BmoreArt News: BOPA CEO Rachel D. Graham, Joyce J. Scott, Jerrell Gibbs

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This week’s news includes: Rachel D. Graham appointed BOPA’s new CEO, BMA announces Joyce J. Scott retrospective, a profile of Jerrell Gibbs, MEXODUS premiering at Center Stage, sacré bleu! Sacré Sucré, new book on Billie Holliday, René Treviño, Juliet Ames is salty, John Waters goes to jail, Iron Crow’s production of RENT, and New Door Creative at Outsider Art Fair, –with reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore Banner, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image:  Rachel Graham, new BOPA CEO, photo courtesy of Profiles PR


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Rachel D. Graham, new BOPA CEO

After a year of tumult, BOPA names Rachel D. Graham as its new CEO
by Hallie Miller
Published February 6 in The Baltimore Banner

Baltimore’s arts council named a new permanent CEO Tuesday, bookending a monthslong search for a new leader to take the reins of the embattled agency after a tumultuous year.

Rachel D. Graham, currently the director of external relations for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, will lead the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, or BOPA, after a unanimous vote by the nonprofit’s board of directors. She will succeed Donna Drew Sawyer, who resigned from the position last January. Film producer and public relations professional Todd Yuhanick had been serving as interim director since June.

Sawyer stepped down after a public spat with Mayor Brandon Scott, who called on her to leave the agency or else risk its funding. The organization contracts with city government to stage several high-profile events, including Artscape, the Baltimore Book Festival, Light City Baltimore and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. It also maintains some city facilities and serves as a resource for local artists.

In an interview Tuesday, Graham said she hopes to refocus the organization’s mission to prop up the arts community.

“Arts and culture put food on the table for my family, and it’s something I would like to see made important here in the city of Baltimore,” she said.

BOPA struggled to find its footing during the initial years of the coronavirus pandemic and wound up failing to stage Artscape, its marquee event, in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The organization drew the ire of the mayor in 2023 when it said it would not hold the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and, under pressure, shifted the blame to the mayor’s office. After the mayor called for Sawyer’s resignation, the city raced to stage the parade in a few days’ time.

Under the joint leadership of Yuhanick and Tonya Miller Hall — a former BOPA executive whom Scott’s office hired last year to work for the city — Artscape, the free outdoor arts festival usually held in the summer, returned this past September but had a whole day of programming canceled due to rain.

The arts council also found itself in the crosshairs last year over other matters, including the board’s decision to grant Sawyer a severance payment worth tens of thousands of dollars and its attempt to trademark Artscape with outside legal counsel and in direct violation of its city contract. At a tense City Council budget hearing last June, council members interrogated former interim CEO and board chair Brian D. Lyles for his decision to serve in both roles concurrently, calling it a potential conflict of interest.

In a statement, current acting chair of BOPA Board of Directors Andrew Chaveas thanked interim CEO Yuhanick for his service and said Graham “brings a wealth of experience and a true passion for the arts to her new role.” The board conducted a national search to find Sawyer’s replacement, according to a Tuesday news release.

An experienced communications and public relations professional who briefly attended Towson University, Graham previously served as the public information officer of the Family League of Baltimore, a quasi-governmental agency that provides support services to children and families in Baltimore. She also worked for the Neighborhoods Partnership Network and the Harmony Neighborhood Development in New Orleans as well as the Greater Houston Partnership, the city’s economic development arm.

Graham landed at the Lewis Museum in 2022 and said the job resonated with her interest in cultural promotion and African American history. Both her parents worked in the arts, which Graham said exposed her at a young age to the power of performance and cultural diversity.

“I just love the city. I believe in the transformative power of the arts community, and I believe in BOPA,” Graham said.

While she acknowledged the arts council’s mistakes, she said she felt a responsibility to elevate the staff and push the organization to “the next level.”

“Pressure makes diamonds, and sometimes you need that to force you out of the box and look at the situation from a new perspective,” Graham added. “I look forward to this opportunity with folks who are committed to the mission and who understand there is a bright horizon we are working toward.”

This story was republished with permission from The Baltimore Banner. Visit for more.



