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This week’s news includes: Julia Marciari-Alexander announces that she is leaving The Walters in the fall, Baltimore’s August Wilson Celebration is about to commence, two area restaurants are James Beard Finalists, NPG acquires Stephen Towns’ portrait of Joyce J. Scott, the CityLit festival returns, Baltimore’s Brittney Spencer and Beyoncé, Artscape news, The Art of Racing winner announced, city wants to terminate contract with Pride Center of Baltimore, and Trans Solidarity action on National Mall — with reporting from Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Brew, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Joyce J. Scott portrait acquired by National Portrait Gallery, Courtesy Stephen Towns Studio

News Anchor With Coffee Update GIF | GIFDB.com

 

 

Dr. Julia Marciari-Alexander Courtesy the Walters Art Museum

Julia Marciari-Alexander to Step Down from Walters Art Museum in Fall 2024, Following Appointment as President of The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
Announcement :: April 3

The Walters Art Museum today shares the news that Julia Marciari-Alexander, who has served as the Andrea B. & John H. Laporte Executive Director and CEO of the museum since 2013, has been appointed President of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, an important supporter of the study and presentation of European art, architecture, and archaeology in the United States.

Marciari-Alexander will remain at the Walters until September 2024, to support the Board of Trustees and the museum’s Leadership Team and staff during this transition. The Board will form a search committee and launch an international search in the near future; further details will be announced as the process moves forward.

“It is bittersweet to share the news of Julia’s planned departure after an incredibly successful 11-plus year tenure at the Walters,” said Peter Bain, President of the Board of Trustees of the Walters Art Museum. “Julia will be leaving with a remarkable legacy and a long list of accomplishments, from her impact on our audience engagement through strong exhibitions and programs, to her leadership in forging new investments in our facilities and our staff. Her leadership through the pandemic was nothing short of exceptional. We will miss her tremendously, but are excited for her to take on this important role at a foundation that holds a unique and critical place in the study of art history, in ways that resonate with the unique origins of the Walters itself.”

“Throughout my time at the Walters Art Museum, I have been reminded regularly of how special this institution is and the many ways in which it is beloved by the Baltimore community,” said Marciari-Alexander. “While the thought of leaving the Walters collections, its people, and this amazing city did not make this an easy decision, I am tremendously excited to pursue this opportunity with the Kress Foundation especially. I am deeply grateful for the support and collaboration of the Walters community—staff, volunteers, donors, trustees, and visitors alike. Your collective passion for art and education, and for the Walters’ special role in that space, has been a source of inspiration. As I transition to my new position over the next few months, I look forward to continuing to advocate for the Walters and its mission, and I want to thank you for the support you have given both to me and this great museum over the last 11 years.”

See also:

Walters Art Museum director Julia Marciari-Alexander to step down after 11 years
by Marcus Dieterle
Published April 3 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Walters Art Museum director Julia Marciari-Alexander to step down
by Taji Burris
Published April 3 in The Baltimore Banner

 

Julia Marciari-Alexander Appointed President of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
Press Release :: April 3

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, an important supporter of the study and presentation of European art, architecture, and archaeology in the United States, announced today that it has appointed Dr. Julia Marciari-Alexander as its new president. The selection of Marciari-Alexander follows a comprehensive search led by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees that began after the announcement in March 2023 of the pending retirement of the Foundation’s long serving president, Max Marmor. Marciari-Alexander, who currently serves as the Andrea B. & John H. Laporte Executive Director and CEO of the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, will begin her role at Kress in Fall 2024.

Carmela Vircillo Franklin, Chair of the Kress Foundation’s Board of Trustees, said “We are so excited to welcome Dr. Julia Marciari-Alexander to the Kress Foundation, and to benefit from her knowledge and outstanding leadership in the art world. During more than a decade at the Walters Art Museum, Julia has demonstrated a passion for the insightful presentation of art, for promoting its scholarship, and for cultivating new audiences, which very much aligns with Kress’ mission and values. We are confident that under her guidance, Kress will continue to thrive and set new benchmarks in the support and promotion of European art history.”

