Liberta Awards 2021

Hooray, 2022 is coming!! Let it be better! And here now, our list of memorable people, places, things this year, including some memorable rebrandings. It’s the 2021 Liberta Awards!

Collaged tile view of various artists who are featured in the 2021 Artblog Liberta Awards.
Diane Burko, Richard J. Watson, Betty Leacraft, Lynn Tomaszewski, Carmen Febo-San Miguel, Nasheli Ortiz González, Roberto Lugo, and Ken Lum, and Karyn Olivier. Photos courtesy the artists, Taller Puertorriqueño, and Moore College of Art and Design.

We hoped 2021 would be better. But the year turned out to be an almost carbon copy of 2020, sheesh! Continuing sagas include: the Covid roller coaster; attempts to delegitimize the results of the 2020 election; political gridlock in Washington; eco-devastation; plus world-wide depression as people grow frustrated with whiplash policy changes (go out! Don’t go out! Wear a mask! But not in these cases! Get a shot, except for you, you, you and you). And NFTs– which we barely understand– turn out to be environmentally destructive and a yet another profit generator for the 1%.

But that’s enough negativity! Good did happen in 2021! There have been exciting leadership changes in local arts organizations, continued generosity of donors to the arts, and even some new art spaces! (More on all of that below). Bottom line, we will hold our breath, wear our masks, and keep on hoping! You should too.

Angels of the Year

Leslie Kaufman, president and founder, Philadelphia Sculptors, for tireless work on behalf of art and artists in the region.

Roberto Lugo, for his continued activism and passion as an educator- from teaching ceramics on the sidewalk to raising a heroic amount of money for “Lugo Farms,” an upcoming pottery farm for the community.

Pandemic Year 2 Concept Award – Rebranding

FYI, Artblog toyed with the idea of rebranding as “The blog that writes and podcasts and loves art (TBWPLA),” but, like it or not, we will remain Artblog.

Best rebranding – The Met Museum
This was overdue, and advocated by many many artists including Nan Goldin who spearheaded the charge. The Met takes the Sackler family name off its museum! No more taint from the family that brought you Purdue Pharma and the opioid crisis!

Notable local rebrands:

  1. Advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) changes its name to “Children First,” because they’ve always put children first, and children’s issues are urgent now with Covid.
  2. University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia rebrands itself as “Penn Live Arts.”
  3. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center rebrands as TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image. This one leaves us breathless.
  4. Pennsylvania Humanities Council rebrands itself “PA Humanities.”
  5. National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) becomes the “Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History.”

Pandemic Superstars – (Galleries that opened during 2020-2021)

Commonweal Gallery – brainchild of Philly Stewards’s Alex Conner. Website

Powell Lane Arts (New Jersey, we love you too.) Website

S.N.A.I.L Gallery opens with monthly exhibitions on Instagram! The brilliant Logan Cryer curates up a storm and writes like a dream, with a sometimes project with a delightful title. Website

Kudos, Artists

Alex Smith published the first installment of their comic book series “Black Vans” (illustrated by James Dillenbeck)! The series was backed by 367 supporters, raising nearly $16,000 in funds! The first of this four-part “Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk Super-hero comic with queer POC leads” is available here. You can support future projects by Alex Smith by subscribing to their Patreon.

Diane Burko was shouted out by Holland Cotter in the New York Times’s roundup of best of art shows of 2021!

Diane Burko in her studio, leaning against a step stool and standing in front of a large subtract landscape painting of a blue atmospheric surface with abstracted planets on the bottom left, next to a bright orange explosion of color, both coming out of a black patch at the bottom of the canvas.
Diane Burko in her studio, January 2021, standing in front of “Unprecedented” 8’x 15’ with “Trilogy,” three 5’x 5’ paintings to the right

Kinaya Hassane, former Artblog contributor, was selected to write for the CUE Art Foundation’s exhibition catalog that accompanied James Maurelle’s solo show “On-Site.” You can read the essay on Cue’s website.

We are thrilled that Mark Thomas Gibson & Rami George are 2021 Pew Fellows!

