Liberta Awards 2020

A few things to love in a year everyone hated- the 2020 Libertas, Artblog's annual end-of-year shout-outs!

Hundreds of protestors on steps outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Protestors for Justice for George Floyd at the Philadelphia Art Museum on Saturday, June 30, 2020. Courtesy Mark Strandquist

Here’s what we know about 2020: We hated it and can’t wait to start a new chapter. To shout out a few of our least favorite things about the year: pandemic, wars, continued killings of black and brown people by police, deep budget cuts to the arts in Philadelphia, and the complete failure of our democracy to take care of its people. But to be sure, some good things happened in Philadelphia. Despite everything, Philly communities supported each other through collaboration, spreading love, and exhibiting leadership. Gig workers unionized to establish and protect their rights; six arts organizations — African American Museum in Philadelphia, Asian Arts Initiative, Taller Puertorriqueno, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia Contemporary and Woodmere Art Museum — met (and continue to meet) to explore sharing resources and strategies. The Dox Thrash Project made strides to save the historic Dox Thrash house, home of a trailblazing African American Philadelphia artist. Also, community fridges were established. The 2020 Libertas are dedicated to all of the artists, essential workers, activists, and community members who give us hope for the future of Philadelphia. Have a happy, safe and healthy New Year, Everyone!
Love, Morgan and Roberta

Art Angel of the Year award – Leah Douglas

For creating and managing the consistently excellent, pro-local and diverse exhibition, Art at the Airport at PHL International Airport.


Activist Angel of the Year award – Mina’s World and The Fridge on 52nd

For creating and operating Philadelphia’s first-ever QTPOC-owned and -operated coffee shop with a mission to serve the community through initiatives like their community fridge, The Fridge on 52nd, and working with and supporting local artists, and selling artist goods.

[ED. NOTE: At the request of the awardee, this year’s activist angel of the year award has been amended to honor Mina’s World and The Fridge on 52nd.]

Collaborations that give us hope award – Dox Thrash House activists

This one goes out to all of the Philly artists and activists who helped save Dox Thrash House in 2020! The efforts were launched and led by Dox Thrash Project (comprised of Maya Thomas, Dana Rice and Chris Mulford) and their The Black Futures Campaign, and supported by artist spaces like Space 1026 and Tiger Strikes Asteroid who auctioned off art to help crowd fund for the historic home. Huge shout out to Beech Community Services (an organization dedicated to strengthening quality of life for Cecil B. Moore community members) for ultimately purchasing the historic home!


It can only get better award – 2021

We hope you agree.

Quick Pivot Award – Marangeli Mejia-Rabel and Philadelphia Latino Film Festival

For the quickest shift from in-person to an entirely digital Philadelphia Latino Film festival when the Covid-19 restrictions began!

Movin’ on up award – Maori Karmael Holmes

For expanding BlackStar Fest into BlackStar Projects to support even more Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists with projects like their new journal called “Seen


Collective Bargaining Fever award – Tie – UArts Adjuncts, PMA Workers and Free Library Workers

For solidarity, energy and risk taking by all the organizers and supporters at an economically-perilous time of pandemic. You could say it’s long overdue but that takes away from the glory of this moment. Go, unions!

Kudos, Artists

Background: in the left, a carousel with a chair sitting on it. On the right, an obelisk that reaches to the ceiling of the institute of contemporary art. Foreground, between both sculptures: A wall made of bricks with bits of clothing sticking out in between each of the bricks.
Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves, 2020, installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Photo: Constance Mensh.

Karyn Olivier, for gallery representation with Tanya Bonakdar, and a show upcoming in 2021!

The Future Is Us Collective, for continuing to nurture young artists and partnering with local orgs to provide clothing and school supplies for local Philadelphians (Learn more about them in this Artblog interview from Logan Cryer!)

Immanuel Wilkins, for earning the #1 position in the New York Times Best Jazz Albums of 2020 (Learn more about Immanuel on Artblog Radio!)