Dr. Marciari-Alexander will come to the Kress Foundation from a distinguished career in art museums. Her tenure at the Walters Art Museum has been characterized by significant growth in the museum’s endowment, ambitious and acclaimed exhibitions that have been driven by curators and educators recruited during her tenure, and that have been supported by new initiatives aimed at enhancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion within the museum and its wider community. Of particular note have been the recent and widely acclaimed exhibitions Ethiopia at the Crossroads—the first major art exhibition in America to examine an array of Ethiopian cultural and artistic traditions from their origins to the present day—and the opening of Across Asia: Arts of Asia and the Islamic World, a reconceptualized installation of the Walters’ important Asian and Islamic collections featuring some 500 works.

“I am thrilled to be able to bring my breadth of experience from a career spent in both the academy and museums to Kress, whose philanthropic mission is dedicated to deepening understanding of the creative past in order to expand our views of our present and future,” said Dr. Marciari-Alexander. “At a time when contemporary art so often dominates the headlines and conversations about the art world, I continue to believe that understanding the art of the past should be an integral part of research, scholarship, and teaching, as well as part of museums’ focus on exhibitions, acquisitions, and scholarship. I look forward to building upon the Kress Foundation’s important legacy, in the U.S. and internationally, and exploring innovative ways to expand Kress’ impact in what is a rapidly evolving cultural landscape.”

Steven Nelson, Chair of the Board’s Search Committee, added, “Julia brings to the Kress Foundation a critical combination of scholarly acumen, tactical experience, and visionary leadership, which make her an ideal choice to lead the Kress Foundation into its next century. Search processes are always so useful for identifying not just different candidates for a position, but also for hearing how a candidate sees the future of your organization. With Julia, we know that we have found someone who believes in our longstanding mission and focus on European art, architecture, and archaeology from antiquity to the early 19th century, and who sees opportunity for us to evolve our approach in order to expand Kress’ impact and benefit for scholars, museums, and audiences.”

Prior to joining the Walters Art Museum in 2013, Marciari-Alexander served as Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), where she oversaw a systematic re-envisioning and reinstallation of the museum’s collections, including its Art of East Asia galleries, which was the largest renovation of any of the SDMA’s spaces in more than a decade. During her time at SDMA, she also served as the Interim Co-Director (2009-2010) and Interim Deputy Director for Education (2010-2011). Before relocating to San Diego, Marciari-Alexander worked at the Yale Center for British Art from 1997-2008, serving in multiple roles, including Associate Director for Programmatic Affairs and Associate Director for Exhibitions and Publications. In addition to curating many exhibitions and producing or contributing to a number of catalogues while there, she also taught numerous courses in the history of art.

Marciari-Alexander has a Ph.D in History of Art from Yale University (1999) and an M.A. in French Literature, New York University (1992), following the completion of her B.A. in Art History and French at Wellesley College (1989). Marciari-Alexander recently served as President of the Association of Art Museum Directors’ (AAMD) Board of Trustees, and has been engaged with a number of other entities promoting the arts, including serving as an Assessor for the annual William MH. Berger Prize for excellence in the field of British Art History, and serving on the boards of the Maryland Citizens for the Arts and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

 

 

Baltimore city-wide celebration of the AUGUST WILSON CENTURY CYCLE of 20th century plays will feature 10 different theaters across the city
Press Release :: March 29

Ten theater companies in Baltimore are undertaking an unprecedented joint project with the 3-year BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION, which will present the late, legendary playwright’s August Wilson American Century Cycle of plays in another first:  his 10 iconic plays presented in the chronological order in which the plays depict Wilson’s indelible canon about Black life in America in the 20th century. From GEM OF THE OCEAN set in 1904 to RADIO GOLF set in 1990, a different Baltimore company will present a play from the August Wilson Century Cycle from 2024-27,  according to Lesley Malin, producing executive director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (7 Calvert St.) in Baltimore.

While Wilson did not write his renowned  American Century Cycle in chronological order, the BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION will present them as such, believed to be the first time such an effort has been undertaken.  Baltimore’s AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION begins in April when Baltimore’s revered Arena Players presents GEM OF THE OCEAN, a powerful, fanciful drama about a 285-year-old matriarch who invites two men into her home: a Civil War soldier born into slavery and another young man in search of new life and redemption.

