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Baltimore arts preview: John Waters, Tina Turner, and more

Busy season in Charm City with ‘Hamilton,’ Randy Rainbow among standouts

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Catherine Opie took this portrait-style of John Waters. (Image courtesy BMA)

What sort of art does gay writer and filmmaker John Waters collect? Does it reflect his subversive sense of humor and empathy for outsiders? How did he get to be such a savvy art collector?

Fans will get some answers from “Coming Attractions: The John Waters Collection,” an exhibit opening Nov. 20 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. It’s one of many shows and exhibits coming to Baltimore this fall, including the national touring productions of “Hamilton,” “Jagged Little Pill” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” and appearances by Randy Rainbow, Trixie Mattel, Chelsea Handler and others.

“Coming Attractions” will feature about 90 works of art selected from 372 works that Waters, a BMA trustee, plans to leave to the museum upon his death. When his donation was announced in 2020, representatives promised the museum would have a preview of what’s to come while Waters was still alive, and this show is it.

Although Waters’s donation to the museum includes works by himself and others, “Coming Attractions” will focus on art he has collected and displayed at his homes in Baltimore, New York City, and San Francisco.

The guest curators are photographer Catherine Opie and artist Jack Pierson, both of whom have been friends with Waters for years and are represented in his collection. The exhibit is organized by Leila Grothe, the museum’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art.

Among the featured works are paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints by Diane Arbus; Nan Goldin; Mike Kelley; Richard Prince; Cindy Sherman; Gary Simmons; Cy Twombly; Andy Warhol; Christopher Wool and others.

Part of the exhibit is a grouping of works that represent Waters’s relationships with people in the art and film worlds, such as Brigid Berlin; Colin de Land; Cookie Mueller and Warhol. There’s also the first work of art by a non-human that the BMA has ever agreed to display (or add to its collection) – a painting by Betsy the Chimpanzee, who lived and painted at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in the 1950s.

“We have both known John Waters for years as an auteur filmmaker, a writer, an artist, an art collector, and a friend. We are honored to have the opportunity to curate a presentation of his collection, which so richly reflects his personality and imagination,” Opie and Pierson, who both identify as queer, said in a statement.

“Our hope is to share with audiences another aspect of John’s creative vision by offering a glimpse into what he values: artists who are unafraid to take risks, who do not compromise, and who create their art on the margins.”

Waters’s last major show at the BMA was “John Waters: Indecent Exposure,” a retrospective of his own work as a visual artist, which ran from Oct. 7, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019. “Coming Attractions” will be on view until April 16, 2023. 

Other major shows opening this fall at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, include:

“Darrell Ellis: Regeneration,” from Nov. 20, 2022 to April 23, 2023. This is the first comprehensive museum exhibition devoted to the work of a multi-faceted artist who died of AIDS-related causes in 1992 at the age of 33. The show is co-organized with The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

“A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration,” from Oct. 30, 2022 to Jan. 23, 2023. For this exhibition about Black Americans moving from the South to other parts of the United States starting around 1900 and continuing into the 1970s, the BMA and the Mississippi Museum of Art co-commissioned 12 artists to create works that examine the impact of the Great Migration on the social and cultural life in the United States. Participating artists include: Akea Brionne; Mark Bradford; Zoe Charlton; Larry W. Cook; Torkwase Dyson; Theaster Gates Jr.; Allison Janae Hamilton; Leslie Hewitt; Steffani Jemison; Robert Pruitt; James Richmond Edwards and Carrie Mae Weems.

“Baltimore, Addressed: Baker Artist Awards,” from Nov. 13, 2022 to March 12, 2023. Five past winners of the coveted Baker Artist Award — Laura Amussen; David Page; Ernest Shaw; Susan Waters-Eller and Pamela Woolford — respond to “the past, present and imagined future of the city.” 

