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954 artists think Baker Award jurors are idiots—but no one knows for sure

May 2, 2014

2014-BAKER-ARTIST-AWARD-WINNERS-960x500Three artists are extremely happy with the anonymous jurors of the  2014 Mary Sawyer Baker and b grants. Those three, Todd Marcus, Brent Crothers, and Chris Bathgate, each won a $25,000 Mary Sawyers Baker Prize. In the estimation of these artists, surely, the judges have the best taste in town. Three other artists disagree, but only slightly. Jowita Wyszomirska, David Paul Bacharach, and Ed Gross each received $5,000 b grants (not to be confused with b the site, despite the cute and quirky use of the lower case letter). These three artists, it is fair to say, think that the jurors are not altogether stupid, but could use a bit of aesthetic or political instruction. But the 954 who applied for and did not receive Baker grant money, think that the prize’s anonymous jurors are cretins and fucking idiots.

Such is the sense one gets every year at this time (and as the Sondheim finalists are announced) as disgruntled artists vent their spleen at the various ways in which the system is rigged—almost all of which boils down to “they didn’t pick enough people like—exactly like, I mean identical with—me!”

Such sour grapes distract from any real critique of the prize system—and real questions there are. On Facebook, people complained that there were no women who were given Baker money. This is not true, since  Jowita Wyszomirska is a woman, but it is nevertheless striking that 5 of the 6 award winners are white males.

Perhaps the judges didn’t know. Perhaps the didn’t care. Perhaps they are all Klansmen and intentionally chose white men (those hoods would be great for helping keep their identities hidden and preserving that coveted Baker Secrecy (TM)).

Last year, executive director Melissa Warlow told City Paper other artist awards, such as the MacArthur Grants, are decided in secret. “The Board of Governors of the Baker Fund holds the process to the highest objective and professional standards and annually recruits a panel of nationally respected jurors from outside Maryland who use the website to make their independent selections.”

Since they use the website to make their decision, the gender and race of applicants is probably pretty apparent. But, without other criteria, what are artists supposed to think? And it comes at a particularly bad time, when Open Walls Baltimore has been attacked as a “sausage party” for including only a single woman artist (full disclosure: CP’s editorial staff, as mostly male, could also be characterized as a sausage party).

It’s also worth noting that Todd Marcus, the band leader and bass clarinetist who received one of the Baker Awards, also won City Paper‘s “Best Do Gooder” in 2013.

  • R. Scalia

    The other annoying factor is that an entire category of artist didn’t make the cut. No one from literary arts category won anything, including a mention. It’s as if the writers who entered were totally invisible, despite the numbers who applied.

  • Concerned…

    Feels like you simultaneously want to cover all your bases and still assert some acid wit. Somehow it’s coming across as nothing.

  • What?!

    This is a bit of a nothing article, aside from coming off as mean for no reason (surely not all the loosing artist truly think the jurors are “fucking idiots”), it has a tone that makes one immediately wonder if snark alone, free of content, or real information, can really pass for journalism. There is no clear point of view, so how can it be called an opinion piece (whats the opinion?). It reads like an onion article, yet there is no joke. whats going on at city paper.

  • esco36

    I think the issue is the fact that this year and in past years, artists who were awarded b-grants were then awarded the $25,000 prize. I think they need to spread the wealth around rather awarding the same people. There’s no one else worthy of that money out 954 people??

  • anon

    my opinion is that it is time for us to turn our backs on these awards. these awards are at best a small salary and at worst a couple thousand. it does not seem like the money is really necessary. rather it would be nice for artists to harvest more cash directly from audiences, either from ticketed attendance, donations, or purchased products, etc. . . being “awarded” something from judges, based on application, seems divisive and a little detached from the reality of audiences.

  • George Smith

    Baynard Woods is a snide prick. He doesn’t carry about creating passable journalism because he isn’t a journalist. He’s simply someone with public exposure that utilizes his position to create meaningless web content in the hopes that people come onto the City Paper website, click on his bullshit, and feel enraged enough to comment.

    You’re case. I’m point.

  • Polterguest

    What’s the matter, douchebag, you on the jury?

  • Tom

    Why don’t we talk about the patterns of the Baker awards after six cycles? Year after year, the $25,000 prizes typically go to museum friendly artists and one musician (classical, jazz, or experimental). We haven’t seen a dancer, filmmaker, writer, or graphic designer get a Baker.

  • George Smith

    Yes. I was handpicked when I was a child. My mother used to masturbate me into a cup marked “savior”. When I was old enough to kill I shot a dog. The jury is my life. Every morning I wake up in a gold plated bed surrounded by gold plated women. I’m better than you in every single way.

  • Barnadine_the_Pirate

    There is no basis for the assertion that it is “pretty apparent” to the judges what the race and/or gender of an applicant is. Maybe it is. But then again, maybe the materials they are given to judge are stripped of identifying information (except to the extent it is overtly expressed in the material itself).