Akea Brionne Brown is the 2019 Sondheim Prize Winner
We’re incredibly excited to announce one of our founding members, Akea Brionne Brown, has been named 2019 Sondheim Prize Winner.
The Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize is Baltimore’s most prestigious artist award. Now in it’s 14th year, it awards a $25,000 fellowship to “assist in furthering the career of a visual artists or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Greater Baltimore region.”
Akea Reflects on Her Work
“The work shown in the Sondheim was work I’ve been working on my whole life, I just didn’t know it. Trying to navigate my home life, which was a mix of multiple cultural identities was what inspired this work. Having my identity reduced to nothing more than “black woman” who “makes work about being black” is what inspired this work. Trying to navigate social communities that were primarily black and still feel incredibly isolated and alone was what inspired this work. And feeling like no one was talking about this inspired this work. But ultimately, this work is about much more than that. It’s about all of us..
I stayed in the museum a few times to overhear what viewers were saying, knowing most of them didn’t know it was my work. I remember a couple (non-POC) walk in, look at the wall, and immediately they sighed and said “ugh it’s just about racism” and they walked straight through to the next space. It actually made me excited to hear that because it reinforced why I wanted to make this work in the first place. This work will always be about and for everyone, because we are all suffering from racism, white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia, misogyny, classism, colourism, the list goes on…
To simplify this long reflection, I was making this work long before the Sondheim and I will continue to make this work long after.”
Akea Brionne Brown is an emerging photographer that investigates the implications of historical racial and society structures in relation to the development of contemporary black life and identity within America. With a particular focus on the ways in which history influences the contemporary cultural milieu of the American black middle class, Brown explores today’s African-American community as it relates to historical forms of oppression, discrimination and segregation in American history. She received a Visual Task Force scholarship from the National Association of Black Journalists. Her work is featured in the Smithsonian’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, and was recently acquired by Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. She was the 2018 winner of Duke University’s Archive of Documentary Arts Collection’s Documentarian of Color award. Her series, Black Picket Fences, was acquired for their permanent collection at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. She was also chosen to attend the 7th annual New York Portfolio Review in 2018.