The ARENA PLAYERS production of GEM OF THE OCEAN runs April 5-28 at Arena Players (801 McCulloh St.)  Arena players is the oldest continuously operating African-American community theater in the U.S., dating to 1953 – more than 70 years of community service and outstanding dramatic achievement.

Subsequent productions in the BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION will be produced by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Baltimore Center Stage, ArtsCentric, Fell’s Point Corner Theatre and others to be announced.  While CSC is spearheading the CELEBRATION, the project expected to roll out 2024-27 is a joint production of the entire theatre community.

Ms. Malin states, “Baltimore has a vibrant, but siloed theatre community.  Seemingly, there has never been a time when Baltimore theatres have worked together for a common artistic goal – a festival of productions.  Until now…”

Ms. Malin, who conceived the all-encompassing BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION, states that while Wilson set his plays in his native Pittsburgh (notably, the city’s Hill District), “Baltimore is a good fit, too, given the common threads between the two cities – working class, port cities with inferiority complexes and a powerful, vivid Black culture.”

Constanza Romero, a Tony Award-nominated costume designer and wife of the late August Wilson states, “I would like to express how pleased and thrilled I am about Baltimore’s August Wilson’s American Century Cycle Celebration!  I humbly consider my beloved late husband one of the most important American playwrights of the 20th century.  In recognition of August’s contribution, it is fitting to have various talents across all disciplines come together to put their experience and craft forward for this city-wide collaboration.  I will be in full support of this endeavor and most grateful to all its participants.”

Baltimore theater goers should expect to see the following slate of plays:

GEM OF THE OCEAN – set in 1904, premiered 2003;  BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION production by Arena Players April 5-28

JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE – set in 1911, premiered 1986; WILSON CELEBRATION production September 20-October 13  at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

–MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – set in 1927, premiered 1984; WILSON CELEBRATION in March 2025 at ArtsCentric

THE PIANO LESSON – set in 1936, premiered in 1987

SEVEN GUITARS – set in 1948, premiered in 1995

FENCES – set in 1957, premiere 1987

TWO TRAINS RUNNING – set in 1969, premiered 1990

JITNEY – set in 1977, premiere 1982; WILSON CELEBRATION production by Fell’s Point Corner Theatre

KING HEDLEY II – set in 1985, premiered 1999; WILSON CELEBRATION production by Baltimore Center Stage

RADIO GOLF – set in 1990, premiered 2005

An event to launch the BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION will be held on April 21.  Details TBA.

Upon the announcement of the AUGUST WILSON AMERICAN CENTURY CYCLE coming to life on Baltimore stages, a variety of city artist and participants have this to say about BALTIMORE AUGUST WILSON CELEBRATION:

Donald Owens, artistic director of Arena Players quotes from THE GEM OF THE OCEAN, which will kick off the project: “’This is a peaceful house.’ Thus starts the 10-decade August Wilson Cycle.  It is a statement full of irony when you consider the journey across the ocean that includes the death of many.”

Stevie Walker Webb, Baltimore Center Stage artistic director adds,  “Our theater has a long, beautiful history with August Wilson’s work. If we see the American Theatre as a body, then August Wilson is surely its heartbeat. Taking part in this momentous celebration of his work with our sibling theaters, in a city that at times feels so much like the one in his plays, means so much to us here at Baltimore Center Stage.”

Bill Henry, Baltimore City Comptroller states, “I am both enormously excited by and incredibly proud of the upcoming Baltimore August Wilson Celebration. As a Baltimorean, I look forward to this opportunity to enjoy Wilson’s entire Century Cycle of plays over the next few years; as a longtime member of our theatre community, it is heartwarming to see so many of our companies working together to provide our City with this experience.”

Tracie Jiggetts, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Arts Leadership:  “August Wilson’s work feels like home. His stories have helped me shape my artistic journey. Celebrating his work with Baltimore’s amazing theatre community is a dream come true!”