See also:

BOPA confirms Rachel D. Graham as next CEO
by Alexis Taylor
Published February 6 in The AFRO

Reginald F. Lewis Museum’s Rachel D. Graham named new CEO of Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, effective March 15
by Ed Gunts
Published February 6 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts Board to Vote Today on Appointment of Rachel Graham As New CEO
Press Release :: February 6

The Board of Directors of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA) will meet today at 9:30 a.m. to consider the appointment of Rachel D. Graham as the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Graham’s appointment is the only agenda item.

Ms. Graham, a native of Winslow, New Jersey and currently the Director of External Relations for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, is a veteran strategic communications and public relations professional with extensive experience in events and tourism marketing, partnerships, policy, and community relations. The selection of Ms. Graham is the result of an extensive national search over the past year. Ms. Graham, who attended Towson University, previously served as communications director and public information officer of Family League of Baltimore, a quasi-city agency that annually assists tens of thousands of children, youths, and families living in Baltimore City in gaining access to economic, education and health opportunities. She previously held senior communications roles for the Neighborhoods Partnership Network and Harmony Neighborhood Development in New Orleans and the Greater Houston Partnership, the economic development entity for the 10-county Houston region.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire staff, we are thrilled to welcome Rachel as we reassert the mission and impact of BOPA to empower local creatives of our community and celebrate the rich diversity of our city’s artistic and cultural assets,” said Andrew Chaveas, Acting Chair of the BOPA Board of Directors. “We could not be more grateful to Todd Yuhanick who stepped in at a critical time as Interim CEO and successfully led the return of Artscape, in collaboration with the Office of the Mayor, in addition to his many other contributions. Rachel brings a wealth of experience and a true passion for the arts to her new role and has our full confidence in building on the lessons learned and leading BOPA forward for the benefit of our essential stakeholders and entire community.”

“I am immensely grateful to the search committee, the Board of Directors and Mayor Scott for placing their faith in my ability to lead BOPA at this critical juncture,” stated Rachel D. Graham. “Arts and culture – as an economic engine of Baltimore – has the potential to not only attract visitors from around the world, but to change the narrative that some hold about this beautifully diverse community, while also serving as a catalyst to improve outcomes for all residents who call Charm City home. We can – at once – shift perception and reality by ensuring that the opportunity for full, equitable participation in the Cultural Economy for all Baltimoreans is within reach. I believe BOPA must play a leading role in this shift, and I welcome the opportunity to serve with the Board, staff, our elected leaders, and community stakeholders as we move forward together.”
The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts serves as the arts council, events producer and film office for the City of Baltimore. In addition to organizing and supporting free city-wide cultural events, BOPA supports the creative community through funding and support for artists, arts programs and artistic and cultural organizations across the City of Baltimore

Ms. Graham’s appointment – subject to today’s formal approval by the Board of Directors – will take effect on March 15, 2024.



Joyce J. Scott. Blue Baby Book Redux. Courtesy of Goya Contemporary Gallery, Baltimore © Joyce J. Scott

BMA Opens Retrospective of Boundary-Breaking Artist Joyce J. Scott on March 24
Press Release :: February 1

On March 24, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) will open the 50-year career retrospective of artist Joyce J. Scott (b. 1948, Baltimore, MD), encompassing the full range and depth of her prolific and genre-defying practice. Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams features nearly 140 works from the 1970s to the present—including sculpture, jewelry, textiles, artwear garments, performance compilations, prints, mixed-media installations, and a new large-scale commission. The astonishing virtuosity and ingenuity of Scott’s work in every medium seamlessly coalesces with her lifelong vision to confront racism, sexism, classism, and “all the ‘isms’ society offers” through impish and audacious humor, expressions of beauty, and a humanistic engagement with global events. Her innate ability to move across medium and genre, leveraging her materials to speak fearlessly to subjects of deep personal and communal meaning make her one of the most significant artists of our time and deserving of greater scholarly study and public recognition.

Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams is co-organized by the BMA and the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and co-curated by Cecilia Wichmann, BMA Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Catharina Manchanda, SAM Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with support from Leslie Rose, Joyce J. Scott Curatorial Research Assistant. The exhibition will be presented in Baltimore as a special ticketed exhibition from March 24 through July 14, 2024, and in Seattle from October 17, 2024, through January 20, 2025. Joyce J. Scott: Walk a Mile in My Dreams is accompanied by a fully illustrated 288-page catalog that offers new scholarship, artist reflections, and a selection of vital out-of-print source materials.

