Baltimore (AP) – Derrick Adams moved to New York from Baltimore nearly 30 years ago because there weren’t many opportunities for him as an artist. Now Adams, 52, whose work has been recognized worldwide, wants to create spaces for Black artists in Baltimore, so they won’t have to leave home to ﬁnd success.
Two years ago, he purchased a 7,250square-foot lot in North Baltimore for about $50,000 to build a cultural center known as the Black Baltimore Digital Database. In December, the Mellon Foundation awarded the organization a two-year, $1.25 million grant the foundation says is “to support organizational capacity, design and development, community engagement and programming.” The current plan is to open it in the next ﬁve years.
Plans also call for establishing an artistsin-residency program in the same neighborhood called the Last Resort Artist Retreat. It will open nearby next year, according to Jelisa Blumberg, creative director for Black Baltimore Digital Database.
Adams said he hopes the database will encourage people to learn about the contributions of Black people such as Baltimore native Billie Holiday to the history of the city. The building, speciﬁcally the art gallery, also will allow Black artists to showcase their talent, he added.
“The history of Black contributions in the culture is overlooked, and it’s a very important part of the American history,” he said. “There have been so many pioneering Black Americans in Baltimore who established many things in the social and political world.”
He said his organization will be different than other institutions dedicated to Black history in the city – such as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum – because it will have digital archives. Families also will be able to store digital memories of their loved ones there.
“I’ve traveled around the world, and I’ve seen other cities in the United States practice some of these things I’m interested in,” Adams said. “What I am doing is not necessarily unique … What I think is unique is that I’m creating a digital component of recording history that will make things more accessible.”
Justin Garrett Moore, Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place Program ofﬁcer, praised Adams’ project. The Humanities in Place program supports diverse projects to better tell America’s history.