Artist Derrick Adams has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York to develop an archive that aims to document the activities of Black artists and creatives in Baltimore.
The archive aims to catalogue records and materials related to the work of past and current Baltimore-area creatives, as well as other figures spanning science and sports.
In a statement, Adams, a Baltimore native who is now based in Brooklyn, said the Black Baltimore Digital Database (BBDD) is a “collaborative counter–institutional space.”
Adams has enlisted two cultural specialists to help realize the initiative. New York–based architect Jelisa Blumberg will spearhead research and development as creative director. Kali-Ahset Amen, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, will serve as a project advisor.
The artist plans for the archive to exist in both digital and physical form. Its physical archives will be housed at a center located in Baltimore’s historically Black Waverly neighborhood. The site will include a lab housing the digital archive alongside a gallery spaced named for Henry Phillips, a Baltimore photographer who died in 1993, as well as a film screening room.
The database and its related center are scheduled to be finished in 2025. The Mellon Foundation will fund the project for two years for operational support.
Adams first conceptualized BBDD in 2018 alongside another Baltimore-focused cultural initiative, the Last Resort Artist Retreat, a residency program set to officially open in 2023 in the same neighborhood.
“The Black American experience has strong roots in Baltimore—I am both honored and eager to share this project with the city,” said Adams.
Adams’ project coincides with the development of the Mellon foundation-backed AFRO Archives in West Baltimore. Justin Garrett Moore, who heads the foundation’s Humanities in Place program that oversees the two initiatives told ARTnews in an email, “both projects seek to build an infrastructure and ecosystem of memory that will help us collectively recall and value the experiences, stories, and contributions of a wider variety of people in Baltimore and beyond.”