“Joyce J. Scott is a living legend and a pillar of Baltimore’s artistic community. Her multidisciplinary practice is in a word, magnetic, distinguished in its ability to conjure moments of beauty and awe, while also bringing people into conversation about challenging subjects in a way that is open and embracing. Her work is deeply rooted in both local and global contexts, vibrating with a resonance that is utterly and uniquely Joyce,” said Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “The BMA has had the honor of engaging audiences with Scott’s work for many years through exhibitions, public programs, and acquisitions. We are thrilled now to present this comprehensive exhibition that highlights the remarkable range of her career.” […]

See also:

BMA to launch Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott retrospective
by Aliza Worthington
Published February 2 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Photo by: Brian Tankersley

Baltimore artist fights outdated narratives surrounding Black men through art
by Rushaad Hayward
Published February 1 in WMAR

Excerpt: Early on, Jerrell Gibbs knew he could draw.

The Baltimore native picked up a paintbrush at the age of five and never looked back. Fast forward to now, Gibbs has artwork in the U.S. Capitol building, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and the X Museum in Beijing to name a few.

“Having my work in museums across the United States is a great testament to all the people who have contributed to who I’ve become, and how I’ve gotten to this point, and who’ve helped me throughout this journey. It speaks to the dedication and commitment that I’ve poured into my craft, my creativity,” Gibbs said.



Brian Quijada (L) and Nygel D. Robinson (R) in their YouTube video of their performance of the MEXODUS track, "Two Bodies."

New musical ‘MEXODUS’ is unique Underground Railroad story premiering at Baltimore Center Stage
by Aliza Worthington
Published February 5 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Baltimore Center Stage (BCS) and Mosaic Theater Company are partnering to bring the world premiere of a new musical to Baltimore called “MEXODUS.”

The musical explores the Underground Railroad that went South into Mexico and is described as truly groundbreaking in that it’s a “live-looped musical” composed in real time. Written and performed by Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson, it will run at Center Stage from March 14 through April 7, and then at Washington’s Mosaic Theater Company from May 16 through June 16.

“I cannot imagine a better way to start 2024 than presenting this incredible new musical with our partners at Mosaic Theater,” said Stevie Walker-Webb, Artistic Director of Baltimore Center Stage. “Through their years of collaboration, Brian and Nygel have created something remarkable–a hip-hop infused show that highlights the power of Black and Brown unity through a historical lens. If you love Hamilton, you will love MEXODUS.”



Sacré Sucré owners Manuel Sanchez and Dane Thibodeaux sit in the dining room of their newly opened bakery. (Matti Gellman)

The Dish: The bitter feud between Sacré Sucré and its Fell Street neighbors
by Matti Gellmann
Published February 7 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Manuel Sanchez and Dane Thibodeaux never expected to see their Sacré Sucré French bakery mired in controversy.

The business appeared successful during its tenure on Fleet Street in Upper Fells Point, attracting customers with its croissants, eclairs and artfully decorated macarons. In August, they expanded their modest pastry operations, packing up and moving less than a half-mile south to a multimillion-dollar building on Fell Street — a quiet, largely residential block tucked away from the bustling heart of Fells Point. They prepared to welcome customers in September.

Then they met their new neighbors.

The self-proclaimed stewards of the historic homes lining the street questioned Sacré Sucré. They eyed the owners as they slathered the building in a coat of white paint and proudly announced plans to pursue a liquor license, promising morning mimosas and evening cocktails.



The Billie Holiday statue near the intersection of Pennsylvania and West Lafayette avenues in Baltimore. (Taneen Momeni/The Baltimore Banner)

Billie Holiday has been portrayed as a victim. A new book aims to change that.
by Leslie Gray Streeter
Published February 1 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: When I was a homesick, expat sixth grader in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I irritated all of my new friends by never shutting up about my hometown, Baltimore. I actually wrote a paper in which I boasted that I shared a native city with both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Billie Holiday, the greatest jazz singer in history.

I was half right.