“Omar Ba: Political Animals,” from Nov. 20, 2022 to April 2, 2023. This is the first U.S. museum exhibition of the work of painter Omar Ba, a leading contemporary African artist.

“Stanley Whitney: Dance with Me Henri,” from Nov. 20, 2022 to April 23, 2023. Works on paper by a Philadelphia-born artist whose compositions and use of color and light have strong parallels to the work of Henri Matisse.

More visual arts events:

American Visionary Art Museum: The next “mega exhibit” at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway, is “ABUNDANCE: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right (Championing good, honest work from the hand and the heart),” from Oct. 8, 2022 to Sept. 2023. The curator is AVAM curatorial and development curator Gage Branda. It’s the first major exhibit at AVAM under new director Jenenne Whitfield, who this month succeeded founding director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, who retired in April.

Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles St. After cancelling its fall gala last year, the Walters has scheduled its 2022 celebration and fundraiser, An Evening at the Walters, for Oct. 15 from 6 p.m. to midnight. More information about that event and others is on the museum’s website,  thewalters.org. Its current blockbuster, “Activating the Renaissance,” opened in April and continues until February 26, 2023.

The Peale, 225 Holliday St. After a five-year, $5.5 million renovation, Baltimore’s historic Peale Museum reopened in August as The Peale, Baltimore’s Community Museum. Inaugural exhibits include “Spark: New Light,” a collaboration between Towson University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, featuring the work of more than 20 faculty members and MFA student artists celebrating the building’s reopening with “illuminated and illuminating works of art, until Sept. 25, and Peale Faces, until Aug. 13, 2023, featuring artist and “participatory history specialist” Lauren Muney’s hand-cut silhouette portraits of city residents.  More information about Peale events is at ThePealeCenter.org.

Maryland Center for History and Culture: 610 Park Ave. On Nov. 5, the Mount Vernon history center will open “Claire/McCardell,” a yearlong exhibit about Claire McCardell, an influential designer of women’s clothing from the 1930s to the 1950s and beyond. More information about the history center and its collections is on its website, mdhistory.org.

Performing arts events:

Hippodrome Theatre, 12 S. Eutaw St.: Fall shows include Hamilton, October 11 to 30; State Ballet of Ukraine – Swan Lake, November 5; Randy Rainbow: The Pink Glasses Tour, November 11; Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, November 15 to 20; Nutcracker! Magic of Christmas Ballet, December 7 and 8; Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure, December 10 and 11; Little Jagged Pill, December 13 to 18.

Lyric Baltimore, 140 West Mount Royal Avenue: CoComelon Live!, September 16; Trixie and Katya Live, featuring drag stars Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, September 19; Michael Blackson and Jess Hilarious, September 24;  The Price is Right Live, October 7; Baltimore Soul Jam; October 15; Disney Junior Live on Tour, October 21; and Whose Live Anyway?, featuring Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis and Joel Murray, October 29.

Also Joe Gatto Night of Comedy, November 4;  Taylor Tomlinson, The Have It All Tour, November 5; New Jack City Live On Stage, November 6; Spy Ninjas Live, November 18; Alton Brown Live: Beyond the Eats – the Holiday Variant, November 19; Disney Princess Concert, November 25; Cameo Featuring the Rolex Band, November 26; Steve-O (from Jackass) The Bucket List Tour, November 30; Steven Crowder and Dave Landau’s Rebel with a Cause Tour, December 3; Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, December 4, Chelsea Handler, December 15; Eddie B. Teachers Only Comedy Tour, December 16.

Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Avenue: On October 6, drag performer Betty O’Hellno and friends will host two singalong presentations of a 1975 cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Costumes are encouraged. The following two nights, October 7 and 8, Creative Alliance will present “Chocolate Covered Rocky Horror,” a musical performance that promises to take the Rocky Horror experience to “a whole different dimension.” A full calendar of events, including Sidewalk Serenades, Dr. Sketchy’s classes in “life drawing with a twist,” and the popular Art to Dine For series, is at creativealliance.org.

Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street: Our Town, September 15 to October 9; Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble and the Osagyefo Dance Company, September 17; Baltimore Butterfly Sessions, September 19, November 7 and December 5;  BCS Sound Check with Michelle J. Rodriquez in Concert, October 21; Ain’t No Mo’ (in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), October 27 to November 20;  The Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring EarlOrrin Productions’ Chocolate Covered Rocky Horror, in partnership with Creative Alliance, October 28 and 29; and BCS Sound Check with Eze Jackson in Concert, November 18.

Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street:  Dinner and Cake, September 6 to October 2; The Lion in Winter, October 18 to November 13; Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, December 6 to January 1, 2023.

Doors Open Baltimore: A popular annual program that allows participants to tour places that aren’t usually open to the public returns on October 1 and 2, with more than 40 sites open this year. Examples include the Arabber Preservation Society; the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower; Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater; the H. L. Mencken House and Humanim at American Brewery. The complete list is at doorsopenbaltimore.org.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: One highlight of the BSO’s fall series is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore on September 16, 1982. To mark the occasion, the BSO has planned a 40th Anniversary Season Opening Celebration for September 17, with Jack Everly as conductor and Ledisi as vocalist. More information about the symphony’s fall schedule is on its website at bsomusic.org.

Baltimore Soundstage, 124 Market Place: Madonna Gaga Britney Dance Party!, September 16; Shrek Rave, September 17; Old 97’s with Vandoliers, September 18; Pusha T, September 20; Wednesday 13, Bag of Humans, Space Lumberjacks, September 22; Dead Like Disco with Brothers Clair, September 23; Maddie & Tae with Sacha and Abbey Cone, September 24; The Get Up Kids, September 27; Nine Inch Naans Tour with Bloodywood, A Killer’s Confession and Iris Divine, September 29; and Japanese Breakfast, September 30.

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PHOTOS: Crush

New gay bar holds opening party

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Jared Keith Lee serves a drink at Crush. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The new LGBTQ venue Crush held a party for friends, family and close supporters on Tuesday. For more information on future events at Crush, go to their Instagram page @crushbardc.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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What to expect at the 2024 National Cannabis Festival

Wu-Tang Clan to perform; policy discussions also planned

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Juicy J performs at the 2023 National Cannabis Festival (Photo credit: Alive Coverage)

(Editor’s note: Tickets are still available for the National Cannabis Festival, with prices starting at $55 for one-day general admission on Friday through $190 for a two-day pass with early-entry access. The Washington Blade, one of the event’s sponsors, will host a LGBTQIA+ Lounge and moderate a panel discussion on Saturday with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.)


With two full days of events and programs along with performances by Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, and Thundercat, the 2024 National Cannabis Festival will be bigger than ever this year.

Leading up to the festivities on Friday and Saturday at Washington, D.C.’s RFK Stadium are plenty of can’t-miss experiences planned for 420 Week, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit and an LGBTQ happy hour hosted by the District’s Black-owned queer bar, Thurst Lounge (both happening on Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the Blade caught up with NCF Founder and Executive Producer Caroline Phillips, principal at The High Street PR & Events, for a discussion about the event’s history and the pivotal political moment for cannabis legalization and drug policy reform both locally and nationally. Phillips also shared her thoughts about the role of LGBTQ activists in these movements and the through-line connecting issues of freedom and bodily autonomy.

After D.C. residents voted to approve Initiative 71 in the fall of 2014, she said, adults were permitted to share cannabis and grow the plant at home, while possession was decriminalized with the hope and expectation that fewer people would be incarcerated.

“When that happened, there was also an influx of really high-priced conferences that promised to connect people to big business opportunities so they could make millions in what they were calling the ‘green rush,'” Phillips said.

