra. Walker-Webb will lead this season while deepening his relationship with Baltimore and the BCS community and gaining a better sense of where the company fits within the city’s landscape, as he prepares to share his vision for the theatre commencing with the 2024/25 season.

“When I think of the future of BCS, I envision a theater where we develop new works that are commercially successful in Baltimore, but also springboard to Broadway,” said Walker-Webb.  “I envision a theater for all ages and cultures, where our programs and productions are filled to bursting. I envision a theater so successful that we become the leading regional theater in the nation. I feel a deep calling to this city and Baltimore Center Stage, and I am deeply proud to now call both home. I cannot wait for what’s next.”

BCS’s 2023/24 season begins this fall with Lanie Robertson’s Tony Award nominated play about the life of Billie Holiday, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, directed by Nikkole Salter (In the Continuum) and starring Baltimore native Tanea Renee. The season continues with the ArtsCentric production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Enchanted Edition), directed by Kevin McAllister (ArtsCentric Artistic Director).

The season continues in 2024 with a world premiere co-production with Mosaic Theater Company of Mexodus, written and performed by Brian Quijada (Where Did We Sit On The Bus) and Nygel D. Robinson (The Amen Corner), directed by David Mendizábal (Notes on Killing…), and Katori Hall’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, The Hot Wing King, directed by Christopher D. Betts (Dreamgirls – The Paramount Theatre) and produced in association  with Hartford Stage. The season will end with a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, directed and adapted by Jenny Koons (Men on Boats at BCS).

See also:

Baltimore Center Stage names Stevie Walker-Webb as new artistic director
by Aliza Worthington
Published September 7 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Baltimore Center Stage names Tony-nominated Stevie Walker-Webb as artistic director
by Wesley Case
Published September 7 in The Baltimore Banner



Musician Linda Smith, progenitor of the bedroom pop genre, sits with her first vinyl release, ”Till Another Time: 1988-1996,” which was released in 2021. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

You may not have heard of musician Linda Smith, but you’ve heard her influence
by Rebekah Kirkman
Published September 9 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Rummaging through a file drawer, Linda Smith stumbled upon a few of her old cassettes. It was 2011, and she had stopped making music a decade earlier, reckoning she’d taken it as far as it could go. The tapes were artifacts of another time.

But the songs — with their slinking melodies, simple chords, pop rhythms — were timeless. People who enjoyed Smith’s tapes in the ‘80s and ‘90s would occasionally reach out to her, wanting to hear her music again. “There wasn’t any way for me to really do that, because I didn’t have physical copies of most of it, and I didn’t really want to invest in that at that point,” Smith said. So she made a website and put the music online as MP3s.

And now, writers and listeners are crediting Smith as a progenitor of the bedroom pop genre as labels release the Baltimorean’s music digitally, on vinyl, and even on cassette (a format that is either having a popular resurgence or never fully went away, depending on who you ask). A formerly shelved album from one of Smith’s early bands dropped Friday, but the artist and musician is looking toward the future, too: After a roughly 20-year hiatus, she’s gotten back into creating new songs.



Photo credit: Greg Gorman.

Two local movie theaters to host free watch parties for filmmaker John Waters getting his star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
by Ed Gunts
Published September 12 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Can’t make it to Los Angeles next Monday to see filmmaker John Waters get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Want to watch the ceremony with other John Waters fans?

The owners of the Senator and Charles theaters in Baltimore announced this week that they’re holding watch parties where fans can follow the hour-long ceremony in real time, on a big screen, free of charge.

“The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has granted The Senator Theatre’s and the Charles Theatre’s requests for permission to live-stream the ceremony in the theaters’ historic auditoriums,” the owners wrote on social media.



Amos Badertscher's "West$Side Bill #1," taken in Baltimore in 2001.

Amos Badertscher’s snapshots of his Baltimore. Plus, aging with pride. [Audio]
by Sheilah Kast and Sam Bermas-Dawes
Published September 6 in WYPR’s On the Record

Excerpt: Amos Badertscher broke almost every rule of documentary photography during his decades-long work to capture the heartbeat of Baltimore street life.