Alex Smith, for his well-deserved Pew Fellowship and because his book Arkdust was picked up by Rosarium Publishing.

FORTUNE, local print collective, for securing funds from Added Velocity to develop “Many Folds Press” which redistributes (for free) “out-of-print revolutionary queer Asian Archival works and produce(s) new publications for three Philadelphia-based QTBIPOC artists.”

Chelsey Luster, for her arts activism including selling prints to raise money for Black Lives Matter (Check out Chelsey’s curatorial work in another great Artblog post by Logan Cryer!)

Author! Author! We LOVE These 2020 Books by Philadelphians

In Celebration of the Decisions I Usually Make, A King Ball
Media Book
, an e-book by Justin O Walker.Justin is a winner of the Artblog art writing challenge in 2015 and 2016. He also was a contributor to Artblog. Read his Artblog articles here. And make sure to purchase the media book!

Cover, In Celebration of the Decisions I Usually Make" by Justin O Walker
“In Celebration of the Decisions I Usually Make: A King Ball Media Book” by Justin O Walker. Cover art by Justin O. Walker

Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life, 1991-2018 by Ken Lum. (Concordia University Press)

We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility by Marc Lamont Hill (Uncle Bobbie’s books)

101 Jokes for the Working Class by Jacob Chris Hammes (Pilot Projects)

Wild Wild Wild West/Haunting of the Seahorse by Jonathan Lyndon Chase, a special two-in-one book (Read more about this on Artblog)

Colored People Time, exhibition catalog from ICA Curator Meg Onli’s exhibit by the same name, which was shouted out by Brooklyn Rail as one of the 20 best books of 2020.

The Turkey award, museum edition – The Philadelphia Museum of Art

For fighting against the employees’ right to unionize. Really, PMA? Shame on you.

The Turkey award, non-museum edition – The City of Philadelphia

For its lizard-brain response to Black Lives Matter protests, especially the inhumane use of tear gas on protestors on I-676 on June 1 and in West Philadelphia on May 31.

The Special “We still can’t Believe it” Turkey award, non-museum edition, Mayor Kenney and City Council

For gutting the only two pieces of civic recognition of the arts in Philadelphia. Closing Philadelphia’s only public-facing arts department, OACCE, and slashing the budget of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund — the economic lifeline for many small arts organizations — made this year even harder for arts groups. Thanks you guys!.

Comings and Goings is formed by Logan Cryer, Heidi Ratanavich and Tim Belknap to provide low cost AV equipment for creatives.

Zoe Ryan takes over as Director at Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

David Brigham, President and CEO, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, takes over as CEO of Pennsylvania Historical Society

Peep Gallery opens in Viking Mill, with a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s peep-y Etant Donnes

No. 5 Butchie Alley, Tiger Strikes Asteroid member Terri Saulin opens a gallery in her garage!

Marla Schumacher retires as Vice President of Education at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Amanda Phillips takes over as Executive Director of Development and Operations, Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA).

Gallery Joe closes for good.

Fleisher-Ollman Gallery moves to 915 Spring Garden St.

New to us in 2020, Contemporary Art Lab, run by Jorge Luis Gutierrez, established in 2013 in Miami, opens an outpost in Philadelphia – focused on curating, advising and dialog about artists of diverse backgrounds.

Pew Wish List

Vichte-Boul Ra

Cynthia Dewi Oka

Arielle Julia Brown

Justin O. Walker

MacArthur Fellows (Genius) Wish List

Roberto Lugo (repeat candidate)

Ken Lum (repeat candidate)

Karyn Olivier

Tayyib Smith

Carmen Maria Machado

Headshots of Ken Lum and Karyn Olivier on a illustrated background
Ken Lum (left) and Karyn Olivier (right), Artblog “Art and Social Responsibility Today” panelists, 2020


Adal Maldonado 1948-2020, visionary Nuyorican/Puerto Rican artist, who showed work at Taller Puertorriqueno

