Liberta Awards 2023

The Liberta Awards debuted in 2006, created by Artblog’s two founders, Libby and Roberta, who were constantly circulating in the Philadelphia art scene and being called by each other’s name. Nobody could keep it straight. Which one was Libby? Which one was Roberta? To make things easier, the two artists created the character, “Liberta,” and voila, the Liberta Awards. The Liberta Awards are Artblog’s year-end Philadelphia arts roundup, which includes Artblog’s wish list for the Pew Fellowships and MacArthur Genius Awards. Let’s say we’re not batting 1000 on our wish lists, but we keep trying. Enjoy the 2023 Libertas!

“Gritty” (the Philadelphia Flyers mascot) as Barbie, driving a pink convertible with a big pink background and the word “Gritty” at the top. Barbie is the doll whose “life” was imagined in the 2023 blockbuster movie, “Barbie.”
“Gritty Barbie” 2023. digital print. @Fade_Resistant. With permission.

The Liberta Awards

Nobody is calling 2023 a stellar year: It was more like a slow-mo car crash we kept feeling in our guts as we gaped, transfixed, at the headlines, the chaos, suffering, sadness and grief. No wonder Barbie was such a hit – escape into a pinkly-sweet fantasy land for a few hours? You bet! Meanwhile, here it comes, 2024. Without being wildly optimistic, we are cautiously so.

Artblog Pipedream Predictions

  • Mayor Cherelle Parker and City Council see the light! Philadelphia Cultural Fund budget increases to $10 Million in 2024! And $15 Million pledged for 2025!
  • Mayor Parker declares that art will save Philadelphia. She cuts the police department budget and creates a cabinet-level Department of Arts and Culture, authorizes hiring of 1000 full time and part time artist-peacekeepers, a civilian arts corps! The Arts Corps artists are embedded in all neighborhoods, to work with people to create and make, individually and together. Gun violence plummets, student test scores rise.
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art gives up arguing with the PMA Workers Union, embraces them as valued workers, and together they all celebrate with a barbeque on the Rocky Steps.

The Big Boo! Award – 76ers Owners

This rich guys’ real estate coup will destroy the immediate neighborhood and deeply damage Chinatown. Philadelphia must not sell off a piece of itself to private developers, who say they will make it better, cleaner, brighter, safer yet simply want to own a piece of the city to make boatloads of money – for themselves, not for the community. Philadelphia should not want this. It’s a bad idea and a truly terrible precedent. Just Say No. Rich guys, listen up. Build it at the sports complex! Or grow up and negotiate a better deal with your current landlords!

The Little Boo! Award – Amtrak

A large train station waiting room in Philadelphia shows a colorful abstract design mural in the tall windows above the entrance/exit doors to the station.
Art by Adam Crawford will be featured in Amtrak’s art program at 30th St. Station beginning in October, 2023. Photo with permission of Amtrak

Amtrak debuted a public art program at William H. Gray 30th Street Station with work by Adam Crawford, entitled “Euphonic & Chromatic Drift,” a vinyl mural covering the windows on the East and West ends of the station. The problem is that the windows are so high up and the lighting inside (and outside) the station is so low, you hardly notice the piece! How about some nice big sculpture? Or video art! Down low where it can be seen.

The One Award – Barbara Bullock at Woodmere Art Museum

A large complex cut paper piece shows a woman’s head and upper torso and arms, perhaps dancing, perhaps cooking up a brew, her arms and torso adorned by paper pieces that look like feathers or perhaps shells, some colored bright red or golden.
Barbara Bullock, “Bitches Brew,” 2014, From the series “Bitches Brew,” acrylic paint and matte medium on watercolor paper. Shown in Fearless Vision at Woodmere Art Museum. Photo by Roberta Fallon
A large cut paper piece of a black panther stares at you with its intense yellow eyes and open mouth painted bright red depicts a regal animal, healthy and alert. A Black bird companion perches on its back, tail up and head out, also alert and poised.
Barbara Bullock, “Panther,” 2014, From the series “Bitches Brew,” gouache on heavy watercolor paper. Included in Fearless Vision at Woodmere Art Museum. Photo by Roberta Fallon

Barbara Bullock’s Fearless Vision at Woodmere Art Museum is a breathtaking, heartbreaking and beautiful journey with an artist whose mission has always been to support, celebrate, reflect and speak truth about the experience of being Black in America. I can’t praise the work, the artist and the installation in the museum’s grand rotunda enough. Walking the circular path, downstairs and up, will bring you joy and be the best art experience you will have this year – maybe ever. The show is up til January 21, 2024, but don’t delay. [Ed. Note: Roberta wrote this mini-review for the Nov. 9, 2023 Artblog Newsletter. She feels the same today as then – this is The One.]

