Liberta Awards 2019

As we welcome 2020, we look back on the year we are leaving, with our annual end of year wrap-up, the Liberta Awards!

For some, 2019 was 365 days of not wanting to get out of bed for fear of what new outrage would occur in Washington. For others, Washington was exactly the reason to get out of bed and get working. In the art world, it was a year of ever higher prices at the fairs and auctions capped by the ridiculous escapade of the $120,000 banana, a piece of overripe fruit duct-taped to the wall at Art Basel Miami that SOLD for the outrageous sum. Here at Artblog we believe in a different kind of art world, one with respect for artists and art lovers alike, and where art is the earnest product of artists who communicate something valuable to the discussion of what it is to be human today. We welcome 2020, and look forward to the new art and artists we will be introduced to while cherishing the artists and art lover friends we’ve made through the years. Here is our roundup of the year, The 2019 Liberta* Awards. Enjoy!

Angel of the Year award

Michelle Angela Ortiz, photo by Neal Santos
Michelle Angela Ortiz, photo by Neal Santos

Michelle Angela Ortiz, for beating the drums for immigrant rights and against mass incarceration in her powerful and beautiful art works. The Pew fellow (2018) has broadcast her activist messages in murals, a documentary film (Las Madres de Berks, 2019) and all of her many exhibitions in Philadelphia and beyond. You can see her works and screen her documentary at ICA Boston until Jan. 26, 2020.

Kudos, Artists

Trapeta Mayson. Photo courtesy Wit López, edited by Morgan Nitz.
Trapeta Mayson. Photo courtesy Wit López, edited by Morgan Nitz.

Trapeta Mayson becomes Philadelphia’s newest poet laureate. 2019 Artblog Radio podcast.

Roberto Lugo wins coveted Rome Prize and 2019 Pew Fellowship (also coveted, ahem). 2014 Artblog Radio podcast

Raquel Salas Rivera, Philadelphia poet laureate 2018-19 awarded $50,000 award from Academy of American Poets.

Alex Rosenberg. Photo courtesy Roberta. Edit by Morgan Nitz.
Alex Rosenberg. Photo courtesy Roberta. Edit by Morgan Nitz.

Alex Rosenberg, real world wunderkind and fabulous artist, climbs walls of Eastern State Penitentiary as part of his art practice and becomes Internet star in Netflix glass blowing competition series, “Blown Away.” (100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) 2019 Artblog Radio podcast

Pauline Houston McCall gets commission for group of large abstract paintings to adorn walls of offices and conference room of Wells Fargo Bank in the corporate building of 30 Hudson Yards (550 WEST 33rd St.) New York City.

Artblog’s Managing Editor, Wit López, awarded Independence Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts, and TWO (Yay!) Leeway Awards – Leeway Foundation Art & Change Grant, and Leeway Foundation Transformation Award! 2017 Artblog Radio podcast with Imani Roach interviewing Wit López

Karyn Olivier, Wall, 2017-18. Photo courtesy the artist's website.
Karyn Olivier, Wall, 2017-18. Photo courtesy the artist’s website.

Philadelphia artist and educator Karyn Olivier is a 2019 Pew Fellow, following receiving the 2018-19 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. She will start out 2020 with a solo show at the ICA called “Everything That’s Alive Moves” (Jan 24 – May 10, 2020).

Immanuel Wilkins. Photo courtesy the artist's website.
Immanuel Wilkins. Photo courtesy the artist’s website.

Immanuel Wilkins is 2020 Kimmel Center Resident and will collaborate with Rog Walker and David Dempewolf, artist and co-director of Marginal Utility Gallery, in a series of workshops and performances.

Talks we’re kicking ourselves for not seeing

Li Sumpter in conversation with mother and son artists, Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas at The Barnes Foundation, November 16, 2019. The conversation was in the context of the “30 Americans” exhibition on view at the Barnes, there until Jan. 12. (Tip: Go see it!) 2018 Artblog Radio podcast with Matt Kalasky talking with Li Sumpter, Sam Reed and Charlie McGeehan about Afrofuturism

Shows and events we’re panting over and can’t wait to see

“Everything That’s Alive Moves” Karyn Olivier, ICA 2020 (See Kudos, Artists, above for more)

Author! Author! BEST Books by Philadelphians

In the Dream House- Carmen Maria Machado (New Yorker review by Katy Waldman )
You Are the Battery- Thomas Devaney (Artblog review by Levi Bentley  )

Comings and Goings

Ksenia Nouril becomes Jenkins Bryan Curator at The Print Center.

Valerie Gay named Barnes Foundation Deputy Director for Audience Engagement and Chief Experience Officer.

artblog feature susan talbott

Susan Talbot steps down as Director of Fabric Workshop and Museum. Imani Roach’s 2018 Artblog Radio podcast with Susan Talbot.

Christina Vassalo appointed new Executive Director of Fabric Workshop and Museum.

Shelley Langdale, former Park Family Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Philadelphia Museum of Art becomes Curator and Head of Modern Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe appointed Executive Director, Philadelphia Folklore Project. Jeannine Osayande was Interim Director at the Philadelphia Folklore Project.

Kate Kraczon, ICA Associate Curator since 2008, becomes Curator at Brown University.

Amy Sadao, Director of ICA Philadelphia
Amy Sadao, ICA Director, in her office, on April 7, 2014.

