The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts announced yesterday the creation of a $25,000 prize named after civic leader Walter Sondheim Jr. and his wife, Janet. It's to be awarded this summer to a visual artist from the Baltimore region in honor of the 25th anniversary of Artscape, the city's annual outdoor festival of the arts.
The winner of the prize competition, who will be selected by an independent panel of jurors, will be named July 14 at the opening of an exhibition at the Maryland Institute College of Art featuring the 10 finalists. This year's Artscape runs July 21-23.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Tuesday's Today section about the newly created Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize misstated the name of a competition juror. His name is William Pope.L.
The Sun regrets the error.
Bill Gilmore, director of the Office of Promotion, said the purpose of the prize is to encourage art-making in the Baltimore region and to raise Artscape's profile by offering significant financial support to artists comparable to that given by organizations in Washington and Philadelphia.
"The main goal is to help a local artist and to give Artscape greater visibility," Gilmore said yesterday. "It's a tribute to Sondheim because we wanted to name the prize for someone who has recognized the importance of the arts to the city and who also has been a visionary in their own career."
Sondheim, 97, is a senior adviser to the Greater Baltimore Committee, which he helped found, and a longtime leader of Baltimore's redevelopment efforts. In 1997, he was named Marylander of the Year by The Sun for his civic contributions.
The $25,000 Sondheim prize is comparable to the $50,000 individual grants awarded annually by the Pew Charitable Trusts to artists in the Philadelphia region and the $10,000 Trawick Prize given to Washington-area artists, said Gary Kachadourian, the promotion office's visual-arts coordinator, who helped come up with the idea.
"We thought a $25,000 prize would be a step toward making it more viable for artists to create here in Baltimore," Kachadourian said. "It's a way to provide more opportunities for artists because the grant is large enough to let someone, say, take a part-time rather than a full-time job that would allow them to spend more time working in the studio."
Funding for the prize probably will come out of this year's Artscape budget, which is just over $1 million, Gilmore said. The promotion office would like to make the grant an annual award and is examining ways to establish a permanent prize fund, he said.
The announcement of the Sondheim prize was greeted with enthusiasm in the local arts community. "Whenever there is a distinguished prize of this type it encourages artists to put themselves forward and do their best work," said Baltimore Museum of Art director Doreen Bolger, adding that "for the public there will also be enormous recognition of the talent of the winner."
The jurors for the competition will be Kathy Grayson, gallery director of the experimental exhibition space Deitch Projects in New York; Matthew Higgs, gallery director of White Columns, a nonprofit exhibition space, also in New York; and John Pope.L, a performance artist who teaches at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
The competition is open to artists from Maryland, Washington, Delaware and parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Applicants must submit a CD-ROM containing five JPG images of their work, a one-page resume and application forms, along with a $25 application fee, to the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, 7 E. Redwood St., Suite 500, Baltimore 21202. The deadline for applications is April 7.