Mecca Verdell, Baltimore poet and teaching artist, “I remember SEVEN GUITARS — the first play I saw at Arena Players when I moved to Baltimore as a teen, I Immediately grew obsessed with seeing Baltimore theater before becoming a part of it!” – Mecca Verdell

Lesley Malin, executive producing director, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company says, “The August Wilson American Century Cycle is one of the greatest triumphs of the stage, an endeavor that has indelibly brought the Black American experience to life in all its richness and power.  I am thrilled that the Baltimore August Wilson Celebration can bring the Baltimore Theatre community together in a unique shared effort and introduce these essential works to a new generation of Baltimore theatre-goers.  I hope Baltimore will be the first of many American cities to honor Wilson’s legacy in this way.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE WEBSITE – https://bmoreaugustwilson.org/

See also:

10 Baltimore theaters will take on 10 August Wilson plays
by John-John Williams IV
Published March 29 in The Baltimore Banner

 

 

The crab causa at Bas Rouge in Easton, Maryland, features a delicate arrangement of lump crabmeat atop layers of avocado and potato. (Christina Tkacik)

Two Maryland chefs and Baltimore’s Clavel advance to finals of James Beard Awards
by Matti Gelman
Published April 3 in The Baltimore Banner

Two Maryland chefs and one Baltimore restaurant advanced Wednesday morning to the finals of the James Beard Awards — a national contest honoring excellence in the culinary industry.

Tony Conte of Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana in Darnestown and Harley Peet of Bas Rouge in Easton will have a chance at winning the foundation’s title of Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, while Clavel Mezcaleria will be considered for Outstanding Bar. The overall winners will be announced June 10 during an awards ceremony at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Clavel co-owner and chef Carlos Raba told The Banner he was overwhelmed by the honor and the responsibility of representing Charm City in Chicago. He described the upcoming trip as a honeymoon for all the people who made sacrifices for the business in the last nine years. Raba said the award is recognition for the restaurant’s service, both to their Remington neighborhood and the broader Baltimore area.

“The success is not only our success, but the city’s success,” he said. “We’re ready to win it.”

Each year, the recognition provided through the foundation’s awards boosts businesses across the country, according to a statement by Dawn Padmore, vice president of awards.

“Despite so many ongoing challenges, this list is a positive reminder of the exceptional talent and dynamism of our industry,” said Tanya Holland, chair of the James Beard Awards Committee, in a statement. “It gives me hope for the future of independent restaurants.”

For the second year in a row, Charleston did not advance to the final round in the Outstanding Hospitality category. The Harbor East restaurant has been nominated several times before, including multiple nods for its chef and co-owner, Cindy Wolf. Alma Cocina Latina’s former executive chef David Zamudio, who received his first semifinalist nomination for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic this year, also did not move on.

Since 1991, the James Beard Awards have celebrated the brightest culinary talents and most formidable restaurants in the industry. Last year, Baltimore produced three semifinalists — Ekiben, Foraged and Charleston — but none advanced to the final round.

The only Baltimore chef to be honored with a James Beard Award was Spike Gjerde in 2015. He founded Woodberry Kitchen, a farm-to-table style restaurant with New American cuisine that has since downsized and taken on the name Woodberry Tavern.

This post will be updated.

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

 

 

Courtesy Stephen Towns Studio

National Portrait Gallery Acquires Stephen Towns Portrait of Joyce J Scott
Press Release :: March 28

Stephen Towns Studio and Goya Contemporary Gallery are pleased to jointly announce the National Portrait Gallery’s recent acquisition of Stephen Towns’ portrait of Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott (b.1948, Baltimore, MD) painted by Baltimore artist Stephen Towns (b. 1980 Lincolnville, SC). The acquisition was made official in February 2024.

Stephen Towns lives and works in Baltimore, MD. He trained as a painter with a BFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina and has also developed a rigorous, self-taught quilting practice. In 2018 the Baltimore Museum of Art presented his first museum exhibition, Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning.. Coincidentally, the exhibition marked the first solo exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art featuring a Black artist since Joyce J. Scott’s Kickin’ It with the Old Masters in 2000.

“Joyce J. Scott is a living legend, not just in Baltimore, but across the nation. Her multidisciplinary practice bears witness to the beauty and brutality of the human condition by way of stunningly crafted objects, and her works place viewers in dialogue with some of our most challenging truths” said Amy Raehse, manager of the Scott Art Trust and Partner at Goya Contemporary Gallery, Scott’s primary representative for over 25 years.

