Baltimore Art News: The Walters Acquires Kehinde Wiley and Herbert Massie, Disappearing Public Art, Jill Orlov

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This week’s news includes:  The Walters acquires Kehinde Wiley and Herbert Massie, mulitple public art works go missing, Jill Orlov wins the MASB Artist Travel Prize, fiber artist Melissa Webb, Little Donna’s named one of 50 best restaurants, looking back on Artscape, International Placemaking Week comes to Baltimore, Afaa Michael Weaver receives 2023 Wallace Stevens Award for Poetry, Opera in Baltimore, the Smithsonian Latino Museum and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Saint Amelie, Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977)  2014. Hand-painted stained glass, mounted on lightbox with aluminum frame



Kehinde Wiley, Saint Amelie, 2014, stained glass mounted on lightbox in aluminum frame. © Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York. Museum purchase with funds provided by William A. Bradford and the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund, 2023. (2) Massie, Herbert, Reflections of Sybby Grant, 2018. Museum purchase, 2023.

Walters Art Museum Announces Major Acquisitions by Kehinde Wiley and Herbert Massie
Press Release :: September 27

The Walters Art Museum announces two major acquisitions: Saint Amelie, a rare stained-glass work by internationally acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley, and Reflections of Sybby Grant, a ceramic work by celebrated Baltimore artist Herbert Massie. Both pieces respond to and comment on historical works of art that are at the core of the Walters collection and create unique conversations that bridge time and place, expanding the narratives the museum can present in its galleries.

“Herbert Massie is a long-treasured gem of our local arts community and Kehinde Wiley is a global art star. It is only fitting that Reflections of Sybby Grant and Saint Amelie have now found a home at the Walters in Baltimore,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “While the Walters is known for its remarkable collection of pre-modern works from around the world, we have in recent years strategically acquired selected works from the modern and contemporary periods in order to explore new narratives and reveal insights into the past and present. The impact of these two works will be felt by visitors to the museum for generations to come.”

Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Amelie (2014) is one of only 12 in a series of stained-glass portraits made by the artist—and is now the only stained-glass work by Wiley in a public museum in the United States. In this case, the work has particular relevance to the Walters since the reference point for Saint Amelie is a work by 19th-century French Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, by whom the Walters owns several works. The Walters also has a renowned collection of Medieval glasswork, including a number of monumental stained-glass windows, among them a Stained Glass Window with Ancestor of Christ dating to c. 1200 CE and a 15th-century German Stained Glass Quatrefoil Roundel with Hunting Scenes. Using traditional materials, techniques, and motifs, Wiley’s Saint Amelie portrays Kern Alexander, a model often depicted in Wiley’s work; evoking the medieval convention of naming the saint portrayed in the window, Wiley names Alexander on the pedestal on which he stands. Saint Amelie by Kehinde Wiley will be on view to the public from October 4, 2023 in the Medieval galleries on Level 3 of the Centre Street Building.

Herbert Massie’s Reflections of Sybby Grant (2018), a mosaic piece made in ceramic, was originally commissioned by the Walters to be installed in the newly renovated 1 West Mount Vernon Place, also known as Hackerman House. A single work comprising five mosaic panels, this work was created through a collaborative community arts project conceived of and led by Massie. The piece incorporates over 200 ceramic plates created by over 400 community members and honors the life and legacy of Sybby Grant, the enslaved cook of Dr. John Hanson Thomas and his family, who built and were the first residents of the house. Reflections of Sybby Grant has been on view at the Walters since it was commissioned for the reopening of Hackerman House in 2018. It is currently located on Level 1 of 1 West Mount Vernon Place.


Kehinde Wiley (born 1977, Los Angeles) is an American artist best known for his portraits that render people of color in the traditional settings of Old Master works. Wiley brings art history face-to-face with contemporary culture, using the visual rhetoric of the heroic, the powerful, the majestic, and the sublime to celebrate Black and brown people the artist has met throughout the world. Working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and video, Wiley’s portraits challenge and reorient art-historical narratives, awakening complex issues that many would prefer to remain muted.