Amy Lipton 1956-2020, curator, writer, and director of the nonprofit ecoartspace and former gallery director at Abington Art Center

Joe Rishel, 1940-2020, long-time curator at PMA and husband of the late Anne d’Harnancourt

Julie Karabenick, well-respected artist and curator of Geo-Form, the free online archive of interviews with geometric abstract artists

Carole Price Shanis, 1934-2020, long-time supporter and board member at the Philadelphia Art Alliance

David Carrow, 1942-2020, artist of poetic found object sculptures shown at Marginal Utility and Basekamp

Rodger LaPelle, 1936-2020, artist and gallery owner who furthered the early career of David Lynch and helped many local artists with his exhibitions and sales of their works.
Died in June, 2020, memorial service TBA

Bob Winokur, 1934-2020, professor at Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Robert Asman, photographer, showed at Schmidt-Dean Gallery, after a long illness (From Chris Schmidt via Facebook)

Joseph Shabalala, 1940-2020, legendary leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, transitioned February 11, 2020

Judy Gelles 1945-2020, whose Fourth Grade Project with schools around the world inspired a new school curriculum to empower student voices

Millicent Krouse, passed away on April 6, 2020 (From Tina Rocha of Cerulean Arts)

Richard Cramer, former Tyler painting professor, died of COVID-19 on April 10, 2020.

David C. Driskell, 1931-2020

David C. Driskell passed away on April 1, 2020, at the age of 89 as a result of the coronavirus. He was a celebrated artist and a scholar in the field of African-American art. Driskell was an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He held a Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University and nine Honorary Doctoral degrees. Born on June 7, 1931, in Eatonton, Georgia, he lived in Hyattsville, MD where he continued painting, making prints and other works on paper while maintaining a rigorous schedule that included research, writing, and lecturing. He was a former visiting artist at Brandywine and in 2006 received our Lifetime Achievement Award. Below is his lithograph Spirits Watching and Driskell at the press working on The Bassist. For more information go to and search his name. Our prayers go out to his wife Thelma and the entire Driskell Family. (From Alan Edmunds, Brandywine Workshop –

Eleni Cocordas

Eleni Cocordas passed away from the coronavirus on May 1. She ran the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in the early 1980s, was responsible for a major Memphis show. She also worked at the MOMA, the American Museum of Natural History and cultural organizations as the Japan Society. She also worked for photographer Peter Beard who ironically also died recently. (via Sid Sachs)

Little Richard, beloved musician and performer passed away on May 9, 2020

Artblog Markings

Drawing of 6 people on a "zoom" call during social distancing.
Sarah Kaizar, “Staff meeting” Courtesy Sarah Kaizar. Included in “Artists in the time of Coronavirus” Part 18.

Artists in the Time of Coronavirus
In response to Covid restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic that locked us in unprecedented isolation depriving us of human contact, we launched an open call exhibition, Artists in the Time of Coronavirus, to ask the community to come together virtually and express their feelings about this difficult time. The resulting series was an outpouring of images and writings by more than 300 artists, published in 56 posts from March 19 – August 20, 2020. The series gave us purpose at a time when we felt paralyzed and helped steady our nerves and soothe the isolation. We believe it helped others in a similar way. We are formulating a new community project for 2021, since we are still deep in the pandemic’s grips and in need of banding together again. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here are other markings of Artblog’s 2020.

The Noble Art of Art Writing, The Art Writing Challenge
We published a book in 2020 — an anthology of the winning essays from the first four years of the Art Writing Challenge. We are very proud and happy with our elegant book, our first ever print publication! Read Jessica Rizzo’s review, and if you want a copy ($18, includes shipping) email

We welcomed a number of terrific new writer-contributors to Artblog:
Corey Qureshi
Candy Alexandra Gonzalez
Dereck Stafford Mangus
Kemuel Benyehudah
Kinaya Hassane
reek bell

And we welcomed a new comic artist to Artblog:
Jacob Chris Hammes with the series, “Grand Ballroom of Doom”