Artscape Visual Director Resigns

August 05, 2009|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,

Gary Kachadourian is making a career move as bold as some of the exhibits he's championed in his 22 years overseeing the visual installations at Artscape.

The 52-year-old has quit his job at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts - his last day was Tuesday - to enroll in a master's degree program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Kachadourian will study digital imaging, teach part time and devote more time to his own artwork.

"Gary has been a terrific asset," says his former boss, Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. "He's helped to raise the profile of Baltimore as a serious place for artists to live and work."

Kachadourian's "crowning achievement," according to Gilmore, was coming up with the idea for the Walter & Janet Sondheim Award, in which $25,000 is given each year to the top regional artist selected by a national jury. The Sondheim Award has generated interest in Artscape nationally, attracts more than 300 entrants, and results in two annual shows each summer: an exhibit of the finalists at the Baltimore Museum of Art and a show of the semifinalists at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

"The Sondheim Award is Gary's legacy," Gilmore says. "We have an endowment in place, and we will continue to raise money to support the award in the future."

In addition, Kachadourian was instrumental in helping to expand Artscape from its institutional settings at MICA, the Lyric Opera House and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to Mount Royal Avenue and the Charles Street corridor. Not only did the expansion add a new group of artists to the mix, but Kachadourian was the one who came up with the idea for the Midway - the double row of interactive booths where patrons can, for example, snap altered digital photographs of themselves, or participate in a human foosball game.

"It was an immediate hit," Gilmore says.

For his part, Kachadourian says he'll miss working with "a lot of interesting, energetic, talented artists," but after 22 years as an administrator, it's time to pursue his own creative interests. His children are grown, and his wife also teaches college, which, he says, will allow the couple to live "very ascetically."

At the moment, he's working on two drawing-based projects.

In the first, he sketches everyday objects, such as his living-room couch or a local fast-food restaurant, and then blows up the images to their full size.

His second project consists of drawings of common landscaping elements such as shrubs, flowers and weeds on paper "tiles," which are then glued to building exteriors. At some point, he says, he might even exhibit some of his work at Artscape.

He isn't worried that the free summer festival will founder in his absence. Gilmore is interviewing applicants for Kachadourian's old job, and a new visual arts coordinator is expected to be named by September.

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