BmoreArt News: JHU Invests in Baltimore Artists, Mobtown Ballroom’s New Home, Black Supper Clubs

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This week’s news includes: JHU’s Baltimore art initiative, Mobtown Ballroom moves to Station North, Baltimore’s Black Supper Clubs, Vital Matters Climate Change Theater at Creative Alliance, Chesapeake Theater Company striving for diversity and inclusion, Jinji Chocolate, NEA’s ArtsHERE to provide grant support, artists withdraw work from Smithsonian and call for a ceasefire, a fond farewell to The Local Oyster, sacred places in Baltimore and beyond, DC’s new feminist monument, and more reporting from The AFRO, Baltimore Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Chef Saon Brice, who hosts the Rare Bird Supper Club at Black Swan, creates a dish with duck and rooted vegetables on November 8, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)



Johns Hopkins student and selection committee member Maya Kelsey Johnson, standing, and artist LaToya Hobbs look at a painting titled How Johnetta Taught Us to Pray II

Baltimore artists to inspire conversations on campus
by Emily Gaines Buchler
Published November 7 in JHU HUB

Excerpt: Now, the university has the opportunity to purchase and display new contemporary works of art on its campuses, positioned in places that both the public and the Johns Hopkins community can enjoy, gather around, think about, and discuss. In keeping with the aims of the university’s Diverse Names and Narratives Project, the goal is to select artists and artwork representing a broad range of perspectives, with many pieces created by local artists of burgeoning acclaim and reflecting some aspect of Baltimore.

A committee made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustee representatives will work in partnership with Cara Ober, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the independent art magazine BmoreArt, to identify and select artwork to buy and install on campus in 2024.



—Photography by Jerry Almonte via Baltimore Magazine

Baltimore’s Beloved Mobtown Ballroom Makes Its Home in Station North Arts District
Press Release :: November 10

The Mobtown Ballroom and Cafe, formerly known as the Mobtown Ballroom, is opening as a brand-new space inside Station North’s North Avenue Market (30 West North Avenue) next month.

With a café open six days a week (7 am-3 pm) serving Black Acres Coffee Roastery drinks, breakfast and lunch plus baked goods, and featuring a hand laid sprung wood floor, Mobtown Ballroom and Cafe hopes to become a third place in the neighborhood. Mobtown will continue with its wildly successful partner dancing and regular appearances from the Baltimore Square Dance and the Baltimore Honky-Tonk, with brand new evening programming including concerts and shows of varying genres, and eclectic events like book talks and burlesque.

“Since opening our original location in Pigtown in 2011, we became a third place for a number of different communities,” said Sarah Sullivan, co-founder/owner of Mobtown Ballroom and Cafe. “We are excited to come to the Arts District and be around other artists and businesses doing cool and interesting things. We will be right at the cross section of a number of neighborhoods, and with everything already happening in Station North, we hope to bring together the different populations in Central Baltimore. Historically, our regulars have hung out in our space upwards of 4 times a week, shaking off the work day, trying on different versions of themselves, and meeting people they wouldn’t meet otherwise. We can’t wait to try that in the center of the City with a wider variety of programming.”

As North Avenue Market undergoes its own transformation, Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP) is working with developer/builder John Renner and a diverse team to help reimagine this full city block into a thriving destination for arts programming and local businesses. CBP provides technical and economic assistance to help entrepreneurs startup or expand in commercial hubs.

“We have been very involved in the cultural and business recruitment strategy of the North Avenue Market and are supporting tenants with flexible capital activation of this iconic space now as well as re-use of the building over the long term,” said Ellen Janes, CBP’s Executive Director. “It’s tremendously exciting to have Mobtown Ballroom join the neighborhood because they will so beautifully complement the vibrant arts and entertainment that is already available in Station North.”

Whether it’s a full meal with all the luxurious fixings or an affordable bite and a cup of drip coffee while waiting for the bus, Mobtown Ballroom and Cafe will cater to all.
The kitchen will be run by Jake Cornman, who has been the brains behind the food at all of Mobtown Ballroom’s pop ups. Food will be served at all evening events. Cornman describes the overall program in these terms: Simple classics done right and from scratch. Fresh sandwiches, salads, and soups by day paired with a full-service coffee bar. Bar food such as Ribwiches, Frito Pie, and fried pickles at night paired with original and classic cocktails.

David Cavalier, a long-time member of the Mobtown staff, will run the bar and cocktail program.

“We want the cafe portion of the business to be a hub in Station North. We’ve got the room for folks to work or study. The combination of a daytime coffee program and an evening events space is perfect for Station North, we think, and lends itself to the kind of community-based second-home feeling that we believe in and work to cultivate,” added Michael Seguin, Mobtown Ballroom & Cafe Co-founder.

