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Putting Baltimore artists on the MAP for 35 years

"Putting Baltimore artists on the MAP for 35 years"

By Neil Kenworthy, Staff Writer on October October 12, 2016 | Baltimore Watchdog

 

In the late 1990s, Mina Cheon went from place to place searching for a gallery in the Baltimore area to display a new large-scale project she called “SCI-ART.”

After hearing good things about the Maryland Art Place, Cheon decided to meet with some of the board members to set up an exhibition.

More than 15 years later, the South Korean-born artist is still on display at MAP, a not-for-profit organization for the visual arts and creative community on Baltimore’s west side.

“I’ve worked with Maryland Art Place since 1999,” Cheon said. “I love being part of this.”

Cheon’s 10-foot tall “Pink Diamond” sculpture, which is part of a series she began with her husband Gabriel Kroiz in 2007, illuminates the inside of MAP’s front window and is part of the organization’s 35-year anniversary exhibition.

The celebration began last Thursday evening, when MAP opened its doors for the “soft” debut of the anniversary exhibition, which features 35 of the most influential artists that have worked with MAP over the years.

The organization is hosting an open house this Sunday where the community is invited to view the five-floor exhibit as well as meet the artists and creative businesses hosted by MAP.

MAP’s 35-year anniversary opening night was an appreciation of the past with an eye on the future. Both former and current members of MAP’s staff and board gathered to celebrate the journey.

“I’m just amazed that [MAP] is still here,” said Glorian Dorsey, MAP’s first president. “I was always worried because we would move from one [building] to the next and it was always by the skin of our teeth, but I’m delighted.”

Amy Cavanaugh Royce, the organization’s executive director said, MAP purchased the 20,000-square-foot venue on Saratoga Street in 1988 before its board decided in 1999 to move to Power Plant Live.

After spending almost 15 years at Power Plant Live, MAP permanently moved back to its Saratoga Street venue in 2014, the group’s website said.

The move back to Saratoga Street coincided with Maryland economic development officials’ decision in 2012 to create the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District. The district is designed to help revitalize downtown’s west side by filling vacant storefronts and attracting other artists to the area through tax benefits, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“We were already planning to move back [to the Saratoga Street venue],” Royce said. “But with the creation of the Bromo [Tower] Arts and Entertainment District… it gave us that final push.”

Serving 3,000 to 4,000 artists while displaying 400 to 500 artists in galleries every year, MAP has played an intricate part in Baltimore’s cultural community, Royce said.

Christopher Janian, the president of MAP’s board of trustees, said the organization gives artists a platform to display their work while also introducing city residents to innovative paintings, sculptures, photographs and other forms of artistic expression.

MAP does this, Janian said, through various events, such as its Out-of-Order Spring shows in which wall space is completely open to anybody.

“Right now, [MAP] is pretty much an organization of firsts,” Janian said. “Sometimes it’s an artists’ first piece they’ve shown and its sometimes a patrons’ first art purchase. We’re really proud of what we’re doing right now and hope to expand.

While the first floor of MAP currently houses its anniversary exhibition, the building also has exhibits on the third and fifth floors.

Among the more interesting features of MAP, the 14Karat Cabaret is located in the basement. This is an ongoing set of music, dance and film performances in an informal nightclub setting.

The 14Karat Cabaret is currently working on obtaining a liquor license by Oct. 16 to get it back to being fully functional, Royce said.

To maintain a creative environment, artists also live in the building.

“It’s a whole building,” Royce said. “We’ve basically spent the last two years making sure everyone who moves into the building is creative. We have a hip-hop music producer on the second floor; we have a fashion designer on the second floor; seven studio artists on the third floor… They’re all here.”

One of those tenants, Carlyn Thomas, was a former MAP intern who is now co-directing and co-curating galleries on the third floor with Brooks Kossover. Their artist-run gallery, Terrault Contemporary, is not affiliated with MAP but is hosted by the organization.