Our congratulations to Nicole Salazar, Ted Passon, and Yoni Brook, on their docu-series “Philly DA,” which received the inaugural “Gotham Award” AND was named one of the best shows of the year in VOGUE, New York Times, Variety and others.

Poet and Activist Sonia Sanchez, 87, wins the $250,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for 2021

Comings and Goings

Alexander Rosenberg is named WheatonArts Glass Studio Director.

Annette Monnier steps down from Executive Director at UCAL and becomes Manager of Individual Giving at the Philly Film Society. Zoë Rayn Evans is appointed UCAL’s new Executive Director.

Ashley Jordan joins the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) as President and CEO,  Jordan comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she served as Senior Director of Development of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Blanka Ziska steps down as “artistic spirit” of Wilma Theater after leading the experimental theater group for 40 years.

Brooke Davis Anderson steps down as Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in May, 2021, and is appointed VIA Art Fund’s inaugural Executive Director.

In other PAFA news, Eric Pryor is appointed President and takes over on Jan. 18, 2022. He comes to PAFA after serving as president of Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) since 2015. He has an MFA from Tyler School of Art (1992).

Dr. Carmen Febo-San Miguel retires after 22 years as Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueño. Nasheli Ortiz González, MFA, is the new Executive Director.

Dr. Carmen Febo-San Miguel, smiling in a purple and black blazer (left) and Nasheli Ortiz González, smiling in an open white blouse with a black shirt underneath, and large clear framed glasses (right).
Dr. Carmen Febo-San Miguel (left) and Nasheli Ortiz González (right). Courtesy Taller Puertorriqueño.

Craig Stover departs Allens Lane Art Center after almost 12 years as Executive Director to pursue his art career. Nancy Sophy becomes new Allens Lane Art Center Executive Director.

Elizabeth Grimaldi resigns from Fleisher Art Memorial and Rebecca O’Leary takes over as Interim Executive Director.

Jarrod Markman steps down as Executive Director of DaVinci Art Alliance to pursue a new opportunity closer to his family. The new management team of two is: Bryant Girsch, promoted to the role of Artistic Director, and, after a competitive search, Samantha Connors as DVAA’s Managing Director.

Kimberly Kirn joins Impact100 as their first Executive Director (ever!)

Lauren McCardel named Berman Museum Director replacing former executive director Charles Stainback, who retired in 2020.

Margot Berg steps down as Philadelphia’s Public Art Program Director, a post she held from 2006-2021. In Nov. 2021, architect Marguerite Anglin was appointed the new Public Art Director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

Rob Blackson leaves Temple Contemporary to become Philadelphia Contemporary’s Curator of Citywide Initiatives and Co-Director of Curatorial Programs, with Curator of Spoken Word Yolanda Wisher. He also brings The Velocity Fund with him to PC! Nicole Pollard also becomes Associate Curator at Philadelphia Contemporary.

Patricia Phillips retired in July, 2021, from her role as academic dean at Moore College of Art and Design and Lynn Tomaszewski takes her place as the new academic dean.

Lynn Tomaszewski, a white woman with chin-length light brown hair, wearing green and tortoise shell-framed glasses, and a brown, textured, sleeveless blouse.
Lynn Tomaszewski. Courtesy Moore College of Art & Design.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden opens the gallery/library Conceptual Fade in February 2021.

Soon to be coming/going #1 – Cecelia Fitzgibbon, president of Moore College of Art and Design for 10 years, announces her retirement effective June 30, 2022.

Soon to be coming/going #2 – Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will retire in early 2022, as announced by the PMA in July, 2021.

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) gets out of bankruptcy and is now open!

Painted Bride mosaic saved in developer’s plan, which is approved by city

Paradigm Gallery and Studio lost its bid to buy the building that houses their gallery on Fabric Row for many years, co-founder, Sara McCorriston reveals. McCorriston and co-founder Jason Chen are disappointed but will look for a new building to buy. Meanwhile, there is lots of programming coming up in 2022 in Paradigm’s current space.

