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BOPA Announces 18 Sondheim Semi-Finalists for 2024

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It’s hard to fathom that the annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Art Prize has been in existence for 19 years! Not only has this award given 18 regional artists a $25,000 (now up to $30,000 – thanks, Joe Biden!) over the past two decades, this award has been a catalytic force in convincing our regional museums to show the work of local artists.

Before the Sondheim, Baltimore museums rarely exhibited Baltimore-based artists, but now, after close to twenty years, we have gotten to experience dozens of exhibits of finalists and semifinalists at the BMA and Walters (except the first year at MICA, and the pandemic one that was virtual). The opportunity for a museum exhibition is, in many ways, just as valuable as a cash award and the professional credibility of being involved, as a finalist or semifinalist is, well, priceless.

Today, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) announced the semifinalists for the 19th annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Art Prize, awarded by BOPA in partnership with the Walters Art Museum and supported by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC).

This year’s panel of jurors — Noel W. Anderson, Connie H. Choi, and Aaron Levi Garvey — have selected 18 visual artists and visual artist collaborators for the semifinal round. Each semifinalist will receive an exhibition at MICA’s Decker and Meyerhoff Galleries at Artscape, August 2–4, 2024.

The 2024 Janet & Walter Sondheim Art Prize semifinalists are: Helen Ascoli, Amy Boone-McCreesh, Thea Canlas, Alyssa Dennis, Sara Dittrich, Andrew Gray, Stephanie Garmey, Kei Ito, Giulia Livi, Sam Mack, Charles Mason III, Eleisha Faith & Tonisha Hope McCorkle, Noah McWilliams, Mandy Morrison, Clarissa Pezone, Katie Pumphrey, Edgar Reyes, and Julie Wills.

For the second review, the semifinalists are asked to share an expanded submission — including up to 30 images or time-based works — and a description of how they will use the fellowship if selected.

Three semifinalists will be selected for the final review for the Sondheim Art Prize, which will award $30,000 to a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Baltimore region. All three finalists will exhibit their work at the Walters Art Museum from July–September 2024.

Meet the 2024 Semifinalists:

Hellen Ascoli, Cien tierras, 2023, Installation view, La Nueva Fábrica, Antigua Guatemala, Photo: Ana Werren

Hellen Ascoli is a Guatemalan weaver based in Baltimore who collaborates with the back-strap loom. Connecting her body to a site through this material-being, Ascoli co-creates works that embody the open language of weaving through sensation, memory, oral traditions, and poetry. In 2021, she had her first institutional solo exhibition titled “CIEN TIERRAS” at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati which traveled in 2023 to La Nueva Fábrica in Antigua, Guatemala. Currently Ascoli teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore while also developing a practice in Language Justice.

 

Amy Boone-McCreesh, WIN WIN WIN exhibition view, Peep gallery in Philadelphia, Framed works on paper, custom ottomans, custom window treatments, 2022

Amy Boone-McCreesh was born on Loring Air Force Base in Maine, received her BFA from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, and her MFA from Towson University. She has been awarded a two-year Hamiltonian Artist Fellowship in Washington, D.C., two Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), and a 2023 Joan Mitchell Fellowship Nominee.

Boone-McCreesh’s work has been included in exhibitions across the country, as well as supported by many institutional exhibitions. Amy’s large-scale works have been acquired by the Department of State in the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico (Art in Embassies, 2013), Facebook (2019), and Capital One (2018). Her work is featured in New “American Paintings” (issues 106 and 118) and “Handmade Life,” published by Thames and Hudson (2016). Based in Baltimore for the last 15 years, she is currently visiting faculty at Dickinson College.

 

Thea Canlas, Still Life: Longing, 2023, Commercial refrigerator containing goods purchased at Baltimore H-Mart (rambutan, bangus, green papaya, jackfruit, can of corned beef, can of Tocino Spam, banana heart, mangoes, calabaza, eggplants, sugar canes, ampalaya, and banana leaves), Photography by David Sloan

Thea Canlas is a Filipina American artist whose concept- and research-driven work explores the entanglements of diasporic Philippine identity through sculptural objects, installations, and digital media. Her current body of work, Value Studies, traces how colonial economies and contemporary racial capitalism have impacted our perceptions of collective and individual human value. Canlas received her MFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2023 and her BFA in Fibers from MICA in 2006. She resides in Baltimore City with her family, where she works as a studio artist and teacher.

