Learn about our artists!

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Jackie Milad

A visual artist, 2018 Sondheim Semi-Finalist, and native of Baltimore City’s east side, Jackie Milad’s work has been focused on symbolism and hidden language that pulls from cultural sources from around the world. Jackie’s creative vision is a continuous narrative that combines her own cultural heritage with an irreverence towards her materials and process. No piece of art in Jackie’s studio is safe and elements of her work are frequently cut, collaged, and recycled into new stories and compositions. She will use anything within reach and considers herself a “visual omnivore” with all manner of paper, ink, paint, and graphite featuring prominently in her work. The iconography she uses; repeated, jumbled, reorganized, and repurposed, draws on her Egyptian and Honduran heritage to construct a language wholly her own in which old symbols have new life and meaning. Despite the historical and cultural significance of the symbols she uses, Jackie resists the urge to treat them preciously and instead calls attention to how we as a society decide what is worth saving and what isn’t. At her core is a question every artist asks, “Why can’t I just make my own rules?” Jackie Milad resides in the Mayfield neighborhood with her family. She describes the community as a hidden gem, a quiet place full of green trees that shares a connection with nature as well allowing access to the city. Even though she frequently exhibits her work across the country and beyond, Jackie still has to hold a full-time job outside of her studio hours. This confines her time in the studio to weekends and days off. Jackie describes it best herself, stating that “as a Baltimore artist, [she] can’t just exist as an artist”. The impact of the Artist/District grant, $3,000 over 3 months, will cover a multitude of costs every artist faces but few outside the medium understand. Jackie intends to use portions of the grant to document her work and ready it for exhibition, an expense every artist needs to account for in order to display and market their work. Jackie will also use a portion of the grant to cover the costs of childcare and babysitting, allowing her to spend more time in the studio preparing for a busy fall schedule in which she’ll be exhibiting work at School 33 Arts Center here in Baltimore. Jackie is currently working alongside the Artist/District program to identify ways to display her work and speak about the impact of the grant on September 30th. She will be joined by the other Artist/District lottery winners who will each present to the community and demonstrate the vibrancy of our arts community here in the 3rd District and throughout Baltimore.

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Chelsea Lemon Fetzer

Chelsea’s experience growing up as a mixed-race woman in the Midwest inspires her current novel. The narrative centers on a small Minnesota town juxtaposed from the perspective of African American characters living there more than a century apart in time. “I remember getting the message in grade school that Minnesota’s geography laid on the right side of history: the South condoned slavery once, the North, did not. But the North I knew called me the N-word a lot, plastered “Most Wanted” pictures of black men in my post office, sometimes spit in my hair. And I knew of a man named Dred Scott who had lived as a slave only 27 miles and one hundred and fifty four years from my hometown. When he sued for his freedom, he lost.  I wondered what was our history really? If unearthed fully, what perspective would it lend on the continuing confines Black Americans face? Can history be repurposed by us, reimagined into a vehicle for change? What would that vehicle look like?” Propelled by these questions, Chelsea began what would become several years researching the underwritten stories of African-Americans who lived as slaves in the Midwest, and imagining what or who else might have existed in the many blanks. As a fiction writer, she drew inspiration as much from the discoveries as from the “history-detective” process. Subsequently, her characters and their stories came to life. Chelsea Lemon Fetzer has been a resident of Baltimore City’s Waltherson neighborhood for the past five years and cites affordable homes, verdant green spaces, and close community as propellants for her creative practice. The connection to other creative individuals and the abundant quiet of the residential streets have made the area a welcome home for Chelsea and her family. The mother of two children under 6, Chelsea’s greatest obstacle is carving out consistent time to write and research, especially required by a work of historical fiction. The impact of the Artist/District grant, $3,000 over 3 months, will cover the costs of childcare and enable Chelsea to use her time effectively in the writing and editing of her most recent draft. Chelsea’s own experiences in motherhood and the racial politics of our time lend new shades and hues to her characters and story. After deciding multiple times that she was finished writing her novel only to once again be called back, Chelsea hopes that this will be her final draft. We only hope that she doesn’t stop writing. Chelsea Fetzer intends to debut an excerpt from her novel on September 30th when the four Artist/District lottery winners meet again to show the impact of the grant on their creative practices.

