Bigotry in the Art World
The art environment in Baltimore, and the state of Maryland is rigged with bigotry.
Published: July 25, 2012
Love on Rye Rye
Thanks so much for including me [in the Big Music Issue] (Feature, July 18). I love it and all the artists do too.
Bigotry in the Art World
I read a few paragraphs of “State of the Art,” (Feature, July 11). I looked at the photos of art work by Lisa Dillin, Jon Duff, Hasan Elaphi, Matthew Janson, John McNeil, and Renee Stout. Sighing deeply, I put the article aside to finish at a later date.
I decided to pick up and read a library book that caught my eye on the shelf of the bookmobile that came to my senior apartment housing area recently. The book is titled How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living by Karen Karbo. Page one of chapter one had an interesting quote that agreed with me: “I don’t see why we ever think of what others think of what we do—isn’t it enough just to express yourself.”
Right now, I am an Afrocentric feminist who is an artist, poet, and writer. Soon, I hope to be 71 years of age (born October 29, 1941), and I have a great collection of my own art work. Drawing and painting of Black faces, and the Black culture is what I create as an artist.
The art environment in Baltimore, and the state of Maryland is rigged with bigotry. I believe that the white (and other races of white looking people) are not in the business of promoting art at white owned museums, and white owned art galleries in high-end neighborhoods where the décor signature of the building facelift says: “We don’t want anyone coming through this door Africanized with clothes, jewelry, and attitude to scare away ‘money -in-the-patch’ rich white customers!
I believe that some local newspapers, magazines, and art shows/festival gatekeepers are told by certain white people who are “in the know of the art world” which Black artists to promote. Black artists who create blocks of colors, lines movement without a racial identity, or non-threatening political messages should be written about in newspapers, and art work should be displayed in museums.
One time, I submitted six ink drawings of Black women (portraits) on cheap drawing paper to be judged for the Sondheim Prize. Black faces with influence of A. Durer, and Italian artist Leonardo. I guess my cheap drawings with no picture frames did not impress the judges. My thought was just staple or put tacks on the drawings and hang on a wall. I’m serious. “Art for Art’s Sake” was my bullshit reasoning.
What I now know for sure: Art is a business, a very expensive business. The actual artwork is not the first concern of a white museum gatekeeper or gallery owner. Making money is the real reason for selling art, a devotion to the mighty dollar—a religion.
Larnell Custis Butler
Save the Parkway Theater
Can somebody—anybody—please explain to me why nobody can bring themselves to talk about the Parkway Theatre, a.k.a. the “Rodney Dangerfield” of classic movie houses? It can’t even get any negative press as evidenced by Evan Serpick’s intro to this year’s wet dream of all things artistic (“Dan Deacon’s America,” Feature, July 18), literally sliding right by that 8,000 ton elephant that nobody can see, much less discuss, sitting in the middle of West North Avenue, to acknowledge what is, arguably, THE most dysfunctional franchise location in the entire McDonald’s chain. BFD.
For twelve years the Parkway’s website (parkwaytheatre.com) has been in a desperate struggle to raise consciousness about the Parkway, its illustrious past, its regrettable present and its uncertain future, with almost no help from anyone: not the city, which can contribute no funding toward the impending restoration being managed by the Baltimore Development Corporation, which takes a remarkably casual approach to what it is requiring of potential developers; not various city and state agencies charged with preserving the historic character of buildings like this, such as the Maryland States Arts Council, Baltimore Heritage and even the Baltimoe City Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), which looks the other way when it comes to making an individual historic place designation for the Parkway, leaving the eventual developer to do God-knows-what to the exterior AND interior of this currently forlorn space, without having to abide by any of those pesky architectural constraints; not the print media, including Baltimore magazine, Urbanite, even City Paper which, despite polite overtures, seems to have better things to do with their column inches than help find a few well-heeled, arts-supportive investors with Baltimore backgrounds who could well-be interested in contributing to a comprehensive, and sensitive restoration that could make the Parkway an entertainment powerhouse of enormous scope and capability, IF THEY ONLY KNEW ABOUT IT! (A personal thank-you to Jacques Kelly of the Baltimore Sun who HAS helped keep the torch lit, if feebly, through a few of his columns, but the Sun, as a whole, apparently sees little value in promoting it.)
Not the three would-be development teams whose miserly-budgeted plans are now under consideration by a not-very-diversified BDC panel which, one can only hope and pray, rejects ALL of the current proposals as not being “thick enough”; not even the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, within whose borders the Parkway lies as easily its most visible and potentially most valuable resource, can bring itself to devote a single syllable about the Parkway on its own website, and yet, incomprehensively refuses to even list a link to the Parkway’s site there-in, despite having an entire page for just such links. Those ones and zeros must be in incredibly short supply over there. What the hell is wrong with this picture?
John R. Grant
Catonsville nine not average
Thanks to Joe Tropea for alerting us to Shawn Peters’ new book The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance (Books, July 11). I very much look forward to reading the book. However, I must question this comment in the review: “They were average people doing what they thought was right.” This is a very romantic notion that anybody could burn draft files. No, these were very extraordinary people. A better way to look at the action is that there are many extraordinary people around. However, very few of them take the risks of peace. Otherwise, the U.S.A. would not be an empire, we would not have a warmongering government and our planet would not be facing ecocide because of climate chaos.
To my surprise, I noticed that there was an open letter to Max Obuszewiski [sic] in the City Paper on July 18, 2012. Alan Barysh challenged a letter of mine which appeared July 11, 2012: “And although I agree with a lot of what you say—my brother—you are way off the mark in your analysis of the world.”
Alan needs to take a course in logic. He makes the silly argument that I would support the Pentagon if only their weapons were cheaper. It is obvious that a drone is always going to be a multi-million dollar weapon. So it is ridiculous for Alan to posit “what if the drone only cost five dollars.” In the Pentagon’s netherworld prices for weapons only increase, and some cost in the billions. My brother continues down this wayward path of ridiculousness: “if these wars could be fought cheaper . . .” Alan surely knows that I am a pacifist and oppose capitalist or socialist or Trekkie wars.
There are many other illogical statements in Alan’s letter. But they are just a set up for his belief: “The Capitalist [sic] system demands that those in charge export their system and drive all those who oppose them into the dirt.”
I am going to guess that Mr. Barysh did not hear David Harvey’s lecture on May 24 at the 2640 Space. Harvey, a Marxist professor, discussed his book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution that night and informed the audience that he has been criticized by fellow Marxists. Harvey, unlike Barysh, recognizes that those of us in the streets must work on reform—from Medicare for all to revoking the Patriot Act. Any astute observer recognizes that Alan Barysh and others are not going to bring the revolution any time soon. But if it happens, I hope Alan calls me first with the news.
As for a debate with Mr. Barysh, he will let me know when it is happening. I do wonder if anyone will want to hear it. Regardless if it happens, I invite the spoken word artist to join us on August 10 at Homewood Friends Meetinghouse in a commemoration of the bombing of Nagasaki. Alan has read his poetry at such an event in the past. Dialogue is very necessary in these troubled times.