 

Alyssa Dennis, Pitch Bow House, 2016, interactive community based artist-run experimental art initiative New Orleans Airlift and musical tinkerer/engineer Ranjit Bhatnagar as part of a musical architecture project called the Music Box Village

Alyssa Dennis is an interdisciplinary artist, Earth activist, educator, and clinical herbalist cultivating a small herbal sanctuary in Baltimore City. In addition to a BFA from MICA and an MFA from Tulane University, she completed a three-year advanced training in medical herbalism at Arbor Vitae School of Traditional Herbalism, has studied indigenous Amazonian plant medicine, and obtained certificates in permaculture design and straw bale and adobe building. From 2002–2007, Dennis worked on multiple straw bale and green roof construction projects among other environmentally sustainable efforts. In 2004, she co-founded Current Space, an artist-run community art gallery and performance venue. In 2016 she founded an environmental literacy venture called Eclipta Herbal. Dennis is passionately dedicated to endeavors that promote ecological mutualism with all living beings.

 

Sara Dittrich, The clouds move on, but I am still here... Installation views from The Sculpture Center, Photography by Jacob Koestler

Sara Dittrich is a Baltimore-based multimedia artist who builds introspective experiences that shift perspective from passive seeing to active looking, from passive hearing to active listening. Using musical thinking, Dittrich illuminates the dynamic and unconscious rhythms of the body and environments, employing diverse mediums that often include sculptural objects, printmaking, video, and interactive electronic technologies. Exhibitions and performances include the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and DiverseWorks in Houston, Texas.

 

Stephanie Garmey, Wetlands, Installation view of black tyvek cut paper tents with lights. Flying silhouettes of black tyvek birds, 2013

Stephanie Garmey draws inspiration from her collection of taxidermy animals and natural objects to create life size tableaus of animals in surreal environments exploring specific sites in nature, forests, and wetlands. Her meditations on nature use a variety of media approaches: construction, book arts, cut paper, embroidery, and encaustics. Garmey received her BFA from MICA, her MA in painting from Purdue University in Indiana, and her MFA in painting from MICA’s LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting, where she studied with Grace Hartigan.

 

Andrew Gray, Beach Selfies 1 & 2, Acrylics on Canvas, 24x20” Each

Andrew Gray is a painter and designer continuing his practices in Baltimore. After receiving his BFA in Fine Arts and working two years in the professional field of design, Gray now maintains a career as a gallery artist with representation by Band of Vices Art Gallery. His paintings promote a sense of prosperity contradicting the common societal narratives of Black people shown in our community. Initially, his ideas take form through many drafts of digital collages and become a visual foundation for the actual paintings to develop. Gray highlights a diverse range of Black characters to exemplify his ethnicity, not as a monolith, but instead as a community of complex human beings.

 

Kei Ito's exhibit at the Georgia Art Museum

Kei Ito is an interdisciplinary installation artist and immigrant, navigating themes entrenched in trauma and inheritance within the context of his identity and heritage. His artistic practice is deeply rooted in the profound legacy passed down from his late grandfather, a resilient survivor of the harrowing atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This familial narrative, coupled with the loss of numerous family members to the explosion’s aftermath and radiation poisoning, serves as the cornerstone of Ito’s creative exploration.

 

Giulia Piera Livi, ​Play Date, Hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington, Arlington, VA

Giulia Piera Livi is an interdisciplinary artist working in painting and installation. Her immersive rooms employ hyper-cohesive color and abstract forms to work out ideas of multi-functional art objects and curated domesticity. She has exhibited nationally and internationally with shows at notable galleries in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Puerto Rico. Livi was granted fellowships at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in 2023 and Vermont Studio Center in 2018. She received an Individual Artist Award from MSAC in 2019, a Trawick Young Artist Prize from the Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards in 2017, and was included in Issue No. 148 of “New American Paintings.” Livi is currently part-time faculty at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and MICA in Baltimore.

 

Sam Mack, Solo Exhibition at Galleri Urbane

Sam Mack currently lives and works in Baltimore. They received their MFA in Studio Art in 2019 from the School of Art at the University of Arkansas. Their work uses contemporary and historic ceramic vessels as a primary material in site-responsive sculpture. Mack has been an artist in residence at Ox Bow School of Art and Artist Residency and SUNY-New Paltz, and has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the JEAE International Arts Center in Jingdezhen, China; Aichi Ceramics Museum in Seto City, Japan; the Clay Studio in Philadelphia; YNG SPC (online); Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas; and is presently represented by Galleri Urbane in Dallas, Texas.

 

Charles Mason III, why'd you leave, no you left, no you transition to a different plane, 2023, Medium: oil stick, acrylic, house paint, tee shirt, on paper, Dimensions: 87x58 in

Charles Mason III received his AA degree from CCBC, BFA from UMBC, and MFA in Studio Art from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in 2019. His solo exhibitions include “You Must Treat The Person(s) You Love With the Greatest Care” at Goya Contemporary Gallery in Baltimore (2023) and “Screaming in Silence, My Salvation is Love (The End)” at Anna Zorina Gallery in Los Angeles (2022). Mason has also participated in the group exhibitions, “The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century” co-organized by the BMA and Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM), “Charm City” at Asya Geisberg Gallery in New York City, and “The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy” at the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland.

