Skip to Main Content
COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
UMBC campuses are closed, but courses are now online and employees are working remotely.

Spring 2020 Catalyst Events

Sarah L. Kaufman, Washington Post, and Rebekah Kirkman, BmoreArt

February 17 Noon-1pm
Location PAHB 102 Theater Rehearsal Studio

Sarah L. Kaufman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chief Dance Critic and Senior Arts Writer of The Washington Post, where she has covered fine arts, contemporary culture, entertainment, and the intersection of arts and sciences since 1993. Her nonfiction book “The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life” won a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award and was a Washington Post Notable Book of 2015. Her work also appears in the anthology “Balanchine: Celebrating a Life in Dance.” Ms. Kaufman recently received the Criticism and Culture of Ballet Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Ballet Festival of Miami. She was the 2018 McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University and a visiting lecturer in the Humanities Council. She serves on the National Critics Institute faculty at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and trains and mentors young writers through various programs. A former French-American Foundation Journalism Fellow, she has taught and lectured around the country on journalism, criticism and the arts.

She’ll speak about how she has defined her role as a dance critic over the 25 years that she has worked at The Washington Post. Kaufman will outline the core principles by which she operates, and how her job has evolved over time and what other types of arts journalism she produces. She’ll also discuss generally how the arts team at the Washington Post operates and what kinds of stories her editors are looking for—and she will look forward to answering questions.


Rebekah Kirkman is the Managing Editor of BmoreArt. Originally from Florida, she moved to Baltimore in 2010 to study painting at MICA. From 2014 to 2017, she worked at the Baltimore City Paper as the visual arts editor, fact-checking coordinator, and intern manager. She writes arts criticism, essays, news, and profiles with an interest in various social/political concerns surrounding art and artists. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Fishbowl, Johns Hopkins Magazine, The Outline, and elsewhere.

In this talk, she will discuss the necessity of local arts journalism, particularly within the precarious media landscape, and in a city that’s often marginalized in the art world (i.e. it’s not DC or NYC or LA).Kirkman is interested in the role that arts journalism takes within an art scene/ecosystem, how critics and editors report/record/historicize/bear witness to cultural events as they are happening and why. She has strong feelings about some people’s perceptions of this work as fluffy and inconsequential—that the arts are just fun but have no real-world stakes or use/meaning—and will talk about why criticality within reporting and reviewing is essential.

A Special CIRCA – UMBC Library Gallery Event

Antonio McAfee and Shawn Michelle Smith in Conversation

The Gem, Antonio McAfee

February 27, 5pm (reception to follow)
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery

Antonio McAfee is a photographer raised and based in Baltimore, MD. His fascination with history, portraiture, and what makes photographs drives his activities. He holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from the Corcoran College of Art and Design and an MFA in Photography from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2011, he received a Post-Graduate Diploma in Art in Arts and Culture Management from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). He participated in residencies at Can Serrat (Spain) and Vermont Studio Center. McAfee was awarded Civil Society Institute Fellowship, Faculty Research and Development Grant from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Fulbright IIE Grant to Johannesburg, South Africa, Howard Silverstein Photography Beijing, China Aboard Program, and Dedalus MFA Painting and Sculpture Fellowship. His work has been exhibited at the Walters Art Museum, University of Maryland, College Park Stamp Gallery, George Washington University Gallery 102, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Civilian Art Projects, Flashpoint, Michael Steinberg Gallery, Hamiltonian Gallery, and Terrault Contemporary.

Shawn Michelle Smith is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She studies the history and theory of photography and race and gender in visual culture.  She is the author of several books, including Photographic Returns: Racial Justice and the Time of Photography (forthcoming, 2020), At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen (2013), Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (2004) and American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture (1999). In the spring of 2018 she curated the exhibition Meridel Rubenstein, Eden Turned on Its Side at the University of New Mexico Art Museum. Smith has been awarded fellowships from several institutions, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Smith is also a visual artist and her photo-based work has been exhibited in art galleries and university museums across the country.


Teaching and Doing Graphic Design in Ethiopia
CURRENTS: Humanities Work Now, cosponsored by CIRCA and the Dresher Center for the Humanities

Monday, March 9, 2020
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Performing Arts & Humanities Building : 216
Guenet Abraham, Associate Professor, Visual Arts, UMBC

Guenet Abraham will share her experiences teaching and researching in Ethiopia, where she spent two years as a Fulbright Scholar at Addis Ababa University’s Alle School of Fine Arts and Design. She will discuss an on-going, site-specific creative project she initiated, as well as other collaborative projects with the University, the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia, and the U.S. Embassy.

Guenet Abraham began her career in New York City as a book designer at Pantheon Books, Random House, and was senior designer for W.W. Norton before she earned her MFA at Yale School of Art. Her work is recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), American Association of Museums (AAM), University College & Designers Association (UCDA), and most recently by the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards:

In concert with her philosophy as an educator, who teaches graphic design, typography, and visual communication, Abraham maintains an active design practice and consults and designs books for publishers. She creates visual language that speaks to contemporary audiences with impact and appeal.

She has been awarded two consecutive Fulbright Core fellowships for Teaching and Research in Ethiopia for 2017-2018 and for 2018-2019. She taught at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa. Her research focuses on the Ethiopia’s murderous Red Terror period under communist rule. She intends to document her research for an upcoming multimedia exhibition.

CURRENTS: Humanities Work Now, cosponsored by CIRCA and the Dresher Center for the Humanities, this lunchtime series showcases exciting new faculty work in the humanities in a dynamic and inter-disciplinary setting with short, informal presentations and time for discussion

See the CIRCA archive for a list of past programs.