After moving into the building in July, Thomas and Kossover were able to completely build out their gallery space. In the first room on the left on the third floor, Terrault Contemporary extended the walls, installed new lighting and redid the floors, Thomas said.

The month-and-a-half building project was in preparation to house artist Pete Cullen’s “Quincux” gallery, which opened Saturday through Terrault Contemporary.

Among MAP’s key contributors is former Marine Greg Lamberson, who is responsible for renovations on every floor of MAP’s building, Royce said.

Royce said patrons who visit Sunday’s open house will get a chance to meet the members, friends and contributors of MAP.

“The biggest thing about MAP is that I might be the director, and there were directors before me, but this organization run by a lot of people,” Royce said. “A lot of volunteer hours, a lot of sweat, a good board and founders who still come back today.”

 

Published by the Baltimore Watchdog

Maryland Art Place to celebrate anniversary by showing off its historic home

"Maryland Art Place to celebrate anniversary by showing off its historic home"

By Jacques Kelly on October 7, 2016 | The Baltimore Sun

Floor-model radios, wood console televisions and Victrolas that spun vinyl records once filled the plate glass windows of 218 W. Saratoga Street in downtown Baltimore.

With its high ceilings, broad floors and a freight elevator big enough for pianos, the store was well known as the place to fill your home with music. That's what makes this building a perfect showroom for Maryland Art Place, the gallery and studio for visual artists.

"I fell in love with this building the day I saw it," said Amy Cavanaugh Royce, executive director of Maryland Art Place. "And this block of Saratoga Street, too. It's the most New York-looking block in Baltimore. I have family in Manhattan and it was nostalgic to me."

Maryland Art Place will celebrate its 35th anniversary Oct. 16 with a building-wide open house from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The event will be an opportunity to see a fascinating transformation of a structure that began in 1907 as the Erlanger underwear factory.

By 1921, it was Peabody Piano Co. showrooms, where you could also buy Victor-brand records and their players, Victrolas.

As technology changed, radios arrived. Many of the early receivers were built here by the Johnson brothers, who owned the property for decades and sold their televisions here, too. The Johnsons cultivated a carriage trade and made space available for the Martinet ticket agency, which sold opera and concert tickets.

There is a philanthropic footnote to 218 W. Saratoga. In 1928, prominent merchant Aaron Straus acquired this property as an investment in the heart of a then-thriving business district. When he died in 1958, Straus left $6 million to local charities.

When Maryland Art Place arrived here in 1986, it was the first property the organization owned. There were exhibition spaces on three floors.

"It's a cavernous building. It has its own aura," said Royce. "I began walking around the back stairwells and the basement and it grew on me."

Three decades plus later, artists fill the former factory and a members gallery is being built.

"We have the majority of the building leased and are keeping all leases based in arts and culture. We have a bright future," Royce said. "We are feeling it."

When Maryland Art Place moved in, its timing may have been ahead of a current downtown arts renaissance. It was certainly years ahead of the neighborhood's designation as the Bromo Arts District.

"The feeling was that some of our members were afraid to come to Saratoga Street for night openings," she said. "We moved the gallery to the harbor — and we now have moved all permanent operations back to Saratoga. We are coming out of a fog and into a rebirth of the organization."

Jordan Faye Block, a Chicago-born artist and curator, has her own contemporary gallery on the fifth floor.

"The view of downtown Baltimore here is spectacular," she said, looking out a large window. "It's my own special perch. I've been in different locations, in a Federal Hill library, at the old Load of Fun on North Avenue and in Clipper Mill. This one here on Saratoga is the best."

Block said that when she rented a nearby Park Avenue apartment, she began noticing a change in the area.

The Mount Vernon Market and Ceremony coffee shop, which opened last year, represented a signal of promising things to come, she said.

Royce agrees, saying, "I like the energy of downtown and its west side. It's got a heartbeat."

