This is the twentieth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Benjamin Kelley
Age: 30
Current Location: Baltimore City
Hometown: Flushing, MI
School: MFA, Rinehart School of Sculpture, MICA
BFA, Central Michigan University


Current favorite artists or artwork: Kurt Schwitters, Mike Nelson, Rasheed Johnson

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? Adjunct Faculty, and Fabrication Studios Manager at MICA.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? Sometimes it’s a salty, big-bodied 1970’s four-door sedan and the smell of oak, sometimes its sassy heels on glass, sometimes it’s ancient mud.


What research do you do for your art practice? Field research is imperative. The objects and materials procured and used within my work lead me to very specific arenas. Recently, I have been corresponding with a scientist (ocean ecologist and biochemist), who is floating in the middle of the sea on an old oil-drilling rig that has been converted to pull deep earth core samples from the beneath the ocean floor. I am excited by the field work of these scientists as they are mediums with the ability to reach back millions of years into the earth’s history.

This past summer I spent a lot of time in the archives of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, I was after a few specific items, human skulls that were used by Washington Matthews and J.S. Billings in their significant work (1880’s) of developing new methods of measuring and recording size, capacity, and variations of human cranial forms. I was able to hold these specimens, smell them, photograph them and study the surface textures.

I also have a guy who is my “marine salvage guy.” I have been on site with him a few times now while he is in the midst of a project. When a boat sinks, he is called to dive, lift, and haul the vessel to shore. He then disposes of the boat by dismantling it piece by piece. He does this work mostly alone. It’s an incredible process, like a necropsy of the vehicle or vessel. This is also why I spend a lot of time in junkyards. It’s one of the best resources for my work, a field of autopsied cars in various stages of dissection.


What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? The movie I think everyone should see, Alone in the Wilderness (Story of Dick Proenneke)

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I try to fight it but eventually take it as a sign to get out of the studio and practice archery or go antiquing.

What is your dream project? Build the world’s largest trebuchet.

Call to Local & Regional Artists: The Cherry Hill Recreation Center
Application Deadline: May 12, 2014 



The City of Baltimore, the Baltimore Public Art Commission, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts in collaboration with the Baltimore City Department of General Services is seeking to commission a professional artist or artist team to create artwork for permanent display in the interior of the Cherry Hill Recreation Center.


The Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Department is seeking to commission an artist to create an art installation for the new Cherry Hill Recreation Center, that will be suspended within the interior of the main entrance of the building.

We are looking for an artist capable of collaborating with the Architectural design team to envision and create a sculpture that integrates with the building’s architecture, reflects the active nature of the building and values of the community that uses it.


The Department of Recreation and Parks is seeking a qualified artist to work closely with the design team to create integrated artwork in the interior of the new recreation center. The artwork should enliven the gathering spaces, and may reference the historic character of the building and history of the Cherry Hill community. The commissioned artist will work closely with staff, local stake holders, and the Recreation and Parks design team to develop a public art design and fabricate an artwork for the building’s main entrance. The selected artist will be responsible for design, fabrication and installation of the artwork, as part of their contract.

The Cherry Hill Recreation and Aquatic Center project will construct a new 32,500 s.f. recreation center with indoor pool in a campus like setting adjacent to Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School (#159). If funding is available, a second phase of the project will include a surrounding park with athletic fields to be designed in concert with BCPSS’ 10 Year Plan to upgrade Cherry Hill ES/MS and vacate a second school building (Patapsco Elementary/Middle School -#163) currently on site.

The two story recreation and pool building will include a gymnasium, locker rooms, fitness room, dance studio, kitchen, activity/game room, and multi-activity spaces for computer and class instructional use, arts and crafts, community meetings and varied programs and event rentals. The Center includes two outdoor terraces: one with an amphitheater and the other for outdoor passive activities.

The indoor pool will support a new model of aquatic programs for the Department. The facility will include a lap area with options for lap swimming, training, volleyball, and a rock climbing wall, a basketball hoop, lazy river with walking current and zero depth wading pool area. A separate, warm water pool will facilitate instruction and therapeutic activities. Additional locker rooms and changing areas will be provided at the pool to allow for separate aquatic facility and recreation program schedules.

The building will comply with the latest ADA standards and incorporate “green” and environmentally friendly building components, including a geothermal heating and cooling system and a green roof.

