Monday, July 16, 2007

Essential differences

The Baltimore Sun's art critic is photographer Glenn McNatt, and he does a nice job in writing this piece on the Sondheim Prize and its latest prizewinner, Baltimore painter Tony Shore, who also came down last year to Bethesda to win the 2006 Bethesda Painting Awards.

In this Washington Post article, Michael O'Sullivan pointed out some key differences between Baltimore's Sondheim Prize and the DC region's Trawick Prize, focusing mainly on the exhibition venues for these two important prizes - the Sondheim is exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Trawick at the Creative Partners Gallery in Bethesda. O'Sullivan was correct in calling out this difference, but as the Sun's article points out, there are several other key differences.

For one, the Sondheim Prize is deeply interwoven and part of not only the city of Baltimore itself, but also of a major city wide art event: Artscape. The Trawick, which preceded the Sondheim by a few years, is run by the Bethesda Urban Partnership.

According to Baltimore's promotion office director Bill Gilmore, this year's Sondheim award was underwritten by the France-Merrick Foundation, a local philanthropy, and by gifts from local businesspeople. "The annual cost of the competition, including the award and the costs associated with paying jurors, mounting exhibitions and printing publications totals between $50,000 and $60,000, he said."


The Trawick is totally underwritten by an annual endowment from Bethesda businesswoman Carol Trawick of $10,000. The total prizes total around $14,000 and the other funds are gathered from entry fees and from a $1,000 donation from Bethesda's Fraser Gallery for a "Young Artist Award." All costs associated with mounting the Trawick exhibition, including paying the three jurors, come from this pot, which I suspect is around $20,000 all together (I don't know the exact figures). Furthermore, although they have been approached, and called out here and in other places to add more funds to the Trawick, all the major businesses located and working out of Bethesda have essentially ignored the call as far as I know. I guess Lockheed Martin, and Comcast, and Marriott, and the Discovery Channel, and EuroMotorcars, and Chevy Chase Bank, etc. can't afford it.

Gilmore said this year's contributors included Walter D. Pinkard, a founder of the France-Merrick Foundation, and Amy Newhall. Bill Gilmore also stated that "Pinkard, Sandy Hillman and Nancy Roberts have also pledged to help raise an initial endowment of $500,000 to fund future prizes." And so the Baltimore people with the connections and the deep pockets to make the Sondheim Award become a yearly event have become involved.

As far as I know Ms. Trawick is the only backer of the Trawick Prize, although I suspect that the Bethesda area has more millionaires and multi-millionaires than all of the rest of Maryland added together. Where are they in pledging anything to the Trawick?

"We're certainly a lot closer to being an annual prize than we were a year ago," Gilmore said. "We kicked this off on a leap of faith last year and we have received some real support from people who have stepped up and said we want to help ensure the future of the prize."

That's the real difference: Baltimoreans have stepped up while Bethesdians (whose city for all intents and purposes is part of the Greater DC region) have not.