She thinks the building may have a heartbeat too, or at least a living presence. "The artists here fantasize about a ghost," she said.

Could be. In 1924, a man named William Dashner fell down the elevator shaft. He lived, but pursued "quite a lawsuit," said Royce. Perhaps he comes back on occasion to operate the elevator.

"The elevator loves to take people to the basement," Royce said.

Copyright 2016, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication.

An Interview with Young Blood (2016) Artist Tom Boram

An Interview with Young Blood (2016) Artist Tom Boram

By Vinny Castro and Celeste Taylor. Edited by Rayne O’May

Young Blood has provided an important post-graduate platform for 72 transitioning Masters of Fine Arts students to date. Since 2008, this program has continually brought recent graduates together to make new connections and present special selections from their thesis exhibitions. 

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Tell us about yourself.

Tom Boram: I’m Tom. I am a musician that started playing music and engaging in the Baltimore music scene about 20 years ago. Slowly over the years I evolved into doing performance art, and gradually video work. I went to film school and now I am in the UMBC MFA art program. So I’ve done a lot of different work and now I am in graduate school. I had an idea that my thesis project would be something that would synthesize everything that I’ve done so far. Musically, I’ve been interested in building synthesizers and working with hardware and programming. That met up with my film-making desire-- my desire to write for the screen. So everything-- programming, music, video, and writing, combined together.

“I’ve been spread thin my whole life. I’m a dabbler; I always experiment and I’m always cross-platform.”

Most students go into their MFA expecting to do one thing and then come out doing another. Having your expectations flipped is sometimes the most valuable thing that can happen to you in graduate school. You’re told to expect one thing and then generally when you come out it’s something completely different. Did you have experiences like that?

Tom: I’ve been spread thin my whole life. I’m a dabbler; I always experiment and I’m always cross-platform. I meet people who are very, very good at one thing, and I get jealous of that sometimes. But I know that’s not me. My father was a huge inspiration for me because he was the renaissance man, so to speak. People used to make fun of me about it because I would say, “Yeah, my dad is a tennis instructor; he has three black belts in karate; he has a masters in psychology; he played in a rock band; he went and studied french horn at Peabody.” And he’s restored MGs and a Jaguar. It sounds kind of crazy and people say, “You’re full of shit. Your dad didn’t do all that stuff”, but he did. At the same time, he’s just a dabbler. That’s what I am too. In my thesis, I write a lot about synthesis and the idea of synthesis sort of being a form that is a combination of other forms. That comes up a lot.

“I realized I was just adopting a genre, which is the genre of irony.”

I’m very curious about your feelings regarding artist business, such as promoting yourself and your identity. The constant struggle of “can I just identify as an artist? or do I have to be something very specific?” You went through many incarnations to get where you are today. Do you struggle with explaining that to the public?

Tom: I don’t because I’m not very aggressive about promotion. I’m sort of a purist. I really have to believe something is good. If everybody liked something that I did but I didn’t think it was good, I wouldn’t care. It would have to be good, and if people liked it then it would be satisfying, but it would have to be good first. So my skill, or my identity as an artist is just going to be whatever it has accumulated up to this point. I’m not a virtuoso or naturally a superb performer at a certain thing. It’s just a hybrid.

By far, your work is the most playful and nostalgic out of all. You’re referencing Star Trek, which could be interpreted as nostalgia. You’re taking a pop cultural icon. When we were at the opening you were talking about how the piece is almost this library of tropes. Where does the line between homage start and satire end? Obviously you wouldn’t have done this entire piece if you did not have a special place in your heart for the TV series but does it concern you that sometimes this could be read as just an ironic take and nothing else? And does that bother you?