Facility Programs:
The new multi-activity complex will be designed to offer a full range of programs to serve all age groups. The programs will be based around a variety of program offerings with a set of core program areas designed to foster and develop a range of educational, recreational, cultural, health, fitness and life skills. Programs will address all age groups and will include expanded senior and aquatics programs.

Populations Served:
The new facility is expected to attract children from the broader Cherry Hill neighborhood. The project will also be within walking distance of the BCRP’s outdoor Cherry Hill Splash park pool on Reedbird Avenue.

Estimated Timeline: 
• Application Deadline: Monday, May 12, 2014 at 11:59pm. Applications received after the deadline and those that are found to be in complete will not be reviewed. It is the responsibility of the submitting artists to ensure that applications are complete and arrive by the deadline. Extensions to this deadline cannot be granted.
• Artist Notification: June 2014
• Artwork Design: June 2014 – December 2014
• Facility Construction Bid Opening: December 2014
• Facility Construction Begins: February 2015
• Facility Construction Completion: May 2016


Total project budget is $80,000 and includes all costs, such as artwork design, artist’s fees and taxes, insurance, travel, fabrication, shipping and installation. This budget is based on the estimated capital construction budget for the project.


Applications must be submitted online through Wufoo:


Please submit the following via the Wufoo link:
• Artist Statement: briefly describe your interest and qualifications for this project. Describe your experience and approach in working with communities.
• Resume: please attach a current Resume, which outlines your experience as a visual or public artist.
• UPLOAD: six (6) images of completed past artworks
• Images must be sized to the following dimensions
File Format: Baseline JPEG (do not use progressive JPEG format)
Please size each image to be no more than 1 MB in file size.
File Name: Images MUST be titled in the following manner: Last Name, First Name, number corresponding to the image description sheet (For example: DoeJane01; DoeJane02; etc. Collaborative artists groups should begin their image title with their group name or the last name of each member followed in parenthesis by artist who completed the work that the image number refers (For example: DoeJonesSmith01(Doe); DoeJonesSmith02(Doe); DoeJonesSmith03(Jones); etc.)

• Annotated Image List to include the following: title of work, dimensions, medium, year of completion, location, three (3) sentence description, and artwork budget amount.

• References: names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of three (3) professional references for each applicant.


1. Chosen artwork will be required to withstand an indoor unmonitored environment with very limited maintenance. Artists should take into consideration the possibility of adverse conditions, the wealth of pedestrian traffic passing by and through the site, and the safety of the audience. The artist chosen for this project will be required, upon its completion, to submit a description of required maintenance.

2. The City of Baltimore, the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts reserves the right to reproduce images of submitted artwork for printed or internet publicity, catalogue, map or other marketing or educational purposes.

3. Application materials will not be returned.


Any professional artist or artist team is eligible to apply. If artists are applying as a team, the team should be declared in the Artist Statement, specifying a team leader to receive notifications. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. Current Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts employees and Public Art Commission members may not apply.


Qualifications will be reviewed by an Artist Selection Panel and the Baltimore Public Art Commission based on the following criteria:

• Aesthetic merit of past projects; appropriateness of artwork medium and artistic concepts;

• Experience, success and/or interest in creating public artworks in collaboration with architects, design teams, and community members.

• Past public art commissions not requisite for review, but submitted work should demonstrate potential for consideration as part of a public art selection process.

• To enrich and enliven the experience of Baltimore City for its citizens and visitors
• To establish a significant public art collection for the City.
• To create an engaging space, artwork, and environment that accentuates construction efforts, and is sensitive to the community where the artwork is located
• To commission public artwork that is durable and able to withstand high-traffic, unmonitored public indoor and outdoor environments that include extreme adverse weather conditions, with very little maintenance

This is the nineteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Fred Scharmen
Age: 36
Current Location: Brick Hill in Baltimore City
Hometown: Lusby, Maryland
School: University of Maryland, College Park for undergrad, Yale University for grad school; studied architecture at both places.


Current favorite artists or artwork: too many Baltimore artists to mention, but I get so much out of the way that this city works. There are many times where I’ve met someone and enjoyed hanging out with them, and then I later find out they happen to be making some of my favorite stuff. I love that people here are so accessible and open about talking about what they do. As someone who is coming towards art from a background in design, I appreciate that willingness to just dialogue, and I have learned a lot from that.