Herbert Massie (born 1954, Baltimore) is a teaching artist and life-long resident of Baltimore. In 2016, the Maryland State Arts Council named him the recipient of the Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award. With well over 25 years of experience, in addition to teaching at Clayworks and Jubilee Arts, Massie has hosted ceramic workshops and classes in Baltimore City schools, with teens, adults, and community elders, as well as people in addiction recovery and those formerly incarcerated.



“Red Buoyant” by Mary Ann Mears has been in front of 100 E. Pratt St. at the Inner Harbor since 1978. (Caitlin Moore)

More than a dozen public art pieces have vanished. Not a single person can say why.
by Abby Zimmardi
Published September 26 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: It towered at 15 feet. Its edges, sharp yet smooth, danced toward the sky, directing viewers’ eyes upward. Clad in steel, it gleamed in the sunlight. For more than 30 years, “The Guide,” a public art installation by sculptor Ayokunle Odeleye, stood strong and greeted students in front of Baltimore City College before they walked through the high school’s doors.

Then, in 2014, a city-commissioned art conservator made her rounds to survey public art across Baltimore for upkeep, which included Odeleye’s piece.

It was missing.

“I almost had a heart attack,” Odeleye said. “I said, ‘What the hell?’ And my wife and I were like, ‘That’s impossible. How could a piece just disappear?’”



BOPA Announces Winner of the 2023 MASB Artist Travel Prize
Press Release :: September 26

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) and the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City (MASB) announce the recipients of the 2023 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Artist Travel Prize. For the eighth edition of the Prize, the amount was increased to $7,000, which is intended to function as funding for travel essential to an artist’s studio practice that they may not otherwise be able to afford. The prize winner is determined by the MASB board of directors, who received 53 proposals this year, up from 35 proposals last year.

We are proud to announce metal miniaturist Jill Orlov as the recipient of the 2023 MASB Artist Travel Prize. Originally trained as an architect, Orlov’s design process always began with tiny concept models. Now, she uses those same skills — in addition to extensive research of classic and iconic spaces — to build miniature vignettes in metal and found objects. Orlov also uses fragments of architectural salvage, bicycle parts, copper sheet, mesh and rivets, mirror, aluminum, my handmade miniature paper books, and miniature glasses and bottles. Her work merges classic old-world designs with industrialism.

The first of a series, Orlov has begun re-curating a Walters Art Museum gallery in miniature, replacing the masterpieces with artworks by incarcerated artists. To continue her series, she will research additional gallery or library spaces in other cities of the City Beautiful Movement. Her proposed travel includes the Field Museum in Chicago; the Public Library in Boston; the Grand Parkway in Philadelphia; Union Station in Washington DC; and the Parks & Boulevards in Kansas City, Missouri.

Founded in 1899 as part of the City Beautiful movement, the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore is one of only two remaining societies operating under its original charter “to provide sculptural and pictorial decoration and ornaments for the public buildings, streets and open spaces in the City of Baltimore, and to help generally beautify the City.” In 2016, the MASB embarked on a path to provide new opportunities to artists and art places within the City, including the Artist Travel Prize and an annual Public Art Prize.

Previous winners of the MASB Artist Travel Prize include Elena Volkova and Jackie Milad in 2022, Rosa Leff in 2021, Schroeder Cherry and Hoesy Corona in 2020, LaToya M. Hobbs and J.M. Giordano in 2019, Erin Fostel and Erick Antonio Benitez in 2018, Nate Larson in 2017, and Stephen Towns in 2016. The winners have traveled to Morocco, Czech Republic, Ukraine, England, Japan, Peru, throughout the United States, and to Ghana and Senegal. Learn more about the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Artist Travel Prize at and by following BOPA on social media (@promoandarts).



