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Recent MICA alumna named 2019 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize Winner

This is the fifth year in a row the winner was a MICA graduate.

BALTIMORE — Recent MICA graduate Akea Brionne Brown ’18 (BFA Photography + Humanistic Studies, Sustainability and Social Practice) was named this year’s Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize winner.

Brown, an emerging photographer, writer, curator and researcher who investigates the implications of historical racial and social structures in relation to the development of contemporary black life and identity within America, received the $25,000 fellowship to assist in furthering the career of a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. She was chosen at an award ceremony and reception that took place July 13. 

Her work has a particular focus on how history influences the contemporary cultural milieu of the American black middle class, and she explores current political and social themes and how they relate to historical forms of oppression, discrimination and segregation in American history. 

"To be able to be chosen as the winner of such an important award is an incredible honor," Brown said. "I'm so grateful for my community, my support system and for everyone who helped me keep the momentum when it felt like I was speaking to an audience that was composed of only myself. I'm full of excitement and extremely eager to continue this work."

This is the fifth year in a row an artist with a MICA tie won the Sondheim award. 

"The faculty in the MICA photo department really enjoyed working with Akea during her time in our program. She is very quick and insightful, using a critical lens to analyze and dissect social issues, revealing underlying truths about the world," Nate Larson, photography department chair, said. "The Sondheim Prize will help launch this young artist to even greater heights, supporting her at a critical moment in her practice, and we are very much looking forward to her future contributions to the field of photography."

Brown was chosen from a group of seven finalists. Each finalist not selected for the fellowship is presented with an M&T Bank Finalist Award of $2,500. 

In addition to Brown, this year’s finalists were Negar Ahkami, Cheeny Celebrado-Royer, Schroeder Cherry, Phylicia Ghee, Jackie Milad and Stephanie Williams. Four of the remaining six candidates also had MICA ties.

  • Celebrado-Royer ’10 (MFA Mount Royal School of Art) is a multidisciplinary artist who uses detritus from art packaging materials, recycled and found objects, as well as studio trash to create intricate wall installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings. She is currently the artist-in-residence for the post-baccalaureate program at MICA.

  • Ghee ’10 (BFA Photography) is an interdisciplinary visual artist, photographer and curator. Her artwork documents transition, explores healing, ritual, ceremony and personal rites of passage.

  • Milad creates textured works on paper and canvas. Her artwork has been featured in group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. She is faculty in the Curatorial Practice MFA program at MICA.

  • Williams is a tinkerer and doodler whose work navigates hierarchies of taste. She  currently teaches stop motion for the Animation Department.

Finalists will exhibit at the Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St., through Sunday, August 11. The exhibition is free open to the public.