 

Hope & Faith, Master of Two Worlds, 55’’ x 96’’, Window scene manifested with decorative paper, linoleum prints, denim, handmade flowers, wire, glitter, marker, acrylic paint, curtains, and magic on canvas scroll, 2022

Hope & Faith (Eleisha Faith & Tonisha Hope) McCorkle collaborate utilizing storytelling and collage to conflate the ideas of reconstruction and resilience within the Black experience through vibrant hues, Black ritual, and spiritual imagery. Their work serves as testaments to healing by example, honoring the Black mother, spirit, food, and childlike wonder in the stories told through their scrolls, films, installations, and other creations. Materials are broken down and rebuilt to reinforce the journey toward completion, emphasizing the colorful, multidimensional layers of the inner and outer worlds they inhabit as Black indigenous creators.

 

Noah, McWilliams, Sick Brick, trapunto on brick patterned plastic and chiffon, spray-painted vinyl, wood, velcro, steel 87 x 132 x 105 "

Noah McWilliams is a sculpture and video artist who has lived and worked in Maryland for over 20 years. Raised in Frederick, Maryland, he received his BFA from Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in 2017, and his MFA from the University of Maryland in 2021. In addition to creating and exhibiting his work, he is a public-school art teacher in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

 

Mandy Morrison, Spirits of Promise and Loss, 2020, (Installation view) Six-channel video installation with audio Dimensions: 4’ x 40’ Duration: 02:31 (loop)

Mandy Morrison is a multidisciplinary artist whose work is informed by class, labor and physical agency. With a creative practice that spans performance, video, writing, and photography, she makes singular and participatory works to include, dancers, youth groups, and community stakeholders. Her recent solo exhibit at The Peale, “Journey of the Invader Spirit,” featured large-scale video installations with storytelling visuals illuminating the precedence of consumerist values amidst environmental and economic precarity. She has shown her work at national and international festivals, galleries, and museums. Grants and honors include MSAC (2023, 2021), Tree of Life Foundation (2021), Puffin Foundation (2023, 2016), the New York State Council on the Arts (2014), and the Illinois Arts Council (1997). Fellowships and residencies include the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Ohio State University’s Wexner Center, the Sacatar Institute in Bahia, Brazil, and Foundation B.a.D in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

 

Clarissa Pezone, The End of Is Earthenware, 2021, found objects, synthetic hair, paint 8’ L x 4.5’ H x 6’ D

Clarissa Pezone is an interdisciplinary sculptor investigating the overlaps between magical thinking, personal mythology, and grief. In her practice, she uses figuration and realism as a method to explore stories surrounding loss, interconnectedness, and longing. Pezone is based in Baltimore, where she teaches and maintains a studio practice.

 

Katie Pumphrey, Shape Shifters, 84 x 72in, acrylic on canvas, 2021

Katie Pumphrey is an American interdisciplinary artist working in painting, sculpture, and installation. Her work uses abstraction and imagery to explore the tensions and the connectedness between human instincts and play. Pumphrey is also a marathon open water swimmer, with notable swims including the English Channel, around the island of Manhattan, and the Catalina Channel, an aspect of her life that continues to greatly influence and drive her work.

 

Edgar Reyes, Altar, at The Walters, 2019

Edgar Reyes is a multimedia artist and educator born in Guadalajara, Mexico who is now based in the Baltimore–Washington D.C. area. Reyes’s work invites viewers to think about the people, places, and connections they carry with them. His practice draws on the specifics of his own life, and reflections of shared experiences of resettlement and migration. Through his art making, he explores his family’s Mexican and Indigenous roots.

 

Julie Wills, Clouds Filled to Bursting, 2023, solo exhibition at Bloomsburg University’s Gallery at Greenly Center, Bloomsburg PA, photo: Julie Louisa Hagenbuch

Julie Wills is an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and installation, drawing, text, and the intersections between these media. She is recipient of a Creativity Grant (2023) and an Individual Artist Award (2019) from MSAC and has been awarded artist residencies at Marble House Project, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Jentel, PLAYA, The Hambidge Center, and Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (all in the United States), and at KORDON (Estonia), Cill Rialaig (Ireland) and Arteles (Finland), among others. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at Plain Sight in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden and the European Union National Institutes for Culture; Bloomsburg University; Gettysburg College; Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington, and at numerous other venues.  

 

Learn more about the semifinalists for the 19th annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Art Prize by visiting promotionandarts.org/janet-walter-sondheim-art-prize/ and following BOPA on social media (@promoandarts).  

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