The One in a Gallery Award – Anne Minich at Commonweal

An iconic image shows a silhouette of a head and shoulders posed in front of a pitch black background. The head has no features in it and is surrounded by a pale pink halo that circles the head and rises above the picture’s frame. To the left is a tiny metallic cross that floats in the inky background. To the top right, a metallic gold heart floats in the inky background. To the right of the neck is the word ‘SAD’ in bright red letters. The figure’s body is clothed in a black and white striped shirt covered by a white striped shawl, with a black heart in a beige field in the center of the shawl. The picture connotes a human who is tightly controlled in their clothing and is saint-like with their halo, but who is “SAD” and whose heart is maybe wounded.
Anne Minich, “Our Lady of Rainbow in Bottled Aire (SAD),” 1994. Found Material and Oil Paint on Wood. 18’x24’x3.5’. Courtesy of Commonweal Gallery

In a poetic review of Anne Minich’s exhibit at Commonweal, Lane Speidel says that the experience of the works is utterly singular and comments, “Minich’s figures are both falling down a well and rising from it. Slipping behind the veil and pushing them aside. The inherent hubris of painting matched with the negation of idolatry.” Read the full review here. Artblog is a big fan of Anne Minich’s works and we are happy to see the artist getting the local recognition she deserves. We hope you saw the exhibit and we applaud the gallery for its support of Minich, a Philadelphia treasure.  Commonweal, a commercial gallery, is fueled by a spirit right out of today’s non-profit handbook: to do right by all, through diversity, equity and inclusion, and to connect artists with the public and convert them to collectors.  What other commercial gallery has a book club that meets to discuss, among other topics, the recent history of Philadelphia art.

The Nifty Award – Iffy Books

Iffy Books celebrated two years of operation at 319 N. 11th St., and this year moved to 404 S. 20th. Not only do they sell books, talk about books (N.K. Jemison’s The Obelisk Gate is under discussion in the Speculative Fiction group on Jan. 31), they have very cool workshops.

Best Idea since there’s been a Flower Show – The Alternative Flower Show

Read more at the website (Also, We love their slogan, “Get Weird With Plants”)

Kudos Artists and Arts Organizations

Big Win for The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum passes the Zoning Board review that threatened to shut them down – Yay! More here.

Conrad Benner of Streets Department debuts a podcast at WHYY!
Listen to all 5 episodes of Art Outside.

Rami George is Inaugural Artist in Residence, John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives at William Way LGBT Community Center
Read more here.

Fourteen men and women wearing white hard hats and holding shovels pose for the camera smiling in front of a large, Victorian-era stone home that will be the home of Woodmere Art Museum’s Frances M. Maguire Hall for Art and Education. The transformation of the home to the art center will be complete in 2025.
Groundbreaking for the Frances M. Maguire Hall for Art and Education (pictured from left to right): Chris Maguire; Mary Ann Boyer; Jamie Maguire; Woodmere Art Museum Board President James Alexandre; Franny Glomb; Woodmere Art Museum Director and CEO William Valerio; Maguire Foundation President and CEO Megan Maguire Nicoletti; Maguire Foundation Founder and Chairman James J. Maguire, Sr.; PA State Rep Tarik Khan; Matthew Baird, Baird Architects; Woodmere Art Museum Director of Institutional Advancement Anne Standish; Jeff Krieger, Krieger & Associates Architects, Inc.; Darren Damone, Andropogon; and Jane Sullivan, The Sullivan Company. Photo courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum

Best Year Ever Award, Museums – Woodmere

The Museum got a big capital grant from the state of PA to buy a building for its education program and also a $500,000 grant from Frances M. Maguire. And they broke ground recently!

Silliest Job Title Ever – Chief People Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Could it get any worse for the PMA? They are still fighting with the PMA Workers Union over the interpretation of items in the agreed-upon contract. Now, they have a new HR hire, Latasha Harling, who has the dubious honor of being the museum’s “Chief People Officer,” a title that is right up there with Monty Python’s “Ministry for Silly Walks.”

Comings and Goings

Most anticipated Coming of all – Mayor Cherelle Parker takes over from Mayor Jim Kenney
We are happy to see that Mayor Parker has a good, touch-all-the-bases Arts and Culture Transition Team! We are hoping for an excellent new head of an excellent new Arts and Culture Department that will make things happen for Philadelphia’s artists and arts organizations, which are under-used, under-funded, under-appreciated and an exceedingly valuable sector of the Philadelphia economy.