Amy Sadao, Director of ICA Philadelphia since 2012, steps down to pursue other projects like a book on the role and responsibilities of museums today. Roberta and Libby’s 2014 Artblog Radio podcast with Amy Sadao

Fleisher-Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia’s premier gallery for art made with exquisite touch and deep conceptual underpinnings is moving to 915 Spring Garden St. in Spring, 2020. Displaced by gentrification in 2013 from their long-time space at 1616 Walnut St., the gallery represents a wide range of local and national artists, some superstars and some relative unknowns. Their current exhibition by artist Kambel Smith, miniature sculptures in painted cardboard of some of Philadelphia’s iconic buildings, on view through Jan. 25, 2020, is not to be missed. Roberta and Libby’s 2012 Artblog Radio podcast with Alex Baker, Gallery Director.

Spiral Q, the puppet-powered-and-parading activist art organization is being forced to move from its home in West Philadelphia due to the building’s ownership changing hands, according to co-directors, Jennifer Turnbull and Liza Goodell.

Art @Offsite at the Fitler Club launches with 20-artist exhibit in its artist in residence program and an amazing (luxe, swanky) space to show the art.


PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) gets bequeath of $8 Million

They started in Philadelphia but today in its tenth year, Tiger Strikes Asteroid has outposts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Greenville, along with their space at Crane Arts in Philadelphia.

Grizzly Grizzly also turns 10! Previously a Velocity Fund award winner (2018), the Grizzlies receive “Added Velocity” in 2019 for a great-sounding project in the Chinatown North neighborhood surrounding the gallery!

The 50 anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, seen as the beginning of the gay rights movement, was celebrated throughout the city with exhibitions and events. Shout out to the great Gabe Martinez collaborative project at William Way Center. Wit López’s 2019 Artblog Radio podcast with Gabe Martinez

Walt Whitman would have been 200 years old in 2019. The Whitman at 200 Festival celebrated the poet and his legacy with exhibits, lectures and gathering around the region. Shout out to Arcadia University’s “Writers Make BOoks” in conjunction with the Whitman celebration. 2019 Artblog Radio podcast with Richard Torchia and Zachary See

Galerie Marie, Kimberley Camp’s amazing African (and diaspora) art boutique in Collingswood turns 6.

Moore College of Art and Design receives $5 Million gift from alum Jane Walentas. The largest gift in school’s history will fund Visionary Women scholarships.

Pew Wish List

Jacob Chris Hammes – Artblog Radio podcast
Noel Puello – Artblog feature by Alex Smith
Immanuel Wilkins – (see Kudos Artists above)
Wilmer Wilson IV – Artblog Review by Flora Ward


Joe Brenman

Tomi Ungerer (87) K-Fai Steel’s 2011 interview with Ungerer on Artblog

Robert Ryman (88)

John Phillips (73)

Carolee Schneeman (79)

Agnes Varda
Michael Lieberman’s review of Varda’s “Faces Places” movie with JR)

William Larson (76) founder of Tyler School of Art and Architecture Photography Department, digital pioneer

Cheryl McCLenney-Booker (70)

Thomas Nozkowski

Joyce Pensato, (78) who mined Mickey Mouse and other comic characters for her dark paintings

Cesar Pelli, architect of the Cira Center

Photographer of the Black social scene in Philadelphia, Robert Mendelsohn

Nobel laureate and author of “Beloved” Toni Morrison (88)

Charles Santore (84)

Carla Lombardi, (80) Philadelphia ceramic artist

Wynn Kramarsky, collector, friend of artists, tastemaker

Influential street photographer Robert Frank, (94) whose book and work, especially “The Americans,” changed street photography forever

Ken Hinde, Fairmount Water Works Tour Guide

Danielle Rice (68) renowned museum administrator and educator at PMA and elsewhere

Ed Clark, Trail Blazer, abstract artist

Osvaldo Romberg (81) artist and educator, born in Buenos Aires, taught at PAFA 1994-2012. Exhibition of works at The Israeli Museum, Jerusalem, until April 18, 2020.

Artblog Markings

Wit López joins Artblog as Managing Editor

New contributors (links to all of their writings on the About page)
Alex Smith
Natalie Sandstrom
Keely Hooper Erades (first post coming soon!)
Ray Simon
Susan Isaacs
Tom Stoelker
Michael Carroll (returning contributor)
Chuck Patch
Podcast Intro and Outtro music debuts, courtesy of Kyle McKay
Podcast transcriptions debut, making audio-recorded interviews accessible to more people
Book of Winning Essays from the Art Writing Challenge will go to printer soon, with help from PA Council on the Arts!
Artblog Map launched with help from Common Field and Pennsylvania Citizens for the Arts
Fond farewell to two long-time Board members, Gilda Kramer and Katie Adams
Welcome! to new Board of Jacque Liu, Anne Robinson, and Mari Shaw
Roberta announces she will step back from being Executive Director and Editor in 5 years. 🙁


We are currently building our Board and writing team, and fundraising for the future of Artblog! Join us! Email Roberta at for details about how to join the Artblog team.

*The Liberta Awards debuted in 2006 and are titled with a name that is an amalgam of “Libby” and “Roberta,” Artblog’s founders, who were forever being mistaken for each other on their travels around town. “Liberta” embodies the spirit of collaboration, hard work, fun and generosity, which are core values of Artblog.