A violist, a sculptor and a film animator walked away yesterday with top prizes in the 2010 Baker Awards - among the most prestigious and lucrative awards given to individual artists living and working in the Baltimore region.
The three $25,000 prize winners were Peter Minkler, 49, a musician with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra who has released a CD of solo works for the viola; Richard Cleaver, 57, a sculptor who crafts intricate, bejeweled and intentionally primitive tableaux; and Karen Yasinsky, 44, a film animator who controls every aspect of her creations, down to building the ceramic "actors" used in her videos.
The three top prizes, and the five $1,000 Baltimore's Choice Awards, were announced Wednesday night on Maryland Public Television's "ArtWorks This Week" show, hosted by Rhea Feikin.
"We were thrilled when we saw who the jury had picked this year," said Connie Imboden, president of the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund. "These three truly are exceptional artists, and they're representative of the amazing talent we have right here in Baltimore."
The awards were established in 2008 to honor artists living in the city and the five surrounding counties, and to encourage other artists to move here. The awards also are noted for their strong social networking component, with online visitors selecting winners of the Baltimore's Choice Awards.
During the broadcast, Feikin noted that 495 artists applied for the awards, and 28,000 people registered to vote. But more than 60,000 people from 140 countries visited the site during the voting period, including representatives from the National Gallery in Washington, Apple Computers, Dreamworks Animation and Yale University.
Minkler, who has been a violist with the symphony for 26 years, might use his winnings to finance a solo tour.
"My work is about promoting the viola as a solo instrument," he says. "The viola is the Rodney Dangerfield of the orchestral world, and in my small way, I'd like to put that to rest."
Yasinsky, who teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art and the Johns Hopkins University, might use the prize to create her own Web site - a must for an artist whose films are shown primarily at festivals. "I might also buy my own camera," she says. "Now, I have to borrow one."
Cleaver creates sculptures from such materials as gold leaf and semiprecious gems. His work is owned by the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington and San Francisco's deYoung Museum.
He says the award will help tide him over as the country recovers from the recession.
"I do sell artwork but, given the way the economy is now, I haven't been selling as much lately. This prize couldn't have come at a better time."
The five artists winning the $1,000 Baltimore's Choice Awards were the dancer and poet Amanda Theresa Fair; interior designer Kelly Walker; beat-box musician Shodekeh; Steven Park, who creates computer-manipulated photo illustrations; and graphic designer Kaveh Haerian.
The work of all eight winners will be exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art for two months, starting April 7.