Both Towns and Scott have met with an extraordinary level of success in recent years. In 2023, Towns wrapped a three-city touring solo museum exhibition Declaration & Resistance and released his first monograph of the same name. This summer he will complete a three-month residency at ALMA | LEWIS, and in September Stephen Towns’ Private Paradise: A Figurative Exploration of Black Rest and Recreation will open at the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY. In 2016, Joyce J. Scott was awarded a prestigious MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship, followed by three honorary doctorates.  Her works have entered the top private and public museum collections worldwide. In 2024, among countless other exhibitions, Scott opened a major 50-year traveling museum retrospective co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and Seattle Art Museum.

“I’m so honored to be the subject of Stephen’s painting,” said Joyce J. Scott. “It’s just fabulous. I don’t even know what to say because it’s that good.”

“Joyce is a powerhouse and I wanted to capture her in all of her regal splendor, but also visually signify her rightful position as a leader in the arts” said Stephen Towns.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors, and activists whose lives tell the nation’s story.

 

 

Announcing the three-day 21st CITYLIT FESTIVAL – Dismantling the Culture of Silence on Friday, April 12, Friday, April 19, and daylong on Saturday, April 20th – A Literary Celebration 
Press Release :: April 2

The three-day, 21st CityLit Festival is presented this spring in partnership with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC). The annual signature event tackles the sobering theme Dismantling the Culture of Silence while featuring an extraordinary lineup of local, regional, and national talent, including poet Mahogany L. Browne (Chrome Sky) at the opening poetry event on Friday, April 12at CSC, and novelist Jami Attenberg (1000 Words) teaching a Master Class at Greedy Reads – Remington on Friday, April 19th. The daylong celebration onSaturday, April 20, 2024, returns to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on 1212 Cathedral Street from 9:30 am – 6:30 pm and highlights Emmy-Award-winning author Kwame Alexander (Why Fathers Cry at Night), the 2023 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honoree Mateo Askaripour (Black Buck),and new to Baltimore, R & B musical artist Be Steadwell.

The highly-anticipated festival celebrates the return of a more robust Literary Marketplace and The Village with The Ivy Bookshop serving as the event bookseller. The signature event expands its reach to the West Coast, as CityLit Fest West, in partnership with Scribente Maternum (Writing Mamas) and Hedgebrook, showcasing Angela Garbes and Kristen Millares Young.

Dismantling the Culture of Silence honors readers and writers at a time of record high book banning in public schools and libraries (primarily books by people of color and LGTBQI+ authors), the inevitability of AI in the literary domain, the threat to journalism and its dissemination of information, the freedom to write on unspeakable violence, the reality of historical erasures, and a publishing industry’s tendency to fuel younger authors and rally against the aging. The liveconvening of poets and writers will gather in conversation on these topics and more, the refusal of being silenced at the center of it all.

In recognition of National Poetry Month, the usual, standing-room-only finale opens the festival with “Praising the Mouth That Speaks” with poet, curator Mahogany L. Browne (Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice), the first-ever Poet-in-Residence at the Lincoln Center (NY), and Baltimore’s soulful, musical artist Black Assets. An assembly of poets joining them include BSO’s Wordsmith, Latorial Faison, DewMore Youth Poet Laureate A’niya Taylor, with Alexa Patrick moderating.

“Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is proud to partner with CityLit Project on the kickoff event. Music and poetry have a permanent home on the CSC stage. It is an honor to work with CityLit in their efforts to enrich the artistic culture of this region and beyond,” says Jalen Lee, CSC Communications Manager.

The New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg’s Master Class on 1000 Words, with essays on creativity and productivity from authors like Roxane Gay, and Lauren Groff follows, called “Shut Up & ‘Speak’: Ways to shut down the noise and write your next best thing”. The annual online accountability project #1000WordsofSummer has garnered more than 30,000 followers in a literary movement using a boot camp model, writing 1000 words a day for two weeks.