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I teach architectural design in the graduate program at Morgan State’s School of Architecture and Planning, where I am lucky to learn from my students and my colleagues every day. Right now, I find myself in this weird place where suddenly I have three desks: one at Morgan where I can do research and teaching, one at my home where I can do more architectural design and writing, and one at my studio where I do drawing and small sculpture. It’s not always that clear cut where one ends and the others begin, but this is new to me, as up until December I had done art, design, research, and writing all at the same home studio. I’m still figuring it out, but it works so far.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? In my work I’ve become interested in setting up systems, and then working within them. When I was in grad school I took a course on Processing, which is a computer language invented by some people at MIT that bridges the gap between abstract art and software code. What I liked about it was the way you could build the rules of a little pocket world, and then see what it could do, and then pop back out and tweak the rules some more. Somehow, even though it’s totally deterministic, you can still be surprised by effects you haven’t expected, and then use those effects in decisive ways. It’s similar to the way architects work, setting up constraints, and then working with those constraints to see what’s possible. I didn’t have the patience to work this way in front of a keyboard, though. When I started drawing again, I wanted to use that same kind of thinking at the drafting table: start with a set of clear rules, and run the drawing like an experiment, then change some of the rules, and run the drawing again, with different purpose and intention. For some reason, I’d rather spend the hours hunched over a drawing board, rather than in a desk chair at a monitor. It’s not an aversion to technology, maybe it’s more of a posture thing …


What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I love getting absorbed in the process, spending the actual real time with it, thinking with it and interacting with it. The part I’m bad at is remembering that at the end, it’s not just process, the artifact itself is the thing, and that it should be treated in a way that’s careful and precious. It’s probably another hangover from thinking like an architect, where you make drawings, but the drawings aren’t the thing, they’re the means to an end, which is the thing. Me and my partner, Marian Glebes, talk about this a lot, she has a deep background in the fine arts, and I’m learning a lot about other ways of thinking from her. I’m fascinated by the differences between art and design. Among other things, I’m a terrible art handler.

What research do you do for your art practice? I like to find material on geometry, ornamentation, systems thinking, networks and diagramming, cartography … it’s about staying on the hunt for new methods and new formal systems, and those can really come from anywhere, at any scale, in the arts, or the sciences. As a designer I’m also interested in space science, it’s such a weird intersection of technical organization and projective aesthetics.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? This is a topic dear to my heart, and one that I could go on and on about, but I’ll spare you. Some of my favorite books are science fiction, I’ve been reading one or two sci-fi books a week, lately. I’ll only mention a fantastic novella I can’t get out of my head, written by two Russian brothers in the 1970s, called ‘Roadside Picnic’. It’s a bizarre story about postindustrial landscape and the disruptive potential of strange unknowable technology. For movies, I absolutely love this old Miyazaki anime from the mid 80s called Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which, now that I think of it, has similar themes to ‘Roadside Picnic’. On TV I’ve been watching a lot of nature documentaries, I’m loving this new David Attenborough series on mammals. Music is another one I could go on about, some of my favorite stuff is from Baltimore. I play mostly records in the studio, so it’s awesome that so many Baltimore musicians are releasing on vinyl. On heavy rotation is Ponytail, WZT Hearts, Moss of Aura, and Future Islands.


Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I’m lucky to have opportunities to switch channels – if drawing isn’t working out for a bit, I refocus on writing and research, if architectural design hits a block, I can find new inspiration with my students. It goes around and comes back again.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? With drawing, the challenge is there every day. Blank paper is scary, and there are some times where I’ll avoid it for months! I’m trying to practice closure right now, executing a series and then ending it. It’s forcing me to keep going forwards, instead of dwelling on old work and old methods.

What is your dream project? I’d like to get more chances to get out of the studio and do some more drawing in the real world, to work more with water, lasers, magnets, and dirt. Drawing has this history that goes back to scratching in the ground with a stick, I think getting back up to full scale, and branching out to other technical means is the future of drawing.


