The Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts are happy to announce the recipient of the first annual Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Artist Travel Prize, Stephen Towns. Stephen was selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants and with this $6000 award will take his first trip abroad to Ghana and Senegal to visit important historical sites that mark the transatlantic slave trade. Images and research from this trip will inform a future body of work exploring the history of colonialism and its effects on modern society.
Currently, based out of Baltimore, Maryland, visual artist Stephen Towns was raised in Lincolnville, South Carolina, a small town outside of Charleston. Towns earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of South Carolina and works at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Working primarily in oil, acrylic, and fiber, Towns draws much of his visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, Impressionist paintings and wax cloth prints. His work has been exhibited at Gallery CA, Platform Gallery, Hood College, Galerie Myrtis and is in the collection of the City of Charlestown, South Carolina.
About his work, Stephen says “The portraits I create are not only glimpses of the sitters; they are also a reflection of myself and mirror my struggle to attain a sense of self-knowledge, self-worth and spirituality beyond the Christian values that are so often idealized in African-American culture.”
“I am so excited to receive the Artist Travel Prize. Never having had the chance to travel abroad, this will provide me the opportunity the experience the idea of being “American” outside of my own country. Furthermore, I will be able to experience sites of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Ghana and Senegal that I’ve only read about in books. My next project in 2017 will be The Taming, I will use images and research from this trip to develop a body of work exploring the history of colonialism and its effects on black men. What methods do humans use to tame each other, currently and throughout history? In what ways do we tame aspects of ourselves and our own culture? I hope to explore expressions of Black American culture that have been tamed but have their roots in West Africa. Thank you to the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City for the amazing opportunity.”
The Municipal Art Society of Baltimore was founded in 1899 as part of the City Beautiful movement. It is one of only two remaining societies to be operating under its original charter “to provide sculptural and pictorial decoration and ornaments for the public buildings, streets and open spaces in the City of Baltimore, and to help generally beautify the City.” Artistic contributions to the City span more than one hundred years. In 2016 the MASOB embarks on a path to provide new opportunities to Baltimore artists and art places within the City, including this Artist Travel Prize and an annual Public Art Prize.
View more of Stephen’s work at stephentowns.com