With limited seating, for $10 the curious will learn from the astute Attenberg, whose works include 1000 Words: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round, The Middlesteins, and whose forthcoming novel is A Reason to See You Again. Kirkus Review dubbed her as the “poet laureate of difficult families.” Register at https://citylitproject.salsalabs.org/clf24master

The daylong portion of the festival returns with an outdoor Literary Marketplace with vendors from small publishers, independent presses, journals, self-published authors, and organizations that offer literary services. Inside the Hall, sessions include 30-minute One-on-One Editorial Critiques with the region’s esteemed authors and editors from different genres that include experimental. The ‘State’ of Baltimore invites respected representatives from a myriad of written and oral media outlets to discuss how we are informed, what to fear, what to demand, and what needs our attention at a time of rapid change, misleading information, waning attention spans, history revisited, and alarming variations of accuracy. CityLit joins the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance in presenting the 2024 Baker Artist finalists and the prestigious 2023 Mary Sawyers Imboden Prize, the top award-winner Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson.

“What an incredible honor it is for Baker Artist Award Literary Finalists to be showcased as part of the CityLit Festival. The breadth of work and unique voices of these writers speaks to the richness of the region’s literary community. Funded by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund and managed by GBCA, the Portfolios provide artists in all disciplines with an international platform for their work,” says Jeannie Howe, Executive Director of Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Included in the wealth of sessions, will be a poetry time travel with Chicory Magazine’s founding editor Melvin Brown, curator Mary Rizzo, and a wide range of Baltimore poets. Trans poets Chrysanthemum, Noah Arhm Choi, and River 瑩瑩 Dandelion read and speak on Creating Living Archives moderated by Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, co-founder of the pop-up Center for Refugee Poetics.

Two runner-up finalists of Maryland Humanities’ One Maryland One Book take the stage at this year’s festival. Susan Muaddi Darraj serves on a panel of six Palestinian American authors in multiple genres, including George Abraham, Najla Said, who will speak On Remembrance: When Words Become Our Strength. Rion Amlicar Scott, contributor of the anthology on craft from Black writers, How We Do It, joins esteemed panelists for the 90-minute craft intensive for anyone interested in honing their craft.

The afternoon convenes with not-to-be-missed sessions as part of The Writer’s Room: Hardy discussions on AI and its inevitability in the publishing and writing terrain with CityLit founder Gregg Wilhelm and Johns Hopkins University Press’ Barbara Kline Pope, and Writing While Aging with novelist and co-founder of the Hurston Wright Foundation Marita Golden and Passager founder Kendra Kopelke, two stalwart supporters of elevating authors in their winter years.

After a day of robust discussions, A Jubilee of a People Dreaming Wildly welcomes Kwame Alexander to discuss Why Father’s Cry at Night, along with his poetry collection This IS the Honey, on “hope, heart, and heritage” from prominent and promising Black poets, celebrating Black life in tender meditations and haunting lyricism. Alexander speaks of how Black History Month is received in terms of “whoa and not wonder,” “of tragedy and not triumph” and why not the beautiful things? Alexander was CityLit’s 2018 Chic Dambach Awardee for his extraordinary literary citizenship. With Grammy in hand, the Newbery Award winner (for The Crossover) takes the stage with four contributing Honey poets.

Mateo Askaripour, whose debut novel, an immediate bestseller, Black Buck, is a cautionary tale that serves as a manual on how to survive as ‘other’ in a corporate world, will speak on reinvention and navigating success with Baltimore’s own D.Watkins. The festival finale spotlights Be Steadwell with roots in jazz, acapella, and folk in Who We Become. She’s a queer pop composer and storyteller whose films have screened in festivals around the world, who has composed songs for Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and who has a forthcoming new album.

This spring marks the 20th year for CityLit Project, after years of garnering national attention from the National Endowment for the Arts, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Foundation, and Amazon Literary Partnership for its ongoing innovative programming, and inclusive, provocative conversations.

“It is remarkable to reflect on CityLit’s 20-year history,” says Dana Harris-Trovato, CityLit Board Chair, “from the visionary work of our founders to our strong, ongoing impact, offering bold and important programming, attracting an international audience, lifting the voices of those traditionally underrepresented in literary spaces, and creating a lively, supportive literary community. We are fully grateful for all those who have helped make this adventure possible.”

