Surprises and Innovations Abound for the 2014 Baker Artist Awards.

This year the Citypaper’s Best Of Visual Arts included a Best-Kept Secret: Baker Artist Award Jurors, which poked fun of the foundation’s secretive award practices, which may seem at odds with their public mission of visibility for Baltimore artists. Apparently someone at Baker paid attention to the blurb, which said, “We honestly don’t care if they hire psychics or draw names out of a hat, the Baker Artist Awards give over $80,000 a year directly to Baltimore artists: The end justifies the means.” Although the suggestion was probably not intended seriously, the folks at the Baker Artist Awards have proven they have an excellent sense of humor. In response to their ‘Best Of’ critique, two artists who nominate themselves early for the 2014 Baker Awards will be randomly chosen ‘out of a hat’ on November 1, 2013 and December 1, 2013 to receive cash awards of $250 each. These ‘Wild Card’ Winners will get an award  just for participating in the artist registry.

The timing is not a coincidence. As of October 1, 2013, nominations are now officially open for the sixth annual Baker Artist Awards. This means that if you are a visual or performing artist living in Baltimore City or the five surrounding counties, you have no reason NOT to nominate yourself. The application is absolutely FREE and you get a professionally designed online profile which is browsed by thousands of curators, collectors, critics, gallery directors, and other artists from around the world.

This year the Baker Artist Awards will give out $90,000.00 to participating artists and – best of all – no artists from DC, PA, VA or the outskirts of Maryland can apply! This award and website is all about promoting Baltimore’s creative community and, according to Baker’s website, “The prizes are designed to support and advance the careers of all nominees, the metropolitan arts community, and Baltimore’s image as a creative community.”

Although there is no other foundation that gives anywhere close to this amount to Baltimore’s creative class, the organization has had critics of various aspects of their process. In response, the Baker Awards, which are managed by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA), have made a few changes this year to improve the process.

One major adjustment is that B-grant awards will be increased from $1,000 to $5,000 this year, but the number given out will be reduced. According to the Baker Artist Awards, this year “Up to three b-grant prizes will be awarded to recognize both emerging artists and established artists exploring new directions.” I’m not exactly sure what ‘new directions’ connotes, but it suggests that the awards may branch out from awards to traditional practitioners to more experimental projects.

Other changes will be the timing of the annual BMA exhibit for the Mary Sawyers Baker Awards. Because of the new construction going on at the museum, the exhibit will open on February 26, 2014, which is later than past exhibits. Other changes for this year’s Baker Awards: MICA’s M.F.A. in Curatorial Practice program will work with GBCA to curate the exhibit of b-grant winners. Let’s let the energetic, young curators take a stab at this one, which can be a lumpy collision of performance, visual art, and other types of media. This year, the Curatorial Practice group will “develop, design, and present an art exhibition and two full weeks of public programs in Station North highlighting the diverse range of artistic practices and cultural influences these artists reflect.” This all sounds promising.



I am sure that most readers are familiar with the Baker Artist Awards, but if not, it’s time to do so. Here’s the skinny:

* Up to three Mary Sawyers Baker prizes of up to $25,000 each are awarded annually to celebrate a dedication to art, mastery of craft, and a commitment to excellence. The awards are funded by The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.

* Nominations for the 2014 Mary Sawyers Baker Prize and b-grant awards opens October 1, 2013 and closes at 11:59 PM on January 15, 2014.

* The Mary Sawyers Baker selection process will be conducted by a private jury of local and national multidisciplinary arts experts.

* The Baker Artist Awards are open to artists who are at least 21 years old and have been a legal resident of the Baltimore region since October 1, 2012. The Baltimore region is defined as: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County.

* The Baker Artist Awards are intended for individual artists and groups of artists working as a collective. Artists working in any discipline or multiple disciplines are eligible to win Mary Sawyers Baker and b-grant prizes. Organizations and venues are not eligible.

* If you have participated in the Baker Artist Awards in the past, all it takes is a click or two to re-nominate yourself for 2014. All your uploaded information from the past year’s competition has been saved, but you will need to go to the site in order to sign up for this year’s go-round. Also, updating your images and CV couldn’t hurt.

Official Baker Artist Awards information is listed below.

About The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance: The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance nurtures and promotes a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable arts and cultural community embraced by all as accessible, relevant, and essential to the region’s quality of life. GBCA connects artists and groups to one another and to vital resources and advocates for the strategic issues facing the cultural community and the continued visibility and financial strength of the sector.

About Mary Sawyers Baker: Mary Sawyers Baker, one of Baltimore’s early philanthropists, studied voice as a young girl in Paris and embraced the arts throughout her life. She established the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund in 1964 to honor her husband, a well-known Baltimore civic leader. In 2007, the Fund narrowed its philanthropic mission to focus exclusively on arts and culture. The Mary Sawyers Baker Prize was established in 2008.

About The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund: The William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund commits its resources to enhance the region’s economy and quality of life by making investments in arts and culture. Its grants support artistic and cultural organizations and their partners through initiatives that enhance an individual’s sense of self and pleasure and make Baltimore a more attractive place to live and work.