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The 2011 Mary Sawyer Baker Award Winners

April 20, 2011
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Last night, on a special installment of Maryland Public Television’s ArtWorks this Week program, the Baker Artist Awards announced the three 2011 winners of the $25,000 Mary Sawyers Baker award. The program was simulcast at an informal but festive reception at the Windup Space, where artists, arts administrators, and other members of the local arts community gathered to watch the program and nosh on some Joe Squared pizza. It was a convivial atmosphere for a night when the local arts community gets to honor and celebrate three local artists receiving the sort of monetary investment that make being a professional artist in Baltimore a continued possibility.

The three winners of the 2001 Mary Sawyer Baker award are:


Audrey Chen This classical trained vocalist/cellist landed in Baltimore’s experimental music community with an impish, disarming wit. Here was a improvisor who knew her way around conventional harmony and melody yet also wasn’t afraid to make her voice/cello grate out something so uncomfortable you weren’t always sure how to react. Now, she tours steadily with one of the more singular, responsive, and emotional sound vocabularies in left-field music. Chen plays tonight at the 2640 Space in the duo Kamama, what may be one of her final local appearances before she moves to Berlin later this summer.

Photo by Frank Klein

Gary Kachadourian The longtime visual arts coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts left his post in 2009 to focus on his art, entering an MFA program at UMBC and curating shows that continue to highlight other artists while displaying his own contagious playfulness.

Photo by Frank Hamilton

Shodekeh In just a short time this percussionist/beatboxer has matured from an artist starting to make his name known in local music circles in the middle of the decade to playing with damn near everybody, performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and launching his own vocal arts festival.

In addition to the three $25,000 Baker prize winners, actor Bruce Nelson was awarded $500 prize in honor of former Nancy Haragan, the former executive director of the greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance for her service to the local arts community, and singer/songwriter Ellen Cherry was awarded a $500 prize in honor of Baker Fund veteran Semmes G. Walsh. Both Nelson and Cherry were earlier recipients of the Baker b-grants: $1,000 awards started during this Baker Artist Award season. Awardees included Cherry, Nelson, the Copycat Theatre, Naoko Maeshiba, Mara Neimanis, Fernando Quijano III, Bashi Rose, Caleb Stein, Jim Dugan, Shaun Flynn, Andrew Liang, Nelly’s Echo, Justin Sirois, Lily Susskind, Lynne Parks, Michelle Antoinette Nelson, Nolen Strals/ Bruce Willen, and Hermonie Only. The b-grants appear to replace the problematic People’s Choice Award ostensibly generated through online voting through the Awards web site.

Works by Chen, Kachadourian, and Shodekeh will be on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art Sept. 7-Oct. 2.

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