See also:

Mobtown Ballroom finds a new home in Baltimore’s Station North Arts District
by Ed Gunts
Published November 9 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Mobtown Ballroom is Starting its Next Chapter in Station North
by Grace Hebron
Published November 9 in Baltimore Magazine



Chef Catina Smith, co-owner of Our Time Kitchen, started 3 Petals dinners. (Daniel McGarrity)

Baltimore’s Black supper clubs lead the charge in welcoming, innovative dining
by John-John Williams IV
Published November 10 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: The autumnal tablescape in the private dining room at BLK Swan was peppered with miniature cream-colored pumpkins, baby’s breath and bouquets of pink and beige flowers. Milk-chocolate brown napkins popped against the white linen.

Conversations about current events and work life quickly revealed that most of the 16 guests graduated from historically Black colleges and universities. The dinner-mates soon broke into a chorus of ’90s R&B songs, followed by a robust discussion about the night’s menu, which consisted of a salmon meuniere tart and sous vide duck with sweet potato mousseline, rosemary potato Anna and apricot velouté.

Attendee Kim Wiggins said the night felt like home.

“I liked how everyone talked about what they are doing,” said the Patterson Park resident, a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, an HBCU. “My favorite was the duck. I love duck and sweet potato together.”



Photo courtesy of Vital Matters Facebook page.

All Good Things Must Begin! A Climate Change Theatre Action Event brought to you by Vital Matters
Press Release :: November 7

Every two years since 2015 (when the Paris agreement was signed), 50 playwrights from around the world have been commissioned to write short plays that inform and inspire action around climate change, at the time of the United Nations COP meeting ( This year’s CCTA theme, “All Good Things Must Begin,” is inspired by speculative fiction writer Octavia Butler’s journals, which show the incredible grit, vision and determination behind her success. This event, which takes place as international leaders gather for the U.N. Climate conference in Abu Dhabi, keeps this declaration in mind, as well as Butler’s invitation for us to “shape change,” as expressed in her Parable books. Begin, yes! But how? What makes change possible in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties? This year’s CCTA playwrights grapple with these questions, and more.

Vital Matters, an “interdisciplinary laboratory for change,” launched in 2021 with a Climate Change Theatre Action event called Winter Seeds, which featured six plays, two original songs, puppets, and more, at The Voxel. Since then, Vital Matters has brought two free Whose Earth (Day)? events to Baltimore at Ivy Bookshop, featuring such Baltimore luminaries as Lawrence Brown, Sanahara Ama Chandra, Jordan Bethea of Bliss Meadows Farm, and in June 2023, collaborated with Blue Water Baltimore, artists and activists including Valeska Populoh and Rejjia Camphor (Sister Stream Catcher) in the international Global Water Dances, a project similar to CCTA in its global vision and local expressions, and its connecting of art with activism.

All Good Things Must Begin! brings together local theatre artists, activists, and others to read 7 plays from 5 countries that will help us connect the dots between what is happening around climate and environmental justice globally and locally. A diverse team of actors and directors from Baltimore, and guests from NY and DC bring the following plays to life: Types by Jessica Huang (U.S.), Chili Crab Less Spicy by Dia Hakim K. (Singapore), Photographic Realism by Javad Alipoor (Iran/U.K.), Bonbibi and Dakshan Ray Meet the Bureaucracy by Manjima Chatterjee (India), The Committee to Expropriate, A Revenge Fantasy by Darrah Teitel (Canada), A Little Green by Charly Evon Simpson (U.S.) and The Polar Bears by Nicolas Billon (Canada). Baltimore-based visual artist Maura Dwyer (who also creates graphics for Vital Matters’ marketing) and musician Allie Fitzgibbon perform Dwyer’s cranky Wilder than Walls, and Sanahara Ama Chandra provides original music to help us transition from one world to the next, and to bring our hearts and minds together. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for gifts by local vendors and information in the gallery, including Gourds by Fafa, books for all ages on climate and related subjects from Ivy Bookshop, information from, The Years Project, the Baltimore Compost Collective, and more! The bar will be open. The show begins at 7 p.m. and will be ASL interpreted. Creative Alliance is a fully accessible facility. Conversation Partners Susan McCully from the UMBC Theatre Department, Taylor Smith-Hams from, and Baltimore-based environmental justice advocate Naadiya Hutchinson, help us to understand challenges of the climate crisis in Baltimore and beyond, as well as some of the good things that have already begun to address them. Specific campaigns and actions will be shared.

