Baltimore’s Best people and media 2020

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The Baltimore Sun’s readers and staff have weighed in on what’s the best in the region from art galleries to urgent care.

First, you’ll find critics’ picks from The Sun’s editorial team.


Then, you’ll see what readers think; the readers’ choice winners received the most votes during an online poll in March.

(Winners of the Readers’ Choice ballot were selected by readers.)


For more categories, go to

Konan and Persia Nicole of 92Q.

Radio station


When it comes to radio, Baltimore has a lot of options. But the city’s top radio station comes in the form of the hip-hop and R & B-centric 92Q Jams. They have the best programming coupled with great on-air personalities, starting with Rickey Smiley of the syndicated “Rickey Smiley Morning Show” and including Persia Nicole, who always seems to have the latest gossip; Konan, who keeps the afternoons lively; and “The QuickSilva Show” with Dominque Da Diva.

Minor league athlete

Adley Rutschman

For those longing for the perennial playoff charges the Orioles made in the 1970s and 1980s and a return to glory, it will be the arrival of Adley Rutschman that heralds that next era of hope.

The Orioles’ reward for a 115-loss 2018 season was the first overall pick in last year’s amateur draft, which netted Oregon State’s Rutschman, the nation’s top college player. His resume at the time made him a can’t-miss prospect. He debuted on the Orioles farm last summer and impressed at every level, earning an invitation to major league camp to get a taste of what was to come for him.

Even though he carries the expectations of being both an elite hitter and defender at age 22, Rutschman didn’t carry himself like that in spring training with the big leaguers. He noted that there’s “always things to improve upon” and that he learned a lot from his teammates along the way.

"I’m always trying to set goals and achieve goals,” Rutschman said.


One of those goals, obviously, is to make it to the majors as fast as possible. That could be as early as next summer. But once baseball starts, Rutschman will be on a tour of the local minor league affiliates in Frederick and Bowie, giving a glimpse of the Orioles’ future.

Patrice Sanders

TV Anchor with most ‘raidable’ closet

Patrice Sanders

Patrice Sanders simply lights up the screen. And it’s more than her winning smile and cheerful personality. The anchor for FOX45 Morning News has a flawless wardrobe, with on-air outfits that are always tastefully on point. And her shoe game is fantastic. With her skin tone, she can wear almost any color and she does it well. That’s why if we were able to raid the closet of any on-air talent in Baltimore, we would be all up in her closet.

Grassroots art group leader

Michael Lamason

Michael Lamason is a master at pulling the right strings. Forty years ago, the Baltimore artist founded Black Cherry Puppet Theater in a rundown but budget-friendly corner of Hollins Market. Over the decades Lamason, 63, has carefully curated a magical performing space and workshop where he and his collaborators create the otherworldly, eerily specific marionettes. In addition to staging workshops in local schools, Black Cherry mounts several adult shows a year that frequently sell out. Themes range from the 1963 Alabama civil rights protest known as “the children’s crusade” to the sock-stealing monster living inside your clothes dryer.

Black Cherry Puppet Theater, 1115 Hollins St., Hollins Market. 410-752-7272.


Betty Cooke

Iconic jewelry maker

Betty Cooke

Betty Cooke’s stunningly streamlined, architectural jewelry has been a favorite of Baltimore style setters since the 96-year-old artist began creating and selling it 74 years ago. Her shop, The Store Ltd., has been a beloved fixture of The Village of Cross Keys for 55 years. Now her work is finally getting the serious attention it deserves from the art world. Cooke’s creations will be showcased in two museum exhibits in 2020. The group show “Free Form: 20th Century Studio Craft” is expected to debut at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Then in September, the Walters Art Museum launches the first major retrospective of her work with the solo exhibit, “Betty Cooke: The Circle and the Line.”

The Store Ltd., 5100 Falls Road, Baltimore, Village Square 24, Cross Keys. 410-323-2350.

Cinematographer/documentary filmmaker

Richard Chisolm

In his 40-year career, Richard Chisolm has worked for PBS, National Geographic, the BBC, HBO, ABC and other channels. He’s won a national Emmy, a Peabody and Columbia DuPont Award, among others. He recently directed the documentary “Gun Show.” One of the most thoughtful filmmakers working today, Chisolm is now sharing some of his thoughts as a co-facilitator for a monthly gathering of nonfiction filmmakers called “Baltimore Lounge.” It meets in the lobby of the Parkway Theater. “There is a now a diverse cohort of about 75 documentary filmmakers who live in and work out of Baltimore,” he says. “Ours is a community of creative aspiration and fearless empathy of which I’m proud to be a member.”


Sports talk show

The Big Bad Morning Show

It’s big: three brassy, high-handed hosts — Rob Long, Jerry Coleman and Ed Norris — sharing their takes on the world of sports. It’s bad: they rant and rave about the Orioles, Ravens and any powder-keg issue of the day. And they have at it during morning rush hour (weekdays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 105.7) in a raucous, opinionated and free-wheeling banter that resonates with their hard-core listeners who continue to phone in with their thoughts — at their own risk, of course.