In partnership with Hedgebrook, Washington Humanities, and co-founder Scribente Maternum, formed in the pandemic years when the need to support literary mothers birthed a movement drawing every iteration of mother to gather across state borders announces the debut of a West Coast CityLit Fest West in Seattle, Washington. It introduces three sessions: author Angela Garbes, who champions valuing domestic work (Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change) on The Work That Makes All Other Work Possible; multi-talented journalist (and singer!) Kristen Millares Young, (Subduction) in How to Write a Family Portrait, and the Write Like a Mother Panel Discussion and Social that includes poet Amber Flame, (apocrifa) and journalist Maggie Mertens (the forthcoming Better Faster Farther: How Running Changed Everything We Know About Women). For detailed information on free and fee-based sessions, visit:https://www.scribentematernum.com/upcoming-events

This year’s festival aims to move away from the hidden shadows of challenging topics while enjoying the fellowship that comes with elevating literature. While in three days significant territory is covered, CityLit is ever-mindful of what’s missing from these unspoken silences, including the burgeoning muting of women and rights to their bodies, the often-deafening silence that lives within families on mental illness, addiction, and domestic violence, and the magnitude of the incarcerated.

While CityLit can’t carry it all, we can and will continue to shed light on concepts designed to break us, to find favor or dismay in topics that force us to look in new ways at old thoughts, and to lessen our impetus to act without a larger understanding. CityLit asks you to revisit the why and rethink the way we are bound to old and unquestionable histories. We stand in alliance with the words of poet Nikki Giovanni, “… while language is a gift, listening is a responsibility.”

Joyful Signing – ASL services are provided by our partner Baltimore National Heritage Area.  Baltimore Children & Youth Fund amplified our outreach to young adults. We remain forever thankful to the many sponsors of this event who are specifically named on our flyer and program. The Festival is FREE and attracts readers and writers from across the nation, allowing attendees to engage fully and purchase books. Pre-registration is required for the One-on-One, 30-minute Editorial Critiques ($10) and the Master Class ($10). Masks remain optional. Information will continue to be posted and updated on the website throughout the month: Visit citylitproject.org.

 

 

Brittney Spencer performs at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, on Feb. 9. (Keith Griner/Getty Images)

Brittney Spencer’s country music journey from Baltimore to Beyoncé
by Al Shipley
Published April 1 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: There is no shortage of impressive guest stars on “Cowboy Carter,” the 27-track country music-inspired album Beyoncé dropped Friday. One just happens to be from Baltimore.

Among features by Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Miley Cyrus, you’ll find Maryland native Brittney Spencer on “Blackbiird,” a cover of the Beatles classic, alongside fellow rising Black female country artists Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts.

It was the recent release of Beyoncé’s first country single, the chart-topping “Texas Hold ’Em,” that had Spencer interested to see what one of the most popular Black women in music could accomplish in the genre.

See also:

Brittney Spencer Named One of Spotify’s “Hot Country Artists to Watch”
by Lauren LaRocca
Published February 10, 2021 in Baltimore Magazine

 

 

The Made in Baltimore market was part of Artscape 2023. Baltimore's Artscape festival returned in September 2023 after a three-year hiatus. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Artscape will return to Midtown and Station North in 2024; 11 new members join BOPA board of directors
by Ed Gunts
Published March 29 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Artscape 2024 will take place in essentially the same area as it did last year – Baltimore’s Mount Royal Cultural District and the Station North Arts District.

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) has raised $135,000 from private sources so far to produce the event on Aug. 2 to 4.

City officials have decided not to automatically renew BOPA’s multi-year contract to serve as the city’s events producer, arts council and film office, but they are willing to talk about a possible future contract that reflects the vision and objectives of the current mayoral administration. The existing contract, negotiated during the term of former Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, will expire June 30.

 

 

Leo Kahl's winning entry in "Preakness: The Art of Racing," entitled "First Turn"

Winner of Preakness art contest announced
by Aliza Worthington
Published April 2 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The winner of “Preakness: The Art of Racing” art contest was revealed to be Leo Kahl, with his original artwork entitled “First Turn.”

The nationwide art competition celebrates the unique elements of The Preakness Stakes and Thoroughbred horse racing. The winner was chosen by a panel of judges, and the contest had hundreds of submissions to consider.