“Lichenvision: Leaf Litter Living Room, Lakeside Home, and Zoom Date” (2021), 14 x 12 x 10 feet. Photo by Brian Kovach. All images © Melissa Webb, shared with permission

Enchanting Ecosystems Crocheted by Melissa Webb Envelop Interior Spaces with Verdant Fibers
by Grace Ebert
Published September 26 in Colossal

Excerpt: Lush, beguiling environments spill across floors and dangle from ceilings in the works of Melissa Webb. The artist dyes and crochets vintage fibers into mossy, botanical forms that when layered and stitched together, become enchanting installations evocative of forests and gardens. Shades of green tend to dominate the textile ecosystems as a nod to “growth, verdancy, and inevitable change,” Webb says. “Through my work, I imagine a reclamation of the earth by wildness—a less human-centered future where we learn to live and thrive in symbiosis with the natural world.”

Often paired or embedded with video, the site-specific installations position untamed growth in interior spaces like living rooms and industrial warehouses. For example, in “Local Authorities in the Spirit World Shape-Shift Through Time (We Call it Evolution),” Webb overlaid the soft benches and wooden architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Smith House with crocheted lichen, vines, and flowers. The altar-like “Verdantine Tabernacle” is similar, as it cascades outward with antique dolls, ceramic animals, and other found objects in the artist’s Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, apartment.



The front of Little Donna's restaurant in Upper Fells Point. The New York Times named the Baltimore restaurant among its 2023 list of the 50 best restaurants in the United States. Photo courtesy of Little Donna's.

Cooking with kindness: New York Times names Baltimore’s Little Donna’s one of the 50 best U.S. restaurants
by Marcus Dieterle
Published September 22 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Chef Robbie Tutlewski was just waking up from a nap on the couch with his newborn son Jesse around 4 a.m. Tuesday when the emails started pouring in.

Little Donna’s, the Upper Fells Point restaurant Tutlewski owns with his wife Kaleigh, had been named on the New York Times’ 2023 list of the nation’s 50 best restaurants.

“We were kind of shocked, kind of thinking they made a mistake or something,” Tutlewski said.



Sondheim Prize Semi finalist display" Virtual Realty"

Exhilarating Artscape
by Klaus Philipsen
Published September 25 in Community Architect Daily

Excerpt: After a decade or so in which cities rode high on a wave of urbanism as desired lifestyle Covid brought an abrupt end to celebrating crowds, density, and mingling. Instead, people hunkered down in isolation and were told to keep their distance everywhere.

Even though Covid has receded from the minds of most people by now, reverberations of the pandemic remain. The impacts are especially noticeable in cities that often are only a shadow of their former self with empty sidewalks, boarded shops, shuttered restaurants and half empty subway and light rail trains. On top of that the inexplicable scarcity of labor that apparently leaves every transit agency, every school district and every restaurant ripping their hair out in search of qualified staff.

Baltimore’s Department of Promotion and Arts (BOPA) was so deflated from almost 3 years of  cancelling events that they didn’t even feel ready to pull Artscape off in 2023, three years after the cities largest public event had happened in 2019. Luckily, the Mayor wouldn’t have it that way.  Somewhat incongruously, he fired the BOPA Director and announced at the same that Artscape would be had this year, no matter what. A litany of complaints about moving the festival from July to September, about the shifted spaces, and conflicts with the resident art and culture institutions, as well as competing other events and festivals such as Hampdenfest ensued in a steady stream. Even three weeks before Artscape was supposed to open,  key headliner Kelly Rowland cancelled unexpectedly. Finally, in the last few days before the long awaited kick-off, it became clear that  tropical storm Ophelia was barreling towards Baltimore for the anticipated Artscape weekend with high winds and extensive rain in the forecast. The storm succeeded to knock Saturday out entirely and made the festival limp on Sunday. But the Friday opening was an unmitigated success!