Books by Philadelphians in 2021 that we love

  • Black Vans (Issue #1)” by Alex Smith, illustrated by James Dillenbeck – you can purchase it here
  • BLAM (Black Lives Always Mattered!)” A “seminal graphic novel… that presents the history and impact of fourteen Black Philadelphians” written by Dr. Sheena C. Howard, and featuring artwork by Akinseye Brown, Dylan B. Caleho, Jamar Nicholas, Micheline Hess, Nile Livingston, Eric Battle, Mike Leeke, Christine Kerrick, Nancy Devard, Jamar Nicholas, Dwayne Turner, Will Rosado, and Damali Beatty. Take an audio/video view of the book exhibition that was recently at Temple University Library here.
  • Devil’s Pool” by Sarah Kaufman – available here
  • Faces of Courage: Ten Years of Building Sanctuary” by activist photographer, Harvey Finkle – available here*
    *All royalties will benefit the New Sanctuary Movement
  • Gracie: The Tale of a Very Special Sea Monster” by Leslie Kaufman, illustrated by Holly Smith – available here*
    *Proceeds will benefit the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum.
  • ✴Looking For a Four Leaf Clover (2021) ✴ ” by Chloe Luisa Piñero – available here
  • We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism” by Carolyn L. Mazloomi — (This is not technically a book made by a Philadelphia artist, but it includes one of our favorite Philadelphia artists! Betty Leacraft) – available here

Pew Fellows Wishlist

  • Acori Honzowhy
  • Sanchel Brownwhy
  • Scout Cartagenawhy
  • Taji Ra’oof Nahl (repeat candidate) – why
  • Richard J. Watsonwhy
  • Maria Dumlaowhy
  • Patricia Renee’ Thomaswhy
An African American man and woman stand together in a friendly pose in front of a large colorful painting on a dark blue wall in a museum
Richard Watson and Betty Leacraft at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

MacArthur Fellow (Genius) Wishlist

This year is all repeat candidates– we really think you should consider our recommendations, MacArthur Fellow folks! See the Fellows here.

  • Carmen Maria Machado
  • Karyn Olivier
  • Ken Lum
  • Roberto Lugo
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


It’s been a difficult year with many passings in the region and internationally. We extend our love to everyone who has lost someone this year.

Michael Lieberman (72), beloved Artblog friend, advisor and contributor – died July 29, 2021. Obituary

Jim Nixon (61), beloved Artblog board member, activist art collector, champion of young Black artists and POC artists – died April 6, 2021. Obituary

Philip Zuchman (79), friend of Artblog, painter, educator, auto-didact, and West Philly icon – died September 26, 2021. About

Carole Sivin (84), artist, educator, via Philadelphia Sculptors – died December 30, 2021. Obituary

Patrick Maguire (32), artist, ICA gallery preparator – died November 20, 2021. Obituary

Neil Anderson (88), painter, educator, gallery artist at Bridgette Mayer Gallery, via Bridgette Mayer – died Sept. 29, 2021. Obituary

Gerard (Jerry) DiFalco (69), visual artist, printmaker, and poet, via Virginia Maksymowicz – died Sept. 29, 2021. Obituary

Alex Kirillov (39), former master printer-lithographer at Brandywine Workshop & Archives, via Allen Edmunds Brandywine Workshop & Archives – died May 26, 2021. Obituary

Artblog Markings

With fewer team members writing this year and many venues closed, Artblog continued to publish an astonishing number of posts – 195 in all in 2021! We welcomed a new writer in the summer, L Autumn Gnadinger! Our contributor Logan Cryer began hosting podcast recordings for Artblog Radio. We are thrilled to have Logan’s intelligent and interesting conversations on Artblog and look forward to more in 2022. We’re also welcoming another new writer, Kate Brock, who recently earned their MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual Arts. And BIG shoutout to Tessa Mellin, Artblog’s University of Pennsylvania Non-Profit Leadership (NPL) Practicum student, who has been invaluable to Artblog, with everything from grant writing to strategic planning. We’re happy to include Tessa in putting together our new “Atlas of Art & Food in Philadelphia” book, underway in 2022.

If you’ve read this far, we applaud your stamina and fortitude, and we thank you for your support! Come back for more content in 2022 and make sure to keep in touch with us – our inboxes are open! ( + Happy new year!