The Baltimore-based photographer, proudly self-taught, took his camera into the underground clubs and gay bars of Baltimore in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80s and beyond, and was witness to the devastation, desperation, resilience and beauty of the people who called the city home. Badertscher died on July 24, 2023.

An exhibit at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery called “Lost Boys: Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore” explores the singular photographer’s work.



Episode 135 – Art Curator and Filmmaker Kirk Shannon Butts (Part 1) [Audio]
by Jason V.
Aired August 30 on Local Color Podcast

Excerpt: A fixture of Baltimore’s arts scene, if you’re at a trendy art opening for one of Charm City’s next big artists, chances are Kirk is the curator. To some he’s a friend and colleague; but to many in Baltimore, he’s the mentor that pushes them to be their best selves, keep honing their craft, and tell their story with authenticity. This is Part 1 of a two part series!

Local Color is hosted and produced by Jason V. and is distributed by Your Public Studios.



Photography by Tyrone Syranno Wilkens

Baltimore Improv Group Has a New Director—and a New Direction
by Janelle Erlichman Diamond
Published September 12 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Michelle Faulkner-Forson moved here because of John Waters.

While a photography student at Southern Illinois University, the new managing director for the Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) was shown the 1998 movie Pecker.

“I was obsessed with it,” she says with a laugh. “I watched that movie so much—I willed myself here.”



“The Death of Poe” explores the author’s last days; experts at odds over cause
by Aliza Worthington
Published September 13 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Nearly 174 years after Edgar Allan Poe died at the ripe old age of 40, his cause of death remains a mystery.

The poet and storyteller’s gothic, spooky style made him the perfect character for an enigmatic end. He was found delirious, wearing someone else’s clothes in a street near what is now Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood. The only words he spoke were in the hospital, repeatedly, “Reynolds! Reynolds!” before his final words: “Lord help my poor soul.”

“The Death of Poe,” a film that explores Poe’s last days and his death, will kick off the International Poe Festival Weekend in October. The screening is sponsored by the National Edgar Allan Poe Theater and Poe Baltimore, and will take place at Harbor East Cinemas on Friday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. The film “mixes the events of Poe’s last days with imagery from his stories to create a dreamlike chronicle of Edgar Allan Poe’s final journey into madness and fear.”



Jessica Sabogal and Shanna Strauss, The Defender, photopolymer gravure and photo lithography with chine-collé, 2023. Photo by Stereo Vision, courtesy of Pyramid Atlantic Art Center.

SANA(A) at Pyramid Atlantic
by Olivia Niuman
Published September 13 in East City Art

Excerpt: SANA(A), an exhibition of prints by artistic and life partners Jessica Sabogal and Shanna Strauss, debuts hand-printed works that display virtuosity of technique and dedication to potent themes of feminism, intersectionality, and collective care. Some works were made by Sabogal, some by Strauss, and some by both. While they each have distinct styles and nuanced themes, both artists center women in their practice, giving voice to Black, Indigenous, and women of color who have so often been ignored, sidelined, or intentionally oppressed. SANA(A) is on view at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD until September 24th.

The clever title of the exhibition captures how Colombian-American Sabogal and Tanzanian-American Strauss’s unique backgrounds come together in their shared artistic practice. Sana in Spanish is a command to heal, and Sanaa in Kiswahili defines the essence of art. These two themes—art and healing—are both expressed as processes that require attention, affection, and labor. Indeed, the highly physical printmaking processes employed by the artists can aptly be described as labors of love.



PBS’s Craft in America Presents: Play (featuring Schroeder Cherry)

PLAY celebrates the power of imagination and the child in all of us. Featuring piñata artists Roberto Benavidez and Lorena Robletto, puppeteer Schroeder Cherry, artist Calder Kamin, and Noah’s Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center and the Cotsen Children’s Library.

PBS broadcast premiere December 29, 2023 (check local listings).



Header Image: A collection of cassettes of Linda Smith’s music. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

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