See also:

Photos: Artscape After Dark
by J.M. Giordano
Published September 26 in Baltimore Magazine

For Artscape, Baltimore’s historic North Avenue Market reopens as a ‘cultural hub’ – offering a potential preview of what’s to come
by Ed Gunts
Published September 22 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Photo credit: Neighborhood Design Center

Baltimore to Host Project for Public Spaces 2024 International Placemaking Week
Press Release :: September 26

Project for Public Spaces has selected Baltimore as the host city for the International Placemaking Week conference, scheduled for June 5-8, 2024. Now in its fourth year, the event gathers 600 leaders and influencers from across the globe to champion the transformative power of well-designed, community-driven spaces.

International Placemaking Week is not your run-of-the-mill conference with keynote speakers in hotel ballrooms. It’s an immersive experience designed to engage attendees with hands-on sessions, off-site workshops, enlightening tours, and networking events to explore, connect, and drive positive change in public spaces.

“Public spaces serve as arenas for human connection, combating social isolation and providing opportunities crucial for personal and communal growth and success,” said Nate Storring, Co-Executive Director of Project for Public Spaces. “Through meaningful engagement and inclusive planning, Placemaking Week aims to catalyze a global movement to reclaim public spaces and leverage them for broader social and economic benefits.”

The Neighborhood Design Center, in collaboration with the City of Baltimore, will serve as the event co-hosts, helping to support regional marketing, fundraising, and planning mobile workshops spanning diverse sectors and disciplines. These workshops will empower attendees to develop and share actionable strategies for advancing placemaking, both locally and globally.

“Our goal is to give attendees an all-encompassing perspective on Baltimore’s journey,” said Jennifer Goold, executive director of The Neighborhood Design Center. “This city, rich with history, has become a canvas for experimentation and innovation, responding to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the imperative of racial justice ignited by the events surrounding George Floyd.”

Mobile workshops will address issues around reclaiming public spaces from a range of perspectives through spatial, cultural, and equity-based lenses. Participants will have the unique opportunity to witness firsthand Baltimore’s transformation, learning from the bold and radical initiatives shaping the city’s post-industrial future.

“By having the opportunity to bring Placemaking Week to Baltimore City, we’re able to showcase the incredible work being done by communities across our city and open our doors to placemakers from around the world,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “This gathering has always been a powerful catalyst for positive change, and as Baltimore plans the future of so many of our shared public spaces, there’s no better time to welcome so many incredible professionals in this space. We’re thrilled to be playing such a central role in this year’s forum and look forward to welcoming everyone to Charm City.”

Past International Placemaking Weeks in Vancouver (2016), Amsterdam (2017), and Chattanooga (2019) have all contributed to the global placemaking movement. Chattanooga’s event had a substantial economic impact, injecting $628,319 into the local economy, supporting 158 jobs, and investing in local artists and organizations.

International Placemaking Week 2024 is organized by Project for Public Spaces and cohosted by the Neighborhood Design Center, with seed support from the T. Rowe Price Foundation. For further information and updates on International Placemaking Week 2024, please visit



Afaa Michael Weaver

Academy of American Poets Announces Recipients of 2023 American Poets Prizes (featuring Baltimore Poet Afaa Michael Weaver)
Announcement :: September 19

The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 American Poets Prizes, many of which are among the most prestigious poetry prizes in the United States.

“The Academy commits more than $1.3 million each year to support poets in a myriad of ways—from funding vibrant community projects by laureates across the nation to launching first books by aspiring poets, and honoring distinguished lifetime achievements by masters of the art form,” said Tess O’Dwyer, Board Chair. “On behalf of the Directors, it’s a great joy to congratulate Afaa Michael Weaver on receiving the 2023 Wallace Stevens Award and Major Jackson on receiving the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Felicitations to the other 2023 winners.”

“Honoring poetic achievements remains central to the Academy’s mission,” said Ricardo Maldonado, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets. “We celebrate these emerging and established poets and translators as they channel the power of poetry to help us redefine ourselves across centuries and geographies while forging lasting communities.”


AFAA MICHAEL WEAVER has received the WALLACE STEVENS AWARD, which is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. The award carries a stipend of $100,000. Recipients are nominated and elected by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors.