This week, while reading an advance copy of Paul Alexander’s “Bitter Crop: The Heartache and Triumph of Billie Holiday’s Last Year,” I got the shock of my life: Lady Day was raised in and around Fells Point, but was actually born in a Philadelphia hospital when her mother briefly worked there. Although this book is not the first to break the news, it was news to me. Yet my confusion was apparently understandable.

“She thought she was [from Baltimore], too!” said Alexander, whose book about the singer hits shelves Feb. 13. “The funny thing about it is that she kept telling people she was born in Baltimore, because from her birth in 1915 to 1954, she thought she was. In her mind, she was from there.”



René Treviño: Stab of Guilt | Exhibition Video
Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College

René Treviño’s first museum survey features over two hundred artworks from 2008 to the present, including new work created on the occasion of this exhibition. Treviño’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses a range of mediums and reflects personal inspirations as well as the artist’s research into Maya and Aztec history, Catholic symbolism, astronomy, pop culture, and queer theory to recast his heritage and identity in a new light. Recent explorations into sculpture have resulted in a suite of courtly robes embellished with faux jaguar fur and sequined patches, displayed with Aztec-inspired, feather headdresses and presented on a custom-built stage. Also debuting in Stab of Guilt are twenty mixed-media collages collectively titled Sunspots by Day, Asteroids by Night (2023), which incorporate imagery from nineteenth-century star charts made by C. H. F. Peters, Hamilton College’s first professor of astronomy. The series builds upon paintings in which Treviño merges historical Western views of the heavens with scientific perspectives of the Maya and Aztecs and his own idiosyncratic naming conventions. Other works include a grid of paintings comprised of circular images that, taken together, point to our commonalities across geography and cultures—ancient Aztec glyphs sit comfortably next to depictions of Greek pottery and Indigenous American folk art—as well as embellished paintings on leather, based on ancient codices and featuring a mashup of queer and Mesoamerican imagery. René Treviño: Stab of Guilt brings together an exuberant selection of works with wide-ranging themes that illuminate the artist’s colorful and complex aesthetic.

René Treviño (b. 1972, Kingsville, Texas) lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. His work has been exhibited at the Arlington Arts Center (Virginia), Baltimore Museum of Art, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art (Wilmington), Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (Baltimore), Pentimenti Gallery (Philadelphia), Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, CT), and White Box (New York City). Treviño is a recipient of the Baltimore Creative Fund Individual Artist Grant and the Trawick Prize. He has been an artist in residence at AIR Serenbe (Serenbe, GA), the Creative Alliance (Baltimore), and the Fine Arts Work Center (Provincetown, MA). Treviño holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art’s programs are made possible, in part, with support from the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Arts Museum Programming Fund; the Johnson-Pote Museum Director Fund; the John B. Root ’44 Exhibition Fund; the Edward W. and Grace C. Root Endowment Fund; and the William G. Roehrick ’34 Lecture Fund. Additional support for René Treviño: Stab of Guilt has been provided by the Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Fund for Innovation in the Arts.




Juliet Ames is Worth Her Salt
by Jane Marion
Published February 5 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: S THE HOLIDAY SEASON rapidly approaches, Juliet Ames’ Mill Centre art studio is a riot of creativity. On one side, there’s her “salt box lounge,” with its cozy emerald-green sofa, a wall of framed photos and mementos—a sort of visual résumé of her accomplishments (her appearance on The Martha Stewart Show, a Christmas card from filmmaker John Waters)—and a pegboard with tools of her trade: a hammer, tile snips, some scissors, a pair of pliers, and various hex wrenches, plus rolls of vinyl in every hue of the rainbow.

On the other side of the studio, there are bins upon bins filled with broken shards of china and wire shelving units swelling with stacks of patterned plates—all awaiting new life as some sort of necklace, cuff link, or earring (and once even a pair of porcelain pasties for a breast cancer awareness benefit.) There’s also ceramic salt box mugs and salt box branded ties and bowties scattered around the room—available not just around the holidays but any time of year.

In the center of the room is her so-called “big ass table,” an oversized wooden workbench where Ames toils most mornings making art of one kind or another, be it salt box panels or filling orders for her one-of-a-kind jewelry.