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Scott Patterson

Afro-Futurism, the central theme of Scott Patterson’s work, is defined as a vision of the future through the perspective of African/Afro-Caribbean culture. Spirituality, Haitian voodoo, southern Baptism, and Catholicism all collide in an operatic ballet that bridges the divide between spirituality and punk music. An artist with experience working in New York City and Washington D.C., Scott and his wife visited Baltimore five years ago and ate crabcakes at Koko’s Pub on Harford Road. They found a joy in the quiet neighborhood, with its abundance of mom-and-pop stores, and soon discovered the hidden network of artists that quickly convinced them to make the Beverly Hills community their home. It was there that Scott was able to co-found Afro House, a collective of collaborative artists who tell new stories through their creative practices and bring a “disruptive energy” to their work. That same disruptive energy and willingness to go against established norms helped power Scott’s current project, his Afro-Punk Ballet. Featured as a dancer, vocalist, and musician, Scott’s objective is to create a vision of the world 100 years in the future. He seeks to define the changes we’ll experience; the new types of music and movement we’ll use to express ourselves, and one of his primary goals is to highlight the ways in which our lives can be better a century in the future. What will Baltimore look like in this new vision? How will the city be better and how will our treatment of each other and our collective lives within it improve? The impact of the Artist/District grant will allow Scott the opportunity to compensate his performers and present a preview of the Afro-Punk Ballet prior to their October debut at the Annex Theater. The freedom from having to fundraise gives Scott the time to continually refine his vision and performance as well as ensure that his performers are recognized for their contributions. While it remains to be seen whether the preview Scott presents is a live performance or a digital video, what is certain is that it will be wholly unique and unlike anything we have seen before. Scott Patterson will present his work on September 30th when the four Artist/District lottery winners meet again to show the impact of the grant on their creative practices.

Christina McCleary

As a native of Baltimore City and current resident in the Arcadia community, Christina McCleary’s ceramic work reflects the medium and Christina’s complex vision of self-identification and ethnic identity. Clay is flexible and allows artists to make mistake, revisit and edit their work, and refine the finished product to their specifications. At the same time however, the firing process can reveal new secrets in the ceramics that wrestle control away from the artist. No matter the artist’s intention or rigorous eye for detail, the final stage of a finished clay project can often present elements of surprise and failure that are integral to the finished product and add or change the character of the piece. Christina describes her home neighborhood as a culturally diverse community with positive energy. The proximity between her home and Herring Run Park affords her a measure of serenity and a degree of separation from the busy city. Those degrees of separation, the spaces in between ideas and perceptions, are central to Christina’s creative practice. As a multiracial woman, she has experienced and dealt with the complications of self-identity and racial politics. The journey to express those questions and seek answers is a relevant theme in Christina’s work and a primary influence upon her desire to create and build with clay. The Artist/District grant will afford her the opportunity to hire an assistant to help complete her work as well as fund the construction of a larger kiln, the oven in which ceramics are fired and hardened. This will lead to an increase in the size of her projects, giving them a larger presence and allowing Christina to pursue ideas which couldn’t be communicated before. Although the firing process may still lead to surprise and failure at a larger scale, she considers those experiences to be part of a constructive learning process rather than a deterrent. Christina believes Baltimore City’s artistic community to be among the best in the country though it consistently flies under the radar. She states that the quality of the work being created and shown is comparable to New York City but features so many artists who are unknown. By shining a light on the individual artists we can illuminate their stories as part of a greater collective that encompasses and defines Baltimore City. Christina McCleary will present her work on September 30th when the four Artist/District lottery winners meet again to show the impact of the grant on their creative practices.