This season, BmoreArt will feature Top Ten Lists of 2014 from a number of our contributors in a range of art, culture, media, design, events, pop culture, and anything else they care to include.
Will Holman is a writer, designer, and project coordinator for the Baltimore Arts Realty Company. His first book, Guerilla Furniture Design, is out from Storey Publishing in March, 2015. Follow him: @objectguerilla. Will’s 2014 List includes fine art, design, architecture, and innovative ideas from Baltimore and beyond.
The new bus stop at the Creative Alliance, created by Spanish collective mmmm…., was financed by a transatlantic grant program funded in part by Spain’s government and partly by Baltimore’s own Office of the Promotion of the Arts. Three huge letters of wood and steel, spelling out B-U-S, are sharply articulated against the brick wall of the Patterson. It is bold, obvious, and beautiful. This kind of project – community-driven, cross-disciplinary, and useful — should happen more often.
The Baltimore Water Wheel appeared at the outlet of the Jones Falls sometime last spring, floating on two pontoons linked to a floating funnel. Engineered and built locally by Clearwater Mills, the fabric carapace was designed by Ziger Snead Architects. The result is a post-apocalyptic Jean Tinguely sculpture that eats trash. The beast tweets, and video of it went (somewhat) viral, a welcome rebuttal to the images of a graffiti-tagged deer in Baltimore circulating around the Internet around the same time.
This summer, the Station North Tool Library opened up their Public Workshop, a fully-equipped woodshop in the back of their space. Take a safety class for $25 and work all you want for free on Sundays and Tuesday nights, or rent the place out for $75 a day. I’ve built two tables there, and found it to be a great antidote to my lack of studio space.
(Full disclosure: I work with the Tool Library on development planning)
I moved back to Baltimore a little over a year ago, after five years in other cities. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few new breweries had popped up in the meantime. The labels stood on crowded craft beer shelves, with a spare aesthetic and stripped-down colors that would satisfy even legendary designer Milton Glaser.
In the new year, determined to prototype a project with a novel process, I took an 3-hour workshop in digital fabrication at the Baltimore Fab Lab, housed at CCBC Essex. Several visits (and several broken bits later), I had a new chair that finally worked. The staff was patient with my mistakes, and helped me optimize the design for efficient cutting. The cut file has now been downloaded over a thousand times – and you can download it for free and cut your own at Baltimore Fab Lab.
FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture
Sexual assault is having a brutal moment in pop culture. Celebrities from Bill Cosby to Ray Rice dominated headlines this year with news they had beaten or raped women. Several universities have opened inquiries into uninvestigated campus assaults. GamerGate has brought out the malicious side of the Internet, with vicious trolling of female critics of the video game industry. Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle have waded into this fight with an army of volunteers and their participatory project Monument Quilt. FORCE emerged from 13-city tour this summer with an ever-growing quilt and a powerful testament to the stories of rape survivors across the country. (Full disclosure: I work for the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation, FORCE’s landlord)
Shigeru Ban has long been one of my favorite architects. His nuanced explorations of alternative building materials – primarily paper tubes and bamboo – have been a subtle rebuke to starchitecture-studded skylines around the world. It was great to see him recognized with a Pritzker Prize (architecture’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize) this year for both his aesthetic sense and his humanitarian efforts at low-cost and refugee housing.
Museum of Art and Design, NYC Makers: MAD Biennial
The best show I went to this year was at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, right on Columbus Circle. Featuring around 100 juried entries, the exhibit sprawled over three stories, inhabiting the stairwells and an on-site design lab as well as traditional galleries. The pieces explored flattening relationships between art, design, and craft, and showcased innovative use of new fabrication techniques. It pointed to a hopeful future where making is a radically democratic act, empowered by wide access to cheap technologies. The exhibit ended in October, but you can get the beautiful catalog on sale in the MAD store.
Eight years ago, I graduated from architecture school in Virginia. Two guys in my class, Archie Coates and Jeff Franklin, started a design practice in New York City called PlayLab. In 2012, they teamed up with Dong-Ping Wong and embarked upon what seemed to be a quixotic quest to design and build a floating water-filtering pool in the East River. Two-and-a-half years later, they have built up a stunning array of support, including two successful Kickstarter campaigns, engineering help from world-renowned firm Arup Group, and sponsorship from Google. Who knows, it seems like it could happen . . .
I have been listening to podcasts for years, usually when driving or cooking. This year has seen an explosion of good new shows, from Gastropod to Start Up, and the first podcast to go viral, Serial. One of my old favorites, 99 Percent Invisible, has had a run of fantastic episodes this year, fueled by a monster Kickstarter campaign that allowed them to go to a longer format. Each week, host Roman Mars (best name in radio), goes after some strange corner of the design world, from the (Baltimorean) origins of the Ouija board to the international conspiracy of Ikea hackers.