1st Baker winners named

March 26, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

Jazz musician Carl Grubbs has performed across Europe, South America and the United States and has received a host of awards over the years.

But he says he can't think of any honor higher than the one he received Wednesday, when he was named one of the top winners of the first Baker Artist Awards program, established to promote Baltimore-area artists on the Internet and encourage more artists to move here.

"I have a Web site, but there's no way in the world that I could think of building a Web connection like theirs," Grubbs, 64, said after the awards were announced. "This really introduces you to the world. People who have never heard of me will have a chance to hear of me now."

Grubbs, the jazz band director at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, is one of three winners of the prestigious Mary Sawyers Baker awards from the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund. The winners were selected through a privately juried process and will each receive $25,000.

The other top winners were Hadieh Shafie, a 39-year-old multimedia artist who was born in Iran and works as director of career services at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and John Ruppert, 57, a sculptor and chairman of the department of art at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Another seven artists were named winners of $1,000 "Baltimore's Choice" awards, which were selected by public voting on the Baker Web site.

The winners were announced during Maryland Public Televison's ArtWorks program, and each received a "Baker B" statuette in addition to the prize money.

The competition was conducted largely online and drew 656 entrants. All of the submissions can be seen at bakerartistawards.org. The Baltimore Museum of Art will mount an exhibit of the winners April 29 to June 28.

The competition was administered by the nonprofit Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Organizers originally planned to give eight awards - three top prizes of $25,000 each and five Baltimore's Choice awards. But the public voting was so close for the Baltimore's Choice awards that the sponsors decided to give two more $1,000 awards, said cultural alliance Executive Director Nancy Haragan.

Haragan said she was impressed by the diversity of the artists in terms of age, nationality, discipline and education.

The winners have a variety of plans for their money.

Grubbs, a saxophonist who has received training from John Coltrane, said he hopes to rerecord and reissue a CD he made in 1983 called Inner Harbor Suite, which features jazz music inspired by the Inner Harbor. Ruppert said he hopes to upgrade his studio, a recycled trolley car barn in the Penn North neighborhood, and is looking forward to exhibiting his work at the BMA. Shafie said she would like to use the money to produce more art and to travel to see relatives in Iran, which she hasn't visited since moving to the United States in 1983.

The Baltimore's Choice winners are Becky Alprin, 31, multimedia artist; Milana Braslavsky, 26, photographer; Adam Hopkins, 27, bassist and composer; Sarah House, 26, ceramicist and resident artist at Baltimore Clayworks; Rob Levit, 43, jazz musician and painter; Jim Lucio, 42, photographer; and Vincent Thomas, 45 dancer, choreographer and professor of dance at Towson University.

The winners said they were grateful for the recognition and believe the Baker program will benefit local artists by giving them exposure on the Internet.

Melissa Warlow, program officer for the Baker fund, said organizers were pleased with the response to their initiative and confident that the awards will show what a rich and diverse arts community Baltimore has.

"We knew that this is a great community for the arts," she said. "Now the world knows."

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