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A Look into MPT’s Artworks Series, on the eve of Season Two by Cara Ober

Artists love to complain about a lack of press coverage. Usually, they’re on target because the amount of news-worthy, creative projects far outweighs the abilities or resources of the media outlets in this town. However, what if I told you that there’s a local source for high quality art documentaries airing once a week on the local public television station? Seriously, what media is more effective or provides a better understanding of a visual practice than solidly edited footage of the artist in action? Hearing an artist eruditely discuss their ideas over images of their projects doesn’t hurt either. If this sounds too good to be true, like an Art:21-induced hallucination, then you have never watched Artworks, Maryland Public Television’s weekly art series on Thursdays at 8:30 pm.

Let’s get one thing straight: Artworks features artists from across the country, not just from Baltimore. However, Baltimore artists are featured pretty regularly: each Baker Award Winner gets their own documentary, the Baker Awards are broadcast live from MPT, and there are usually several other Baltimore-based artists, musicians, and performers in the mix. Chances are good that, if you watch Artworks regularly, you’ll see several artists you know from Smalltimore and will be introduced to a number of interesting new artists from across the country.

The series originated in 2012, and comes from a national consortium of public television stations; each films their own mini-documentaries. The segments on Maryland artists are filmed by MPT, and includes short documentaries produced for the Baker Artist Awards as well as other programming.  Most MPT-produced artist segments feature the artists speaking candidly about their work and process, so there are no voice-overs in the 5-7 minute documentaries. Some of the artist segments are produced by independent producers and showcase their filmmaking artistry as well.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 9.45.04 AMHost Rhea Feikin and Guest Co-Host Kwame Kwei-Armah

After the segments are produced, the New York flagship PBS station, WNET, curates each episode, so that it features a geographically diverse selection of  artists in each half hour segment. Additionally, each episode is edited to maximize a variety of media and content. For example, if a photographer from Baltimore is featured, there won’t be a second segment on a different photographer. Each program features artists from a number of different fields, both emerging and established, and includes performers, musicians, visual artists, writers, designers, artisans, as well as artists who create interdisciplinary works and hybrid forms that resist definition.

In order to personalize each segment, MPT creates a local introduction for each show, where regular host Rhea Feikin and a local Guest Co-Host briefly discuss each artist on the program. Season One guest host Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director at Center Stage, is pictured with Feikin above. Season two will feature guest hosts Stephen Yasko from WTMD Radio, Megan Hamilton from the Creative Alliance, Peggy Loar from the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College, Gerald Ross from MICA, Julia Marciari-Alexander from The Walters Art Museum, and Vincent M. Lancisi from the Everyman Theater.       

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Locally produced segments from MPT’s Season One of Artworks were included in Episode 101, which featured aerial photographer and Mary Sawyers Baker Award Winner Alexander Heilner, and Episode 112 on the Baltimore Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. The Baker Artist Award Special aired on May 2, 2013 and featured Jeannie Howe of the GBCA and a number of Baltimore artists including Jon Latiano, Dariusz Skoraczewski and Lynn Parks.

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This Thursday, September 26, Artworks’ Second Season will premiere with a feature on Jonathan Latiano, a 2013 Mary Sawyers Baker Award Winner, to explore his unique brand of site-specific installation. The recent MICA MFA Graduate creates dramatic optical illusions that rival natural processes and appear to have generated themselves.

If you want to prep for the Season Two Premiere, you can binge on all of Season One online at MPT right here:  mpt.org/artworks.

Author Cara Ober is the Editor of Bmoreart and a Baltimore-based artist, curator, and writer.