“At the time, I was working for Human Rights First,” a nonprofit that was, and is, engaged in “a lot of issues to do with world refugees and immigration in the United States” — so, “it was really interesting to me to see the overlap between drug policy reform and some of these other issues that I was working on,” Phillips said.

“And then it rubbed me a little bit the wrong way to hear about the ‘green rush’ before we’d heard about criminal justice reform around cannabis and before we’d heard about people being let out of jail for cannabis offenses.”

“As my interests grew, I realized that there was really a need for this conversation to happen in a larger way that allowed the larger community, the broader community, to learn about not just cannabis legalization, but to understand how it connects to our criminal justice system, to understand how it can really stimulate and benefit our economy, and to understand how it can become a wellness tool for so many people,” Phillips said.

“On top of all of that, as a minority in the cannabis space, it was important to me that this event and my work in the cannabis industry really amplified how we could create space for Black and Brown people to be stakeholders in this economy in a meaningful way.”

Caroline Phillips (Photo by Greg Powers)

“Since I was already working in event production, I decided to use those skills and apply them to creating a cannabis event,” she said. “And in order to create an event that I thought could really give back to our community with ticket prices low enough for people to actually be able to attend, I thought a large-scale event would be good — and thus was born the cannabis festival.”

D.C. to see more regulated cannabis businesses ‘very soon’

Phillips said she believes decriminalization in D.C. has decreased the number of cannabis-related arrests in the city, but she noted arrests have, nevertheless, continued to disproportionately impact Black and Brown people.

“We’re at a really interesting crossroads for our city and for our cannabis community,” she said. In the eight years since Initiative 71 was passed, “We’ve had our licensed regulated cannabis dispensaries and cultivators who’ve been existing in a very red tape-heavy environment, a very tax heavy environment, and then we have the unregulated cannabis cultivators and cannabis dispensaries in the city” who operate via a “loophole” in the law “that allows the sharing of cannabis between adults who are over the age of 21.”

Many of the purveyors in the latter group, Phillips said, “are looking at trying to get into the legal space; so they’re trying to become regulated businesses in Washington, D.C.”

She noted the city will be “releasing 30 or so licenses in the next couple of weeks, and those stores should be coming online very soon” which will mean “you’ll be seeing a lot more of the regulated stores popping up in neighborhoods and hopefully a lot more opportunity for folks that are interested in leaving the unregulated space to be able to join the regulated marketplace.”

National push for de-scheduling cannabis

Signaling the political momentum for reforming cannabis and criminal justice laws, Wednesday’s Policy Summit will feature U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate majority leader.

Also representing Capitol Hill at the Summit will be U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) — who will be receiving the Supernova Women Cannabis Champion Lifetime Achievement Award — along with an aide to U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

Nationally, Phillips said much of the conversation around cannabis concerns de-scheduling. Even though 40 states and D.C. have legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance since the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971, which means it carries the heftiest restrictions on, and penalties for, its possession, sale, distribution, and cultivation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally requested the drug be reclassified as a Schedule III substance in August, which inaugurated an ongoing review, and in January a group of 12 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration urging the agency to de-schedule cannabis altogether.

Along with the Summit, Phillips noted that “a large contingent of advocates will be coming to Washington, D.C. this week to host a vigil at the White House and to be at the festival educating people” about these issues. She said NCF is working with the 420 Unity Coalition to push Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to “move straight to de-scheduling cannabis.”

“This would allow folks who have been locked up for cannabis offenses the chance to be released,” she said. “It would also allow medical patients greater access. It would also allow business owners the chance to exist without the specter of the federal government coming in and telling them what they’re doing is wrong and that they’re criminals.”

Phillips added, however, that de-scheduling cannabis will not “suddenly erase” the “generations and generations of systemic racism” in America’s financial institutions, business marketplace, and criminal justice system, nor the consequences that has wrought on Black and Brown communities.