Attention visual artists and literary artists! It is your turn to apply for a Rubys Artist Project Grant which supports individual artists with grants of up to $10,000.
Online application opens May 1, 2014 Deadline to submit is June 30, 2014

The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance is hosting numerous info sessions around the region in May for applicants to learn the details of applying for a Rubys grant. Info sessions will take place on:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014: 12pm – 2pm @ Arena Players, Baltimore

Thursday, May 8, 2014: 6pm – 8pm @ Gordon Center, Owings Mill

Thursday, May 15, 2014: 6pm – 8pm @ Carroll Arts Center, Westminster

Tuesday, May 20, 2014: 7pm – 9pm @ Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Annapolis

Wednesday, May 21, 2014: 6pm – 8pm @ Creative Alliance, Baltimore

GBCA is also hosting a free Grant Writing How-To Workshop on Wednesday, June 4, 2014: 6pm – 9pm @ Area 405, Baltimore. Learn tips, tactics, and strategies for crafting a well-written grant proposal.

Info sessions and workshop are free. RSVP here:



This is the eighteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Sebastian Vincent Martorana
Age: 33
Current Location: Baltimore, Station North/Barclay
Hometown: Manassas,VA
School: Syracuse University, BFA, Illustration.   MICA, MFA, Rinehart School of Sculpture.


Current favorite artists or artwork?  Beth Cavner, Fabio Viale, Ron Mueck, Phil Hale

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life?  How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? After I graduated from Rinehart in 2008 I founded Atlantic Custom Carving, LLC, which is basically the trade name for my freelance and subcontracting work. I do carving, design, restoration, fabrication, consulting, etc. I work primarily in stone, but I also carve wood and do fine art restoration of sculpture in various media. Additionally, do a bit of freelance illustration and teach a couple of courses a semester in the Illustration Department at MICA.

About the same time I finished grad school and founded ACC, I began working with Hilgartner Natural Stone Company. They are the oldest stone company in the US and are located here in downtown Baltimore. I am basically their resident stone carver and I am able to hire them for the kind of things that I need assistance with. I’m lucky to stay pretty busy with commissioned work that comes to me directly and also through Hilgartner. I try to get as much of my own work done as I can in between jobs. However, my wife and I had our first child about a year and a half ago, so finding that time has become ever more difficult. I’m very fortunate that there is a lot of crossover between my “work-work” and my “art- work.” So my day job keeps me mostly in the studio, even if I’m not always working on my own concepts.


What part of art making to you like or enjoy the most? Hammer hitting chisel, hitting stone. The least?  Paperwork.

What research do you do for your art practice? The usual stuff, I guess. I do a lot of looking at things very hard and thinking about them. Because making a single large scale piece out of marble is a pretty big commitment, in terms of time and money, I really want to make sure that I am devoted to the concept. I need to be into it on a practical and conceptual level. I may do a lot of background reading if the art piece relates to other real word phenomena. Depending on the complexity and required precision, I might do sketches, drawings, technical and otherwise and full or scale models. I usually do lots of photography for visual reference.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music?  I’d recommend Not in My Neighborhood by Antero Pietila to anyone that lives in Baltimore. Very enlightening. As far as music–actually fast, up tempo rock/punk. I think that people get the impression that stone sculptors listen to classical musical all the time, probably because of the soundtracks of ridiculous TV/movies montages, wherein the romantic artist knocks out a life size marble figure in a few delicately placed strikes. But that’s movie magic. Rocks are hard, so: hard rock just makes sense.


Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Honestly, no. Not because I’m so creative. But like most artists, I only have a limited time to work on my own sculptural ideas, and since every piece takes me so long to produce, I never catch up with the backlog of ideas that I would like to work on. I wish that someday I could get to the point where I got to do everything I thought of, but I suspect that if I did, I’d be disappointed.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? I try to do things that I’m excited about. I get really into trying to do something that I haven’t seen before. Often this involves material that is, in part, salvaged, or combining materials. Since I can’t buy this stuff at an art store, it doesn’t come with instructions, so the challenge is not only in doing something that is difficult well, but in figuring out how to do it at all. It can even be just a new and unique texture. That part is like being an impressionist painter. I’m not creating a replica of a thing, but an interpretation of a thing. It all starts with experimentation.

What is your dream project? I have been working on a series of pieces about and made from salvaged row home steps that came from razed neighborhoods. I have made some of these look like comfortable cushions based on the furniture in my own home. I would like to have the time and money to take salvaged stones from my own neighborhood and re-make a full stoop (2 or 3 treads and a landing set together) that was carved to look like an entire piece of soft, upholstered furniture. I would install it in a public place in the neighborhood that now has new construction, which lacks the historical marble steps. It would act as a proud and positive reminder of the buildings and people that used to exist here and call this place home. It could be a place where people could still sit and hangout on marble stair steps, even if their homes didn’t have them anymore, and take part in that aspect of Baltimore’s cultural history.