See also:

Baltimore’s Creative Alliance and Vital Matters part of worldwide theater festival to inspire climate action
by Aliza Worthington
Published November 9 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Pictured here, Gerrad Alex Taylor, in the theatre's first all Black cast of Macbeth. (Courtesy photo)

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company pushes for diversity and inclusion within the organization
by Shaela Foster
Published November 13 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Following the pandemic, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) has attempted to diversify their organization.

CSC is a classical theater company based in Baltimore. They specialize in Shakespearian plays as they look to expose Baltimore to the wonders of classical theater.

The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic prompted members of CSC to rethink ways in which they engage with their community and how to better serve it.



Jinji Fraser smiles in front of objects for sale at Jinji Chocolate. Photo credit: Philip Muriel.

Photostory: Jinji Chocolate
by Philip Muriel
Published November 14 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: Jinji Fraser’s chocolate shop is full of stories told through the chocolates on display, a cup of drinking chocolate, and the objects that adorn the walls.

She started the business in 2012 with her father, Guy Fraser. Since then, with other collaborators, she has built a company focused on cacao, storytelling, and community.

On November 3, Baltimore Beat visited Jinji Chocolate on Greenmount. The new location in Waverly is bright and flooded with light. Fraser hopes the space will become a beacon for folks in the neighborhood that they can return year after year, holiday after holiday, for generations to come.



New Initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts Supports Increased Opportunities for Arts Participation
Press Release :: November 15

A new initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today aims to expand access to arts participation in our country. A partnership with South Arts and in collaboration with the other five U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, ArtsHERE will provide non-matching grant support for organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to equity within their practices and programming. Grants will fund specific projects that will strengthen grantees’ capacity to sustain meaningful community engagement and increase arts participation for underserved groups/communities. ArtsHERE is also a knowledge-sharing endeavor, with peer-learning and technical assistance opportunities for grantees. Working with grantees throughout the projects, the NEA also plans to report on lessons learned from this pilot initiative, which may inform the future of ArtsHERE and other similar funding programs and practices. The deadline to submit a statement of interest is Friday, January 19, 2024. Visit for full guidelines and to apply.

Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to ensuring everyone in this nation has opportunities to live an artful life. ArtsHERE will make strides toward this goal with grants that will strengthen organizations’ efforts to advance inclusion and access to the arts. The program will make impacts in communities nationwide and will help us learn about how to best support work that is inclusive and accessible for all people in our nation.”

The NEA awards thousands of grants each year throughout the nation to provide diverse opportunities for arts participation. However, historically underserved groups/communities (those whose opportunities to experience the arts have been limited by factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, economics, and/or disability) frequently report participating in various arts activities at lower rates than other groups. To address these disparities and better understand these dynamics, the NEA, in partnership with South Arts and in collaboration with the other five U.S. Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs), is launching the ArtsHERE pilot grant program.

Managed by South Arts, ArtsHERE will award approximately 95 nonprofit organizations with non-matching grants of $65,000 to $130,000. Applicants should propose a specific project that will strengthen and sustain the organization’s capacity for robust community engagement, as well as support strategies to increase arts participation for underserved groups/communities. Grants are also intended to help organizations better serve their communities and to approach their operations and programming in ways that will expand their reach.

President and CEO of South Arts, Susie Surkamer, said, “South Arts is excited to partner with the National Endowment for the Arts and work in collaboration with our five fellow regional arts organizations. We recognize that arts and culture are powerful tools for bringing together communities and people. Through ArtsHERE, organizations that are part of the arts and cultural ecosystem will be funded for projects that increase arts participation for underserved groups/communities. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work, then celebrating the important contributions of the arts to our nation’s rich culture.”

Applications are welcome from organizations that are diverse in terms of geography, scale of operations, and focus of arts programming; as well as organizations that work at the intersection of the arts and other domains, such as community development, health/well-being, climate/environment, or economic development.

ArtsHERE grantees will also participate in peer-learning and technical assistance opportunities designed to share knowledge and build networks. As a pilot program, ArtsHERE will be documented and evaluated by the National Endowment for the Arts to better understand the project activities supported through this program and how grantees approached the work and may inform the future of ArtsHERE and similar funding programs in the future.

ArtsHERE is also supported by the Wallace Foundation through matching funds to the Regional Arts Organizations in support of this program.

Applicant Resources

A webinar for potential applicants will take place on Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Register in advance. This webinar will be archived.

In addition, program staff are available at each Regional Arts Organization to answer questions and will be offering office hours. Visit for more details.