The announcement came at an honorary ceremony in the Brown Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Tonya Miller Hall, Senior Advisor of Arts and Culture for the City of Baltimore, attended to represent Mayor Brandon Scott. MICA’s dignitaries also appeared, as did Park Height’s City Council representatives and 1/ST RACING leadership.

 

 

Ucu Agustimi, center with fan, at the Baltimore Pride Parade in June. (Federal Hill Photography; LLC)

City seeks to terminate contract with The Pride Center of Maryland
by Mark Reutter
Published March 28 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Recovery Programs has taken the unusual step of calling for the termination of an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant to The Pride Center of Maryland.

Best known for sponsoring the annual Baltimore Pride celebration that attracts thousands of participants, as well as leading city and state politicians, PCOM failed to document how it spent a $500,000 grant for violence prevention education and outreach.

In a detailed eight-page letter by Chief Recovery Officer Shamiah T. Kerney, PCOM is accused of “repeatedly failing to collect and submit required documentation to validate reported performance data for the project.”

See also:

Baltimore ends $500K grant with Pride Center of Maryland over reporting issues
by Adam Willis
Published April 3 in The Baltimore Banner

 

 

The Pride Center of Maryland Has Never Wavered in its Commitment to Serve and Represent the Same Gender Loving Community
Press Release :: March 29

The Pride Center of Maryland (PCOM) has experienced tremendous growth in its programs, initiatives, and offerings for the public. We take great pride in reflecting the community that we serve and being the number one resource for those looking for health and wellness resources, programming, assistance programs, testing options, and more. In the last four years, our organization has grown from a staff of three to forty. We have served over 300,000 people. We host one of the largest PRIDE events in the mid-Atlantic, with more than 150,000 attendees. PCOM’s digital reach is about 30,000 per year. Our organization’s main focus has been in the areas of empowerment, harm reduction, violence intervention, trauma-informed care, and clinical resources for the LGBTQ+/SGL (same-gender-loving) community. We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far, and we look forward to doing even more in these areas in the months and years to come.

Recently, some of our reporting practices have been called into question. While we acknowledge that some of our reporting needed improvement due to rapid growth, we have worked earnestly on corrective action. We have hired a dedicated Data Manager who is committed to rectifying any data-related issues and resolving any outstanding items. This demonstrates our unwavering commitment to quality work in the community while also fulfilling the reporting requirements of our funders.

We realize that simply doing great work for the community isn’t enough – that we also have to be equally great in reporting that work back to our funders in responsible and transparent ways. Our commitment to transparency is unwavering, and we are dedicated to ensuring our reporting practices are clear and accurate.

Our desire as an organization is to continue the valuable work, we have been doing in creating awareness, providing resources, testing, and providing additional support for the LGBTQ+/ SGL community while also being transparent about allocating resources and its direct impact on the community we serve.

 

 

"Etched in Light" (2024), Cassils's participatory cyanotype performance outside the National Mall on March 31, 2024 (photo by Ashley J. Mitchell, courtesy the artist)

Activists Create Life-Sized Cyanotype in Trans Solidarity Action
by Zoe Dutton
Published April 1 in Hyperallergic

Excerpt: More than a hundred trans, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ artists gathered on the National Mall on Sunday, March 31 to create one of the world’s largest cyanotypes, entitled “Etched in Light.” Artist Cassils led the participatory visual art and sonic performance, supported by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and soundtracked by a score of vocal invocations from the musical collective Blood Is Here.

“This is a site of revolutionary action, from the March on Washington in 1963 to the Civil Rights movement to the Farm Workers movement and women’s liberation and gender equality,” Cassils, who is based in Los Angeles, told Hyperallergic. “You can feel that. This performance here on Trans Day of Visibility is an act that both shows our collective power and feeds this regenerative, beautiful, and healing space for those involved.”

Participants lay perfectly still on the cyanotype tarp for the duration of the performance, soothed by the incoherent keening and murmurs of circling blue-and-white clad singers, before rising together to wash the cloth in a developing tray and reveal the outlines of their bodies.

 

 

header image: Joyce J. Scott portrait acquired by National Portrait Gallery, Courtesy Stephen Towns Studio

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