A couple weeks ago, we had a little disagreement with our friends down at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Or rather, I thought all of the celebrations of the certainly meritorious Fred Lazarus IV were a bit out of hand. I imagine that Fred himself was embarrassed by the proliferation of flashing bowties and stamps, because it felt like the university was going out of its way to create an artificial cult of personality around him. I compared that effort, not Lazarus himself or his actions, to the cult of personality that the Politburo created around Soviet dictator and all-around monster Josef Stalin. The next day I posted a second video satirically comparing student reaction, which seemed to be none, to those images of North Koreans weeping at the death of Kim Jong Il, and on the third day recent graduate and former City Paper intern Rebecca Scott Lord provided an excellent video discussing the uses of the Lazarus stamps (I was thrilled to know that the younger generation at least knows what LSD is).
MICA officials were a bit pissed. And even within our own newsroom, Van Smith questioned my judgment, given that Edward Ericson Jr. had just written a serious and powerful piece about the attempts of MICA adjuncts to organize a union.
Maybe he was right, but I still think it was funny and justified. And, as I told the officials, my relationships with my MICA arts-writing interns have been among the most valuable I've cultivated over the last year. Lord (who wrote a great piece on commencement speaker James Turrell's New York show last year), Rebekah Kirkman, Maura Callahan, and Fallon Chase have all contributed valuable critical insights to the paper and have been good friends, and Patrick Pilkey and Helgi Olgeirsson have produced some great photos. So I was quite proud as I went to MICA's art walk last week to see the work of these artists (who I knew primarily as critics and fact-checkers-Callahan and Olgeirsson are rising seniors who are still working here and not part of that graduating group). As all our interns do, these MICA students help me know what their generation was thinking. And they did important work-my wife and I even bought a piece by Kirkman (I can only own pieces by artists I am already too close with to ever write about to avoid any conflict of interest). We also bumped into George Cessna (who also graduated and plays in The Sterling Sisters, 2013's "Best Country Band"), Jon Bevers (the professor who is in the midst of an epic documentary about jazz in Baltimore), Ian Donnelly (of Bobby E. Lee and the Sympathizers, 2012's "Best Folk and Country" and Lindsay Bottos (whose Tumblr page went viral this year and whom I should have written about by now-apologies).
A friend and roommate of our interns, Lydia Pettit, just graduated and is already making a major contribution to the city's art scene with the Platform Arts Center, at 116 W. Mulberry St. (at Mulberry and Park, right by what we call Little Ethiopia). The space was formerly a law office and Pettit converted it to several separate studio spaces, all of which are rented out. PAC opens May 31, with open studios and a show in the downstairs gallery.
I'll continue to call out MICA for things that I think are dumb. But I will also continue to call on them for help in understanding the city's art scene. All of the interns I have had are visual artists and can bring something to the arts coverage that I cannot.
In an unrelated note, Conflicts of Interest was finally successful in bringing a yellow box to Oliver Street. Now we are working getting one at the corner of East Baltimore and Highland streets.
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