A visit to the Web site of the 2010 Baker Artist Awards can be as addictive as a cyber-stroll through YouTube. With page after page of entries from self-nominated artists in all sorts of disciplines, a click can bring up images of painting or sculpture, the texts of poetry or plays, sound clips of a violist or video of a jazz combo.
"We're at the midpoint and have over 300 nominees already," says Jack Livingston, associate director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, which administers the awards for the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund. "And I think the quality this year is really good - not that last year's wasn't really good, too."
The awards, established to recognize Baltimore artists and get the community in on the process, were launched in the fall of 2008 and the first prizes announced last March. There are two components to the awards. In addition to the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize of $25,000 chosen by a jury (there can be up to three honorees annually), several Baltimore's Choice awards of $1,000 are determined by online voting.
For the 2010 prizes, artists have until Jan. 15 to nominate themselves by uploading their work onto the site. Public voting closes on Feb. 15.
"We have added some new features to the site to make it more user-friendly," Livingston says. "There's now a blog where I can answer any questions people have. And people can now leave comments on each other's pages. And artists can answer comments on their pages. It's a little more like Facebook, a way of connecting to the community." (Yet another connection is expected to be announced soon - a phone app.)
Livingston also noted that it will be easier for people to contact the artists. Several contestants in the first contest ended up being contacted by curators about opportunities for exhibits, "so we wanted to enhance the interactive aspect of the site this year," he said.
The 2009 winners of the $25,000 awards were jazz saxophonist Carl Grubbs, sculptor John Ruppert and visual artist Hadieh Shafie. There were about 650 entries.
Relatively few musicians, especially classical ones, jumped into that inaugural contest. As of this week, the classical music representation is again scant. (One of the entrants is Peter Minkler, a Baltimore Symphony violist who has uploaded several impressive clips.)
"Visual artists, I think, are very used to putting their work up for these kinds of [multi-genre] awards," Livingston says. "I think other groups, like musicians, are more used to very specific calls for entries."
Having all kinds of artists rubbing shoulders in this online universe helps bring Baltimore's cultural community a little closer. And Livingston sees a boost for the city's image by having all of the artists' work available on the Web for the world to see. (Nominees have to be 21 and legal Baltimore residents since at least Oct. 1, 2008, but voters can live anywhere.)
"Even if we stopped the contest right now," Livingston said, "we would have an incredible array of artists that well-represent the city."
To enter the contest or register to vote, go to bakerartistawards.org.
Jazzman Eddie Palmieri
A couple days after his 73rd birthday, multi-Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri will return to Baltimore for two nights of double-header concerts.
The eminent Latin jazz pianist, joined by trumpeter Brian Lynch and bassist Luques Curtis, will perform at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at An die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. Tickets are $30 and $35. Call 410-385-2638 or go to andiemusiklive.com.