Tom: Not really. I read an interesting article in the New York Times when I was writing my thesis. It was about Banky’s Dismaland, and basically what it was saying was that irony is the contemporary kitsch. So basically, when we see something like the original Star Trek or Lawrence Welk, we say that’s kitsch because the tropes they represent look so aged. Obviously this is sort of a niche art thing. In the case of Lawrence Welk, it was anachronistic because it was meant for people who were older at the time. To a teenager watching Lawrence Welk, you’re like “This is completely ridiculous! This is stupid. I want nothing to do with this. This is for old people.” With Star Trek it’s kind of similar because it’s the original Star Trek. It’s like, “We’re universal”. This is the future but it’s cardboard, and you see the string. That model is probaby 13 inches across, and I can see the monofilament and then it has this whole idea of a post-racial future and it’s very corny. Of course Captain Kirk is very corny. So that’s kitsch. I read Clement Greenberg’s essay that he did before he was even famous. He wrote it in the 30s, and it was called "Avant-Garde and Kitsch". It says that the avant garde is the forefront and kitsch is the opposite. So if avant garde is the cutting edge, then kitsch is the blunt edge. So kitsch is also mechanical. If you transpose that to this idea of irony, Greenberg was saying--which I totally agree with--that irony for my generation, Gen X, is the very cynical generation. The Millennials not so much, but Millennials still have this kind of snarky, cynical thing. Basically, it’s a knee jerk reaction-- most people, when they engage in a writing project, especially if it’s something that is comedic like Dismaland, are going to be very snarky. For me as I was writing this piece, there were parts that imply that the captain is a genocidal maniac. The telepath is generally looked at as being the spiritual character, but in my piece this telepath is basically an idiot. So it’s this sort of sarcastic piece and I realised that because I’m dealing with form and it’s formal. It’s very formal. I realized I was just adopting a genre, which is the genre of irony. The more I got into the piece I realized I was approaching irony at a distance. So I don’t really care. If someone thinks that it’s all about snark, then they’re kinda missing the point. It’s about the form, and snark is a contemporary form.

I would love to see a Steadford and Wives version of this by the way.

Tom: I’m going to do a Seinfeld kind of thing. I want to do a sitcom. I think I answered your question.

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Tom Boram is a multi-faceted artist living in Baltimore with his wife and son. His piece in MAP’s 2016 exhibition Young Blood, titled Star Trick: The Next Iteration, is a DIY Rube Goldberg machine version of a “gesamtkunstwerk,” a synthesis of the artist’s creative interests over the last 15 years. Tom’s works involve awkward and over-complicated systems that make strange noises and/or endless television drama nonsense.

Meet EMULSION 2016 Juror Amy Cavanaugh Royce

Meet EMULSION 2016 Juror Amy Cavanaugh Royce
By Eric Hope on January 11, 2016 | East City Art

Attention artists—it is time to dust off your portfolios—EMULSION 2016 is right around the corner! Although the exhibition opens in April, the application period for this year’s competition is currently underway, closing February 15, 2016. Competition will be intense for the $1,500 top prize (EMULSION 2015 had over 240 entries), and picking the first place winner will be jurist Amy Cavanaugh Royce, Executive Director of Maryland Art Place located in downtown Baltimore, MD. I recently sat down with her to discuss her arts background and approach to jurying exhibitions.

Though her name might be new to some readers, Royce has been intimately involved in the regional arts scene for a number of years. Trained as a classical cellist, Royce spent the early part of her arts career touring and cutting albums. In 2004 when the nomadic lifestyle lost its appeal, she parlayed her skills into a position with Arch Development Corporation as its Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Among her many accomplishments at ARCH was the opening of the Honfleur Gallery in 2007, the first of its kind in historic Anacostia. While Honfleur’s beginnings were humble, “we had the soft opening and still didn’t have electricity,” Royce reminisces, today, Honfleur has firmly established itself as one of the area’s leading galleries showcasing emerging and mid-career DC-based, national and international artists.

During her time at ARCH Royce purchased a home in Baltimore and instantly became another I-295 commuter; you can imagine what her days were like. With a growing family at home, she turned her sights on Baltimore-based employment and in 2012 landed the top executive spot at the Maryland Art Place in the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District. The organization, now entering its 35th year, works to showcase Maryland-based artists through a robust exhibition calendar and a variety of arts-related community programming.