Leah Douglas, founder and leader of the awesome Art at the Airport program steps down as Director and Helen Cahng steps in
Read more here.

WHYY launches Two Children’s shows focused on local artists
Albie’s Elevator features Amy Orr; Yolanda Wisher; Klip Collective, Mia Rosenthal, Kah Yangni; Karina Puente; Philadelphia Voices of Pride; Positive Movement Entertainment Drumline; R. Eric Thomas; Steven Donogan & Syd Carpenter; Vidya Shyamsundar; and many more.

The Infinite Art Hunt (which is still rolling out) features Roberto Lugo; Diane Burko; Mickayel Thurin; Gross McCleaf Gallery, Eric Battle; Percy Street Project; Conrad Benner; Philadelphia Airport Art; Taller Puertorriqueño; Magic Gardens, Asian Arts Initiative, Clay Studio, and many others.

Jill Katz steps down at ICA and into new role as Communications Director at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Paideia Program at the University of Pennsylvania
Read more here.

Sean Kelley steps down at Eastern State Penitentiary and into role of Museum Consultant with Museums Can Do More
Read more here.

Alex McKechnie steps down as Media Director at the American Revolution Museum to be Director, Media at 120/80 MKTG
Read more here.

Bryant Girsch steps down at DaVinci Art Alliance and Sam Connors becomes Executive Director
Read more here.

Blanche Brown becomes Executive Director at Vox Populi
Read more here.

Lauren Rosenblum joins The Print Center as the Jensen Bryan Curator
Read more here.

Clint Jukkala leaves PAFA to become Executive Director of Southern Documentary Project
Read more here.

Daniel Tucker leaves Moore College of Art and Design to be Director and Associate Professor, Museum Studies, University of the Arts
Read more here.

A high-ceilinged space with wood beams in a barn-like industrial building shows a new gallery space in Philadelphia, with a concrete floor and sculpture, craft objects, furniture and paintings placed in the showroom-like space. There is a skylight in the ceiling and the building’s front wall is glass, with an open, metal staircase opposite the entrance to access a balcony level above. It’s a beautiful, sophisticated and welcoming space.
Wexler Gallery Opens New 11,500 Square-Foot Gallery + Office in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Halkin Mason Photography

Wexler Gallery opens in Fishtown
Read more here.

Mia Kang is new Executive Director of Philadelphia Folklore Project
Read more here.

Ray Philly opens – residential development with arts embedded
Fabulous alternative book shop, Ulises, is now at Ray Philly.

Books by Philadelphians in 2023 that we love

Here Comes Saturn by Oli Knowles
An autobiographical graphic novel by the Oli Knowles, Socialist Grocery author, we love this beautiful, frank, funny look at their life in contemporary America. Congratulations, Oli!
See Oli’s Socialist Grocery comics here.

Route by Janyce Denise Glasper
The novel Route is “a coming of age story centering the complex dialog between a frequent passenger and an attached bus driver” in Dandelion, OH. Illustrated with lovely drawings by Janyce, who visited Philadelphia recently and read from the book at a gathering at Vox Populi. Congratulations, Janyce!
Read Janyce’s Artblog writings here.

Containing Multitudes: Anne Minich’s Head Series, 1974-2003, by Commonweal
The catalog of the solo exhibit at Commonweal Gallery of Anne Minich’s compelling autobiographical “Head Series” includes a lively Q&A with Minich and Commonweal Director Alex Conner, along with essays by Jodi Throckmorton, Meredith Sellers and the show Co-Curator, Tally de Orellana. Forty pages of full color art works are included.

Pew Fellows Wishlist

Anne Minich
Michelle Marcuse
Pap Souleye Fall
Taji Raoof Nahl

MacArthur Fellow (Genius) Wishlist

Allan Edmunds, founder and visionary leader of Brandywine Workshop and Archives
Tim Belknap and Logan Cryer for their innovative community work at the Icebox Project Space  and Television (joint with Heidi Ratanavanich)


Pope.L (68)
The Guardian

In 2006, the artist, then known as William Pope.L stopped in Philadelphia for 3 days with his Black Factory van. Read the notice in Artblog from that time. Roberta visited the Black Factory at Bartram’s Garden. In 2009, Pope.L did a project and participated in a panel discussion at Haverford College. More here.