LID competition header

Baltimore City, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust have partnered together to launch the first Baltimore Growing Green Design competition. This competition aims to identify the best designs for transforming vacant lots in Baltimore City through projects that benefit neighborhoods and communities and treat stormwater. Competing teams will include community groups and design firm partnerships, and winners will receive awards to complete the designs and build the projects. If you are interested in learning more or attending the launch event on May 14, 2014 from 1 to 4 pm at The Humanim Building in Baltimore City, please contact Kacey Wetzel, 410-974-2941, ext. 104.

This is the seventeenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Paul Shortt
Age: 32
Current Location: Mt. Vernon, Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Floyd, VA
School: Kansas City Art Institute, BFA Painting, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New Media

Please No Photos, 2012 Performance

Please No Photos, 2012 Performance

Current favorite artists or artwork: Pilvi Takala, Ana Prvacki

What is your day job? Artist Registry Coordinator and Program Assistant at Maryland Art Place (MAP). The MSAC website and Artists’ Registry recently went through an upgrade, and I would encourage you to check it out and sign up. It’s a free resource for Maryland residents. As part of my job, I also run the Resource Bulletin for the state, which is housed on MAP’s website and has tons of regional, national and some international calls for art. I feel that part of my “job” as an artist is to create opportunity for other artists and contribute to the local art scene. I’m happy that my day job at MAP allows me to do that.

How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? Working part-time helps, in addition to having a very understanding fiancée. I’ve also found going to the gym everyday is a good way to decompress and stay focused. Much of my practice takes place in my notebooks or on my computer so I spend a lot of time in cafes. I spend about 70% of my time trying to get the work I’ve created out, proposing projects, or applying for grants, and the other 30% developing and creating new work.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I keep a notebook of ideas that I constantly go back to and update. From there I usually discuss my projects with friends for perspective. Then I tend do drawings, mock-ups, test videos, and write about it more. I lot of time is spend figuring out what the best way to convey the subject matter is and what would be the best materials and media to create it. Then making it could mean sending a file off to be printed, spending hours in the studio to create it, or finding the right collaborators to make the performance or video happen.

What research do you do for your art practice? I tend to find as much information about a subject that I can, which means I end up reading a lot of non-fiction, and spending tons of time online.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? I just read Herzog On Herzog, which is an incredible collection of interviews with the filmmaker. Also Kippenberger: His Life and Work about the artist Martin Kippenberger. The book was written by his sister, who’s a journalist, and the first 100 pages really lay out the complexities of not only who he was but also the contradictions you can find in everyone. I also recently enjoyed Killer on the Road by Ginger Strand, which combines a history of the highway system with true crime to explore the realities and myths around the idea of the killer on the road. Movies? “How To Survive a Plague.” It’s heartbreaking but really shows how information and activism can bring about change and save lives. I also really enjoyed “The Lego Movie.” For a film that is about a product it does a good job of exploring rules, conformity, and creativity. Television? “Mad Men,” “True Detective,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Community.” I’m also re-watching “The Wire” to see how many locations I can spot now that I live here. Music? Arthur Russell, Lonnie Holley, Idiot Glee, Tame Impala, Mark McGuire, Sam Cooke, The Swans, John Maus, Bill Callahan. My music taste is always evolving and changes depending on mood.

I would add: Radio: Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Favorite Coffee shops: Milk and Honey and Spro. Museum: I went to the BMA for the first time recently and loved the contemporary wing. They have a really incredible collection.


Smog, 2014, HD Video Still

Smog, 2014, HD Video Still

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Everyone goes through rough patches. I clear my head out by going to the movies, reading the New York Times, walking around thrift stores/antique shops/libraries, etc. I’m of the belief that you have to go out and live a little to have something to make art about.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? I’m constantly challenging myself to dig deeper and get to the essence of what my work is about and attempting to do. Right now, for me it’s about having a large scope to my projects. I tend to be working on multiple projects at the same time that on the surface may seem separate, but often are interrelated, and as a whole speak to the larger vision of where I’m growing.

What is your dream project? I would love to create an interactive public art project that becomes a part of a city’s identity, like Anish Kapor’s “Bean” in Chicago and Chris Burden’s “Urban Lights” in Los Angeles. That said, I have a lot of other dream projects.