Politics /

Baltimore Mayor Announces millions in Black-Only Arts Funding, includes Black Leaders Wax Museum, Comptroller says City is Broke

  |   By Lou Dobbs Staff

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott says too much money goes to white-run arts groups, so instead he is giving $3.6 million in city-directed funds to blacks-only arts groups.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D)

“For too long, public dollars have simply just gone to the big names and the big players in town,” Mayor Scott said. “And dare I say, I know my staff is going to hate this, the big names and big players in town that just happen to be White-ran organizations in Baltimore.”

Not only is the Baltimore mayor clearly giving away funds in an illegal way, discriminating against all other races in how he gives out taxpayer money, but he’s also wrong about there being white-run arts museums in his own city, including for art museums he sits on the board for.

Scott is awarding the “Diversity in Arts” grants funded by federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Capital grant recipients include the The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

The National Great Blacks Wax Museum has a wide array of statues from all stages of black history, and is receiving $250,000 in taxpayer funds. It received $2 million in federal funds last year. It reports having 150,000 annual visitors.

The Lewis museum claims to have over 10,000 items in its collection. It reported 15,000 general admission visitors in its 2023 annual report.

The art museums that did not receive the Mayor’s funding, include the three most prominent museums in the Charm City such as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum and the American Visionaries Art Museum.

But none of those three appear to be hostile to black art, black leadership, or are especially white-run, in contrast to the Mayor’s statements.

The Baltimore Museum of Art’s Director is Asma Naeem, who is Pakistani as noted in the press release announcing her appointment.

Baltimore Museum of Art Director Asma Naeem

The Mayor’s comments about Baltimore’s art museums being white-run as it relates to the Walters Art Museum are even more out-of-touch with reality though. Oddly, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott sits as a trustee on the Walters Art Museum’s leadership board. As well, the Chair of the Board is Guy Flynn, is black.

Baltimore attorney and Chair of the Walters Art Museum, Guy Flynn

The third traditional Baltimore art museum, the American Visionary Art Museum was, until very recently, similarly led by a black woman, Jenenne Whitfield. Whitfield was the director of the museum from March 2022 through September 21, 2023, because of unstated creative differences with the organization’s board of directors. The museum’s co-founder Rebecca Alban Hoffberger is currently serving as an interim until they can find a permanent replacement.

Jenenne Whitfield, former director of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore

So the motivation as stated by the Mayor to fund all-black art outlets at the expense of the more traditional art museums in Baltimore because they were all white-run, appears to be wholly false.

National Public Radio has previously said that criticism of the Baltimore Mayor was racist, no matter the terms used.

Mayor Scott is in a tough Democrat primary, for a primary election being held on May 14th. There are four leading challengers for the nomination, and while Scott is the favorite there are strong contenders.

Whomever prevails faces a tough budget because of the prior spending priorities, such as spending millions of dollars on art projects. Because of increased education payments, the City’s Comptroller Bill Henry says that the 2025 Fiscal Year budget may prove impossible to draft, pass, and reconcile.

“We’re now paying almost twice what we were paying several years ago in terms of local contribution to the school system, which is good for the schools. And it’s not like the kids don’t need the additional resources. It’s just that that puts an incredible challenge on local government to continue to provide all of the other services that people expect from city government,” Henry said.

Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, with an estimated 575,000 citizens. The city’s annual budget is $3.47 billion. The racial demographics of the city are roughly 62% black, and 32% white.

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