H.D. Ivey
From Maria Ciuffretelli…Hey, Philadelphia artist, HD Ivey recently died. I believe you wrote about some of his openings in previous years. Just making you aware in case you didn’t know. Thank you, Maria. I am sorry to hear this news. Here’s the review by Michael Carroll on Artblog of HD Ivey’s exhibit Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.). John Thornton video on Mutual Assured Destruction

Libby Newman (1922–2023)

In 2016, Libby was celebrated by Brandywine with a one-person exhibition of recent mixed media collages. Her exhibition, Libby Newman: Peace, was presented as part of a program Philly Loves Poetry sponsored jointly with the Moonstone Poetry Center…Libby’s cultural activism was rooted in her desire to support young artists, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. And she was an outspoken proponent of Artist’s Rights, which she championed through her activities as President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Artists Equity. She was the founding director of the Esther Klein Gallery at the University Science Center where she favored exposure for under-recognized African American artists…
I was honored by Libby’s great friendship and her enduring support over five decades. I experienced her sincerity and passion for sharing her good fortune and creating paths for others to pursue their dreams. My journey as an artist and art administrator was accelerated by Libby’s attraction to me as a young artist, the insights, love, and motherly attention she sent my way. –Allan Edmunds, Emeritus Director, Brandywine Workshop and Archives

Larry Fink
From Robert Mann Gallery: We are saddened to share the news of the passing of Larry Fink, a dear friend and extraordinary artist. Born in Brooklyn in 1941 and raised in New York City, Fink began making pictures in his early teens. He was privately taught and mentored by photographer Lisette Model whose work greatly influenced him. Fink is best known for his series Social Graces, a body of work made in the 1970s that depicted and contrasted wealthy Manhattanites at fashionable clubs and social events alongside working-class people from rural Pennsylvania participating in everyday events such as high school graduations and birthday parties. Social Graces was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1979 and was published as a monograph in 1984. Read obituary in The Guardian.

Cathy Hopkins
From Fleisher Art Memorial – It is with great sadness that we share news of the recent passing of Cathy Hopkins, a highly accomplished sculptor and beloved member of Fleisher’s faculty since 1977.
For well over four decades, Cathy supported and mentored many aspiring artists at Fleisher, also teaching at the Wayne Art Center and Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she worked in a variety of materials including bronze, clay, and polyester resin – her prolific output included everything from large sculptures for public commissions to commemorative coins for the Franklin Mint and an impressive range of props and suits designed for Philadelphia’s Mummers since 1985. More here.

Gilbert Lewis, (October 25, 1945 – December 7, 2023)
From Bill Scott on Facebook –
They may never have realized it, but almost every painter in Philadelphia I’ve known at some point interacted with Gilbert. When I first met him, in the 1970s he worked at South Street Art Supply. Everyone bought their art supplies there. He also worked as an art therapist and a teacher, but when the South Street store closed, he worked at Pearl Paints and when it closed, he went to Blick. I tend to buy oil colors on a lark, yet Gilbert always encouraged me to experiment with colors and brands of paint he thought I’d like. He never steered me wrong. His drawing was razor sharp and his technical skill exquisite. I went to all his exhibitions and marveled at his paintings. He loved Italian Renaissance portraits. However, his work also prompted me to think of portraits by Hans Memling and even by Grant Wood… More here.

Artblog Markings

People installing art in a hallway for an art exhibit.
Artblog installation volunteers, Bryan Warner, (on ladder), Patrick Coué and Gabriel Boyce work on Artblog’s 20th Anniversary exhibit featuring Libby and Roberta’s art that paved the way for Artblog.

Our 20th year was good and productive. We published 210 posts – reviews, features, interviews, including 46 comics! We had a wonderful 20th Birthday Celebration and Auction fundraiser at Moore College of Art and Design in September. See video of the auction here. Our productive collaboration with WHYY’s N.I.C.E. community news partners continues into 2024, and we are very happy for that. We’ve welcomed some new (and returning) writers — Max Van Cooper, Martina Merlo, Mary Murphy, Emily Brewton Schilling, Clayton Campbell, Ruth Wolf, Sharon Garbe, Lane Speidel, and comics contributors — Pap Souleye Fall and Derick Jones. We are so thankful for their contributions! We said farewell to Ilana Napoli, Julia Marsh and Niko Walczuk, and welcomed the talented Ryan deRoche as our excellent Managing Editor! Ryan created the new Artblog Connect, a free, user-upload online calendar (and newsletter) to connect you with art events and exhibitions! Subscribe to Artblog Connect at the website (click the “Stay Connected button at the top)! We wish you all a great 2024! In 2024 we will continue to provide you with the news, features, reviews, comics and other fare you love and want. And of course, we would love your financial support! Donate at our Paypal.

FINALLY, If you read all the way to the bottom, we applaud your stamina and fortitude, and we thank you for reading and enjoying Artblog! Come back for more content in 2024 and make sure to keep in touch with us – our inboxes are always open! ( + Happy New Year!