How to Apply

Full program guidelines and eligibility are available at All applicants must submit a statement of interest, due Friday, January 19, 2024. Following review to determine if an application is eligible, complete, and aligns with the goals and objectives of the ArtsHERE program, a select number of applicants will be invited to submit a full application, due Friday, April 19, 2024.



Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson, "Creation with her Children" (2017) carved wood, fabric, dentalium shells, cast plastic and resin, metal leaf, fish skin leather, carving knife, fringe, plastic tarp, cast hydrocal, rabbit fur, jaw set, paint, 62 inches x 84 inches (all images courtesy the artists)

Calling for Gaza Ceasefire, Artists Withdraw Work From National Gallery of Art
by Maya Pontone
Published November 6 in Hyperallergic

Excerpt: The federally funded National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, is in the process of de-installing a sculpture by two artists who called for its removal in protest of the United States government’s support of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. In a joint statement posted to Instagram on Friday, November 3, Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson asked “with deep regret” that the museum withdraw their joint sculpture “Creation with her children” (2017) from the exhibition The Land Carries Our Ancestors, which opened September 22 and runs through January 15, 2024.

In their request, Galanin and Johnson cited the federal government’s support of Israel’s ongoing military assault on Gaza. As of today, November 6, Israeli forces have killed more than 10,000 people in the Gaza Strip since Israel began its bombardment of the enclave four weeks ago, according to the region’s Ministry of Health. In the West Bank, Israeli forces and settlers have reportedly killed more than 155 Palestinians. Israel’s attacks began on October 7 after Hamas militants reportedly killed more than 1,300 Israelis and kidnapped over 200 others.



—Photography by Christopher Myers

A Love Letter to The Local Oyster
by Lydia Woolever
Published November 9 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: I can say with certainty: I came to Baltimore because of The Local Oyster.

The first time I met Nick Schauman was a warm July night in 2013. He was standing on the corner of West 23rd Street and Hampden Avenue in Remington. Inside a small white rowhome, the recently opened W.C. Harlan was buzzing with the clink of craft cocktails and conversation. And outside on the sidewalk, beneath a tailgate tent, before a plastic table and Maryland flag, there he stood, bouncing between mounds of ice and oysters, an equally bustling one-man show.

I can’t recall if he was wearing his trademark Orioles baseball cap or some sort of Hawaiian button-up—knowing Nick, it was probably both. But I do remember that slight Bawlmer accent and undeniably goofy charm as he unhinged seafood shells, tossed up last touches of lemon, and Frisbeed out paper plates to customers like some diner line cook, drawing in even the most seafood-wary of passersby.



One of Nature Sacred's yellow journals is propped up on a bench. When not in use, the journal is stored in a compartment on the underside of the bench. Photo by Marcus Dieterle.

Nature Sacred publishes ‘BenchTalk,’ a book of journal entries written at Sacred Places in Baltimore and across the country
by Marcus Dieterle
Published November 14 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: When life weighs heavy, nature waits with open arms to help you heal.

That’s the philosophy of Nature Sacred, a nonprofit that works with hospitals, prisons, museums, and other organizations to create “Sacred Places” – spaces where community members can visit to appreciate nature and destress.

In 1996, founders Tom and Kitty Stoner created the first Sacred Place in Annapolis at Inspiration Point, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Nearly 30 years later, Nature Sacred has helped build a network of more than 150 Sacred Places across the country.



The unveiling ceremony for Tiffany Shlain, “DENDROFEMONOLOGY: A Feminist History Tree Ring” (2023) (all images courtesy the National Women’s History Museum)

DC’s New Feminist Monument Barks Up the Wrong Tree
by Sarah Rose Sharp
Published November 5 in Hyperallergic

Excerpt: A new temporary “feminist” sculpture installed in the National Mall in Washington, DC, appears to have accomplished a triple feat, somehow managing not to do justice to art, trees, or women’s history.

Sponsored by the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) in partnership with the Women Connect 4 Good Foundation, “DENDROFEMONOLOGY: A Feminist History Tree Ring” by artist Tiffany Shlain stands facing the Lincoln Memorial. The four-day installation is a 65-inch cross-section of a fallen Deodar cedar (meaning no trees were harmed, thankfully) demarcated in the olde-tyme style of national park monuments that chart out the progression of human history against the time logged in the rings of the tree.

The work “takes a long 50,000-year view of feminist history and distills it into the lines on a tree ring,” Shlain explained in a press event for the sculpture’s unveiling, which included speeches by actors and activists Padma Lakshmi and TV Wonder Woman’s Lynda Carter.



header image: Chef Saon Brice's duck and rooted vegetables on November 8, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

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