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Two Baltimore-based Artists Receive Creative Capital Grants

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BmoreArt’s Picks: January 23-20

Out of just fifty Creative Capital grants awarded nationwide this cycle, for the first time ever two are going to Baltimore-based artists. The filmmaker Marnie Ellen Hertzler and mixed-media artist Jackie Milad have each received a whopping, unrestricted $50,000 for their respective projects through the 2024 “Wild Futures: Art, Culture, Impact” granting initiative. They were selected by a process of peer review out of 5,600 applicants. It’s a big deal. 

Funding from Creative Capital has come to represent—beyond the obvious financial benefit—a major watershed moment of recognition in an artist’s career. The 501c3 nonprofit was incorporated in 1999 in the wake of the 1980s/90s Culture Wars, with the intention of filling the void left when Right Wing politicians gutted the National Endowment for the Arts and sought to censor state-funded art venues and reduce individual grants to artists. 

In the decades since, Creative Capital has awarded $55 million in grants and other support (such as professional development and legendary networking events) to artists with experimental, community-minded, controversial, or underserved-audience-reaching projects nationwide. Importantly, many of these projects represent endeavors that might not be viable in either the commercial nor government-funded arts ecosystems. And crucially, Creative Capital has always placed a strong value on diversity—this year’s awardees comprise 80% artists of color, of which 20% are Native or Indigenous artists, 53% women, 11% nonbinary, and 5% artists with disabilities.

In a press release, Dr. Aliza Shvarts, CC’s Director of Artist Initiatives, explains how that demographic diversity enriches the content and breadth of this year’s program: “The selected 50 projects poignantly navigate personal and political questions that shape our human experience and collective imaginations of the future, from Hawaiian and African diaspora, to aging in relation to geological time, to sci-fi and Afrofuturistic AI humanoids, to blood quantum, burden belts, and new monuments to Native survival and creativity.” 

Marnie Ellen Hertzler
Jackie Milad, photo by Jill Fannon

It sounds like our hometown artists will be in good company! Jackie Milad’s mixed-media works richly layer imagery inspired by her Central American and North African roots, art historical references, and semiotics—colorfully recalling tapestries, languages, and a globalized art cannon, as well as a je ne sais quoi that allows her individual voice to shine and harmonize with a chorus of references. 

Appropriately, BmoreArt has previously highlighted Milad as a career development role model for emerging artistsoutlining the ambitious and prolific Baltimorean’s penchant for securing grants, commissions, and high-profile exhibitions from museums to art fairs. Her experience cutting her teeth in the local grant writing gauntlet helped train her for the Creative Capital process (the Super Bowl of grants), Milad explained over email, “The Rubys application process prepared me for the Creative Capital Grant—and I am so thankful to Alex Ebstein for the encouragement to apply to CC in the first place.” 

She went on to cite long-distance research as one of the opportunities presented by this substantial cash infusion, as well as the chance to develop her “most ambitious projects to date.” As longtime fans, we’ll be eagerly watching what that might entail—whether it’s an expansion into new materials, monumental sizes, travel to historic sites of cultural production, and hopefully, new museum commissions.

Grants like this don’t come along very often, and I intend to make the most of every opportunity CC offers to their grantees,” says Milad, referencing the network of support that Creative Capital offers including professional development, financial literacy, and an annual retreat for their community of like-minded artists.

“My project No Soy / Ana Agnabi will be a suite of monumental painting-collages paired with a grouping of hundreds of small to midsize sculptures, an expansion of my work currently on display at the BMA,” says Milad. “The Creative Capital Grant will support the creation of new pieces, my research in London at the British Museum and Petrie Museum as well as materials studies for the sculptural component. The British Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt, with nearly 100,000 Ancient Egyptian objects. While in London, I will also begin planning a publication and exhibition with Dr. Heba Abd el Gawad, Egyptian Egyptologist and Heritage Activist, and Dr. Alice Stevenson, leading Egyptologist, who have both inspired much of my recent work.”

Marnie Ellen Hertzler shares the sentiment, “Creative Capital has always been one of the pinnacles of support within the arts,” she told us over email, “For an artist and filmmaker like me—someone without a super traditional background, who approaches storytelling from a place outside of genre and with hybridity, and often pulling from experiences outside of the arts; psychology and psychiatry, the sciences and technology—Creative Capital is the ideal partner. It embraces artists with this non-traditional pathway towards creation and creativity.”

Hertzler will be putting her grant towards a new short film project titled “Frog Hollow”—which will star an artificial intelligence humanoid robot as the character “Francis,” who dreams of becoming a frog. By casting an android instead of a conventional actor, Hertzler hopes the film will serve as “a metaphor for the human condition in our present day. Ultimately Francis shows us that it is not the technology around us that defines and makes us uniquely human, but our ability to adapt and live in coexistence with our home, the planet Earth.”

But beyond the financial support for an ambitious collaboration with an expensive-sounding  synthetic lifeform, Hertzler’s take on the award’s meaning might be seen as something akin to her character’s quest for belonging: “It may be obvious to say I was absolutely overjoyed by the news of receiving this award—which of course I was—but most of all I felt encouraged and validated. Non-traditional trajectories and ways of telling stories are possible and valuable. It’s easy to feel lonely in creative artistic pursuits that may be seen as risky or uncategorizable and therefore overlooked, but awards as renown and gloriously behemoth as Creative Capital lessen that isolation.” 

 

More information about each artist:

Jackie Milad: Jackie Milad received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Jackie Milad is a Baltimore City-based artist whose mixed-media paintings and collages address the history and complexities of dispersed cultural heritage and multi-ethnic identity. She has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Select exhibitions include Harvey B. Gantt Center (Charlotte, NC), The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD), The Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC), Academy Art Museum (Easton, MD), Arthur Ross Gallery University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), Weatherspoon Museum (Greensboro, NC), Museo de Arte de Mazatlan (Mazatlan, MX). Milad is a recipient of the Individual Artist Grant from Maryland State Arts Council. In 2019, she was a Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Ruby Grantee. In 2022, Jackie received the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Travel Prize to conduct in-depth research on the Egyptian antiquities held at the British Museum and Petrie Museums in London. Her work is included in several public collections, including Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Library, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Academy Art Museum, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, and Pizzuti Collection. Milad received her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and her MFA from Towson University.

Marnie Ellen Hertzler is a filmmaker whose films and animations often explore a multi-media approach to film presentation and distribution and has utilized live performance, installation, and web design to accompany her work. Influenced by her background in both psychology and fine arts, she creates films that act as cinematic platforms for the exploration of interpersonal relationships, and the technology that defines us. Her recent film work takes on a hybrid, docu-fiction format that blends traditional documentary and narrative elements to tell a story. She received her BFA in Sculpture and Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010. In 2018 Marnie was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She is a Rubys Artist Grant recipient (2023), Bemis Center Fellow (2023), Vermont Studio Center Fellow (2023), MacDowell Fellow (2019-2020), Saul Zaentz Fellow, IFP Narrative Lab Fellow (2019), and American Film Festival’s US Works in Progress Fellow (2018). Her first feature film, CRESTONE premiered at True/False in 2020, and went on to play at SXSW, CPH:DOX, and many national and international programs and film festivals and was released digitally and on BlueRay in February of 2021 by Utopia Distribution. Her previous short films have screened at Locarno Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, MoMA, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and more. Her work has appeared on Criterion Collection, Filmmaker Magazine, IndieWire, NoBudge, and Eyeslicer Season 2.

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