Last Friday, MICA and GBCA presented the eighth Baltimore Thinkathon in its first virtual iteration. Topics of investigation included Artists’ Wellbeing, Archives and Marginalized Communities, the Work of Museums, and the Arts Economic System. More than 50 people spent four hours delving into their subjects, sharing wisdom, creating pathways for action, and building new communities. Thank you to Sheri Parks, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, and her wonderful team at MICA. We can’t wait to see what new projects and partnerships emerge from the day.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how popular culture including books, movies, television shows, commercials, etc. reinforce structural racism. A case in point was the controversy about condemning several books by Dr. Suess. Today, I want to point to a more contemporary example; the character of Apu in the insanely popular and long-running show, The Simpsons. Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu produced a film devoted to the matter and named it The Problem with Apu. Kondabolu said the character came from "a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father."
Initially, producers of The Simpsons mocked the criticism and baked their response into a subsequent episode of the show. The good news is that actor Hank Azaria, who is white and voiced Apu, engaged in serious reflection and has come to understand how his work reinforces racial stereotypes and hurts individuals of South Asian-American descent. To better understand the impact of Apu, watch the film. You can also read a response to Azaria’s apology written by actress Mellini Kantayya in an opinion piece for The Washington Post.
In this week's newsletter, we are thrilled to launch a weekly spotlight of the 2021 Baker Artist Awardees. Over the next six months, we will feature one Baker Artist Awardee per week and allow you to explore and celebrate their work! This week, we feature literary artist awardee, Maria Adelmann.