An example of the work that remains, she said, is making sure “that all people are treated fairly by financial institutions so that they can get the funding for their businesses” to, hopefully, create not just another industry, but “really a better industry” that from the outset is focused on “equity” and “access.”

Policy wonks should be sure to visit the festival, too. “We have a really terrific lineup in our policy pavilion,” Phillips said. “A lot of our heavy hitters from our advocacy committee will be presenting programming.”

“On Saturday there is a really strong federal marijuana reform panel that is being led by Maritza Perez Medina from the Drug Policy Alliance,” she said. “So that’s going to be a terrific discussion” that will also feature “representation from the Veterans Cannabis Coalition.”

“We also have a really interesting talk being led by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership about conservatives, cops, and cannabis,” Phillips added.

Cannabis and the LGBTQ community

“I think what’s so interesting about LGBTQIA+ culture and the cannabis community are the parallels that we’ve seen in the movements towards legalization,” Phillips said.

The fight for LGBTQ rights over the years has often involved centering personal stories and personal experiences, she said. “And that really, I think, began to resonate, the more that we talked about it openly in society; the more it was something that we started to see on television; the more it became a topic in youth development and making sure that we’re raising healthy children.”

Likewise, Phillips said, “we’ve seen cannabis become more of a conversation in mainstream culture. We’ve heard the stories of people who’ve had veterans in their families that have used cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals, the friends or family members who’ve had cancer that have turned to CBD or THC so they could sleep, so they could eat so they could get some level of relief.”

Stories about cannabis have also included accounts of folks who were “arrested when they were young” or “the family member who’s still locked up,” she said, just as stories about LGBTQ people have often involved unjust and unnecessary suffering.

Not only are there similarities in the socio-political struggles, Phillips said, but LGBTQ people have played a central role pushing for cannabis legalization and, in fact, in ushering in the movement by “advocating for HIV patients in California to be able to access cannabis’s medicine.”

As a result of the queer community’s involvement, she said, “the foundation of cannabis legalization is truly patient access and criminal justice reform.”

“LGBTQIA+ advocates and cannabis advocates have managed to rein in support of the majority of Americans for the issues that they find important,” Phillips said, even if, unfortunately, other movements for bodily autonomy like those concerning issues of reproductive justice “don’t see that same support.”

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Sports

Brittney Griner, wife expecting first child

WNBA star released from Russian gulag in December 2022

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Cherelle and Brittney Griner are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news on Instagram. (Photo courtesy of Brittney Griner's Instagram page)

One year after returning to the WNBA after her release from a Russian gulag and declaring, “I’m never playing overseas again,” Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and her wife announced they have something even bigger coming up this summer. 

Cherelle, 31, and Brittney, 33, are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news with their 715,000 followers on Instagram

“Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being,” the caption read, with the hashtag, #BabyGrinerComingSoon and #July2024.

Griner returned to the U.S. in December 2022 in a prisoner swap, more than nine months after being arrested in Moscow for possession of vape cartridges containing prescription cannabis.

In April 2023, at her first news conference following her release, the two-time Olympic gold medalist made only one exception to her vow to never play overseas again: To return to the Summer Olympic Games, which will be played in Paris starting in July, the same month “Baby Griner” is due. “The only time I would want to would be to represent the USA,” she said last year. 

Given that the unrestricted free agent is on the roster of both Team USA and her WNBA team, it’s not immediately clear where Griner will be when their first child arrives. 

The Griners purchased their “forever home” in Phoenix just last year.

“Phoenix is home,” Griner said at the Mercury’s end-of-season media day, according to ESPN. “Me and my wife literally just got a place. This is it.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported last December, Griner is working with Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts — like Griner, a married lesbian — on an ESPN television documentary as well as a television series for ABC about her life story. Cherelle is executive producer of these projects. 

Next month, Griner’s tell-all memoir of her Russian incarceration will be published by Penguin Random House. It’s titled “Coming Home” and the hardcover hits bookstores on May 7.

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