The permanent home of Maryland Art Place. MAP occupies the first two floors and leases out the rest of the space to artists and creative businesses. One major accomplishment at MAP thus far—and the one that took the most energy—was to move the organization back into its permanent home on Saratoga Avenue. The organization owns the entire five story building, using the first two floors for its own programming while renting out studio space to artists and creative businesses upstairs.  With 20,000 square feet devoted to art, Royce sees the building as a true incubation space; MAP’s programming bears this out. Occupying the visual landscape between museum and commercial gallery, MAP’s goal is to place emerging and mid-career artists in the spotlight with professionally-staged exhibitions and related programming. She notes that Baltimore has more “DIY” spaces than commercial galleries and MAP fills a crucial niche between those two models. 

Royce’s passion for the visual arts is palpable, and while her tasks these days may lean more towards the administrative, she relishes the opportunity to curate and jury (in fact, a juried show of Maryland artists opens at MAP later this month). Since she has been focused on the Baltimore area for the last several years, she is really looking forward to this opportunity to connect with artists in the DC area as well as Northern Virginia. Professionally, it is an excellent opportunity to, “stay on top the pulse of what people are creating,” throughout the region. Royce notes that a lot of the art being produced in Baltimore these days has a very experimental quality to it, which she attributes to the city’s DIY ethos of exhibiting. She is keen to find out if there are subtle differences across the region in how artists are approaching their work. In our conversation, Royce is quick to note that jurying and curating, while complimentary, are not the same tasks. When curating, she often has time to spend one-on-one with an artist in discussions about their work. If working with multiple artists, often around a particular theme, she is often searching for a sense of balance or examining connected threads between works. For her, jurying is slightly more formulaic in that her task becomes more one of ranking each entry based upon a rubric. Cohesion between works is far less of a concern since there isn’t a central theme (that is one reason why juried shows tend to display such a whirlwind of ideas). That is actually good news for prospective entrants. Portfolios are evaluated not on whether they “fit” a particular theme but on their own merit.

Because she will not have one-on-one, individual critiques with each artists, Royce shared two key considerations with me when she reviews the EMULSION 2016 entries. First, the quality of the images will be critical. EMULSION uses an online application, so Royce will be viewing images versus experiencing the works first-hand in a studio. Portfolios that contain crisp, appropriately-lit images are going to give her a better sense of the artist’s work; if the images are blurry, it is likely that applicant will be out of the running. Secondly, she advises that artists spend time composing an artist statement that accurately portrays the thoughts behind their work. It does not need to be verbose or jargon-filled, but it does need to be descriptive. “Convey what you need to convey and say what you need to say,” Royce notes, adding, “if I have questions [about your ideas] that I can’t answer, you might pushed to the side.”

In closing our interview, Royce highlighted that she’s looking forward to diving into the entry pool without preconceived notions. Whether your work hangs on the wall, sits on the floor or takes the shape of performance she is keen to see your work. For her—and art lovers of all stripes—it is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the region’s visual artists. For those artists, it’s a chance to take home a nice cash prize. Just remember her final mantra: image quality!

EMULSION 2016 runs April 9 through April 16, 2016 with an opening on April 9 at Gallery O on H. The entry deadline is Monday, February 15 at 11:59pm. For more information and complete entry prospectus, visit the EMULSION website for more info.

Our Mission

Maryland Art Place (MAP) inspires, supports, and encourages artistic expression through innovative programming, exhibitions, and educational opportunities while recognizing the powerful impact art can have on our community. MAP creates a dynamic environment for artists of our time to engage the public by nurturing and promoting new ideas. MAP has served as a critical resource for contemporary art in the Mid-Atlantic since 1981.

Contact Us

Phone: 410.962.8565
E-mail: map@mdartplace.org