The Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District has created several arts and entertainment initiatives that honor local visual and performing artists. Beginning in 2003, The Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards was one of its first programs to honor regional artists, thanks to the generosity of founder and Bethesda resident, Carol Trawick.
“Trawick was a local business owner in 2003 with a passion for supporting the arts and continues to support this annual prize,” Trawick Prize Manager Laura Kellermann says. “The annual competition is well-known in regional artist circles and is a respected accolade that winners are able to add to their resume.”
Each year the panel reviews a diverse selection of contemporary art, representing a large variety of work in all mediums and styles.
“With over 330 submissions received, the judges had their work cut out for them,” Kellermann says. “All original 2D and 3D fine art including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, fiber art, digital, mixed media and video are accepted.”
The Prize awards up to $14,000 in winnings each year and is one of the first regional competitions and largest prizes to annually honor visual artists. This year, eight regional artists have been selected as finalists.
Sobia Ahmad of Silver Spring, Maryland, is grateful for her nomination and excited to show work alongside the other artists.
“My interdisciplinary work explores how our deeply intimate struggles of belonging can inform larger conversations about national identity, notions of home, cultural memory and gender,” Ahmad says. “Interlacing personal imagery with political symbolism, I reimagine ancestral rituals and storytelling as acts of liberation in the face of oppression. As an immigrant, I am interested in how uprooted communities create sanctuaries through spiritual practices, ancestral knowledge and inherited memories.”
In the past few years, most of Ahmad’s work focuses on discrimination of Executive Order No. 13769, which bans travel to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries.
“I began this work in early 2017, three days after the ban was passed, and I was interrogated at an airport,” Ahmad recalls. “As I struggled to process the incident, I began collecting passport photos of other Muslim immigrants around me and transferred them onto Islamic-shaped tiles to highlight the tenuous notion of home for this community.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in June 2018, prompting Ahmad to expand her work and examine the language found in that ruling.
“Using implications of language found in such exclusionary policies as a point of departure, I expose how legal language is used to create and justify notions of ‘the other,’” she says. “The work also draws parallels between the present moment and global histories of migration, exile and displacement.”
Other finalists include Baltimore, Maryland artists Ernest Shaw, Stephanie Garmey and Abigail Lucien; Cecilia Kim of Richmond, Virginia; Mojdeh Rezaeipour of Washington, D.C.; Monsieur Zohore, of Potomac, Maryland; and John Ruppert of Towson, Maryland.
The award winners will be announced at a private reception on Sept. 7. The Best in Show, first place winner will be awarded $10,000; second place will be honored with $2,000; third place will be awarded $1,000, and a Young Artist, a finalist who is younger than 30, could win $1,000.
“The arts are essential to the cultural fabric of our community,” Kellermann says. “Competitions like the Trawick Prize shine a light on brilliant work by talented individuals and also make the art more accessible to the public.”
The exhibit will be on display Sept. 9 to Oct. 3 at Gallery B, noon to 5 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays.
Gallery B: 7700 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite E, Bethesda, MD; bethesda.org
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