Weaver, a poet, playwright, and translator, is the author of numerous poetry collections, including A Fire in the Hills (Red Hen Press, 2023). He is the recipient of the May Sarton Award, a Pew Fellowship, a Fulbright scholarship, and the Gold Friendship Medal from the Beijing Writers’ Association; was the first African American poet to serve as Poet-in-Residence at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts; and held an endowed chair at Simmons College for twenty years. He has been on the faculty at Cave Canem since its inception, becoming its first elder in 1998.

Academy Chancellor Kwame Dawes observes of Weaver: “For over three decades, Afaa Michael Weaver has quietly and without fanfare put together a tremendous body of work that has allowed us to see the America of the last half century in all its upheavals and transformations as it contends with the meaning of freedom and justice. He combines his rootedness in the African American poetic with a fierce commitment to the idea of belonging despite America’s long history of willfully deferring the dream of liberty, to, in effect, compel the nation to expand its understanding of itself and to embrace a more capacious sense of its constitution. And in so doing, Weaver has achieved something that only a few poets, most notably Joseph Millard and Philip Levine, have in the last few decades, which is to engage the idea of a working-class sensibility, not as a limitation, but as an opportunity to create art of depth, sophistication, and spiritual power. Afaa Michael Weaver is a major and necessary American voice.” […]



Maryland Opera singers perform outside at First Fridays at Boordy Vineyards. —Photography by Micah E. Wood

Opera Still Thrives in Baltimore—You Just Don’t Know It
by Laura Farmer
Published September 26 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: On a chilly evening last spring, the auditorium of Stephens Hall Theatre at Towson University was packed with opera patrons who had scored a ticket for Opera Baltimore’snearly sold-out performance of Verdi’s beautifully tragic La Traviata, composed in 1853. Translated as “the fallen woman,” it tells the story of Violetta—in today’s parlance she might be described as part party girl, part influencer, and part high-class sex worker—who catches the eye of the wealthy Alfredo. This is opera, so theirs is not an easy romance, as class and other entanglements thwart their happily-ever-after, including—spoiler alert—her battle with tuberculosis, which had no cure in Verdi’s day.

The graceful soprano Lindsay Ohse, whose credits include critically acclaimed performances with major companies like the Metropolitan Opera (Met), was a charming lead, and the performance garnered rave reviews. Yet many Baltimoreans had no idea the performance had even taken place. Their exposure to opera may be limited to Bugs Bunny singing “Kill the Wabbit!” to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries,” from Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle opera trilogy.

“It seems that many people imagine opera to be people in horns shouting at one another,” explains James Harp, who currently serves as artistic director for Maryland Opera (the second area opera company in addition to Opera Baltimore) and has been a leader in the city’s opera scene for nearly four decades.



The inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino was created in a gallery of the National Museum of American History. Called “¡Presente!,” it explores how Latinos shaped the United States.Credit...Tony Powell/The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino

Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Faces Political Winds Before a Brick Is Laid
by Jennifer Schuessler
Published September 23 in The New York Times

Excerpt: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino, slated to rise on the National Mall in Washington, is meant to give a prominent presence to the story of America’s largest minority group. But the institution has already been caught up in the broader partisan battles over American history, before a single brick has been laid.

In July, a group of Latino Republican congressmen led a vote to eliminate the museum’s funding in next year’s budget, calling its view of Latinos insulting and inaccurate. Some conservative commentators have harshly criticized the museum’s preview exhibition, blasting it as a Marxist portrayal that paints Latinos as victims of an oppressive United States.

Then earlier this month, questions about the museum’s direction surged anew when Time magazine reported that the museum’s director had quietly halted work on a planned second exhibition, about the Latino civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is being replaced with a show about salsa music, a swap some involved with the museum say smacks of politics.



Header Image: Saint Amelie, Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977)  2014. Hand-painted stained glass, mounted on lightbox with aluminum frame

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