“I’m an artist who can’t paint or draw,” chuckles the 44-year-old Ames, best known for her The Broken Plate jewelry company—and more recently for her fan-favorite salt box art. “So, this,” she says with a sweep of her arm, “is my solution.”



A staged mugshot of John Waters illustrates an auction item for the chance to spend a night in jail with the Baltimore filmmaker. The auction will benefit the Provincetown Film Society. Image courtesy of Provincetown Film Society.

This summer, four fans will get to spend a night in jail with John Waters
by Ed Gunts
Published February 1 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: John Waters is going to jail, and he wants company.

Waters will turn himself in at the Provincetown Jail this summer for the good of society – the Provincetown Film Society, that is.

The writer, filmmaker and recent Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree isn’t charged with a crime. He’s heading to jail as part of the film society’s online fundraising auction, which starts this week.



Actors Landon Black, Jess Ramon, Teddy Wright, Sam Slottow, Tyler White, Carter Crosby, and Jeremy Allen Crawford in Iron Crow Theatre's production of "RENT" at the Baltimore Theatre Project. Iron Crow Theatre will bring the production to the M&T Bank Exchange events space, next to the Hippodrome Theatre, this month. Photo courtesy of Iron Crow Theatre.

Iron Crow Theatre’s production of ‘Rent’ coming to M&T Bank Exchange, Feb. 16-18
by Ed Gunts
Published February 7 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: After hosting parties, conferences and other community gatherings, Baltimore’s newest events venue will be used for the first time as a theater.

Iron Crow Theatre announced that it will present five performances of “RENT” this month at the M&T Bank Exchange, the multi-purpose events space that opened last fall as the final phase of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, home of the Hippodrome Theatre at 12 North Eutaw Street. The dates for “RENT” are Feb. 16 to 18, with two shows each on Feb. 17 and 18. Tickets can be purchased online here.

The production started at the Baltimore Theatre Project, where it had a sold-out engagement that ran from Jan. 19 to Feb. 4, 10 shows in all. Responding to demand, the producers decided to extend its run and, when space at the Theatre Project wasn’t available due to a schedule conflict, transfer the production to the M&T Bank Exchange.



Sheila Crider, “RELIEF”

New Door Creative Spotlights Five Artists in the 32nd Annual Outsider Art Fair, New York 2024
Press Release :: February 1

New Door Creative announces participation in the 32nd annual Outsider Art Fair, New York, 2024. February 29th through March 3rd, 2024. The Outsider Art Fair is dedicated to the celebration of non-traditional (a.k.a “self-taught,” “non-conformer,” “visionary,” etc.) artists. Originating in 1993, the fair continues to evolve. The 2024 fair showcases sixty international galleries and artists.

New Door Creative will feature five painting artists in this year’s fair: mixed media portrait artist Morgan Monceaux, spirit painter Judy Tallwing, ’blackstraction’ artist Sheila Crider, and abstractionists Cheryl Edwards, and Greg Bridges. Each artist is inspired by their unique passion to create.

These artists share a common denominator of multifaceted lives. Their varied life stories contradict the sensational biographies frequently associated with “outsider” profiles that too often eclipse the evidence of talent. Morgan Monceaux emerged from many passions, including opera. New Orleans natives Bridges and Monceaux draw from the richly diverse cultural experience of a city known for music, and spiritual/religious celebration that are remnants of the African diasporic traditions. Painter Sheila Crider began her creative life as a writer/poet.

Cheryl Edwards and Greg Bridges share a professional background in law. The life of Judy Tallwing (of Apache, Tewa, and African descent) has always been one of “making.” In her words: ‘We didn’t call it art, we called it making things to sell along the road to help the family survive.’

New Door Creative highlights these artists as creatives practicing not as “outsiders,” but as contrast within the mainstream parameters that define the dominant art culture. Their ‘need to create’ is not the result of challenge to reconcile lives of trauma and/or extreme social or mental isolation typically associated with certain historical presumptions of “outsider” artists. The collection of works reflects unique intellectual talents nurtured by informed inquiry and an authentic sense of curiosity; engaging specific concepts, cultural imprint, and the human experience.


header image: Rachel Graham, new CEO of BOPA courtesy of Profiles PR

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