Karsonya "Kaye" Wise Whitehead is the host of "Today with Dr. Kaye" on WEAA 88.9 FM.

Radio show host

Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead

Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, host of “Today with Dr. Kaye,” on WEAA-FM has passion. Real passion. Not phony media sincerity or social media faux outrage. You could hear it last April in her reaction to revelations from The Sun in the Healthy Holly scandal. “Every time Baltimore City ends up in the public light, we are a spectacle, we are a joke,” she said on-air. “It is a travesty. … And here we are with the mayor.” This is the kind of commentary that makes her 3 to 5 p.m. weekday show so compelling. “I work hard on this show,” Whitehead says, “and I love finding ways to engage my listeners by challenging them to think deeply about political, social, and cultural issues — sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness, but always with an ear that bends toward the truth.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Public Intellectual

Sherrilyn Ifill


Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, uses media as wisely as anyone, anywhere to make complex matters of race, justice and culture understandable to mass audiences. Whether it’s explaining the history and psychology of lynching as she did in the PBS documentary “Always in Season,” or using her influential Twitter account to call on the City of Baltimore to hold off on its controversial “aerial surveillance” program until concerns about the program can be fully addressed (as she did in March), this 2019 inductee to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences helps all of us think more systematically and honestly about civil and human rights.

New radio voice

Jason La Canfora

While he’s a new voice to weekday radio in Baltimore as of earlier this year on 105.7 The Fan, Jason La Canfora is anything but a newcomer to sports journalism and talk. The Syracuse University grad spent 10 years as a sportswriter at The Washington Post before joining CBS Sports, where he continues to report across all platforms. “I am approaching the show with the same ethos, values and preparation that I have applied to my career in journalism,” La Canfora says of the 2 to 6 p.m. show he co-hosts. “My partner, Ken Weinman, and I are striving to both educate and entertain fans, provide access to great guests and present athletes in their totality, and not just as cogs in a multibillion-dollar machine."

Non-talk radio show

Weasel’s Wild Weekend


The weekly show created by Jonathan Gilbert, better known as Weasel, is like nothing else on local radio. There are other themed programs on the dial, but none with the love of music and its history that Weasel brings to his Friday night show on WTMD (replayed at noon Saturday). “Weasel is a one-of-a-kind radio treasure and we are proud that WTMD has been his home on the air for 10 years now,” says Scott Mullins, WTMD’s program director and host of station’s “The Dirty Soul Party” show. “He brings a wealth of radio experience, music knowledge and expertise to the air and creates a three-hour musical journey for his listeners that is entertaining, enlightening and quirky.”

Baltimore Comedy Festival founder Ivan Martin.

Stand-up comic

Ivan Martin

Baltimore’s reputation as a comedy city seems to be changing, as shows like Kevin Hart’s “Hart of the City” shine a new light on the funny folks that perform in the area. Credit a lot of that change to Ivan Martin, one of the comics featured on that Comedy Central showcase and the founder of the annual Baltimore Comedy Festival. He also runs the Art of Comedy open mic, which brings comics from throughout the Mid-Atlantic to Baltimore. “The words that I hear in response are ‘safe,’ and most of all, ‘professional,’” Martin said about the reception to the open mic. See him there or at the Baltimore Comedy Festival when it returns in early September.


William Emerson, better known as Abu the Flutemaker.

Street performer

Abu the Flutemaker

In warm weather, you’ll see him often in Fells Point by the water, playing one of a number of instruments you’ve likely never encountered before. That’s because Abu the Flutemaker specializes in making musical instruments of his own. He takes these instruments, including “thunder drums” made from unused porch columns and the “impossible saxophone” with PVC tubing, and creates a whole new musical language. A believer in everybody’s musical possibilities, he insists that every zodiac sign has its own musical key and conducts regular instrument-making workshops in schools. He’s as inventive as he is effusive, an uplifting character in a city that needs as many such characters as possible. Perhaps that’s why the city named the 1400 block of Madison Ave. Abu the Flutemaker Way.

—Mary McCauley, Jon Meoli, Sameer Rao and John-John Williams IV and David Zurawik

Readers’ choice winners


Laura Lippman

Book (by a Baltimore-area author)


Chasing a Flawed Sun

City booster (names and organization/affiliation)

John Waters


Father Joseph Muth, St. Matthew’s RC Church

College athlete (name and school)


Tom Flacco, Towson University

College professor (name and school)

Glen Schorr (Towson University

Fashion designer

Bishme Cromartie



Stylishly Taylored


John Waters

Instagram account

Killer Cat



Justin Berk


Ken G. Shorts

News anchor

Mary Bubala



Trey Mancini

Personal trainer

Ashley Shiner


John Waters



J.B. Shepard


No Pix After Dark Podcast

Politician/government official

Elijah Cummings

Radio show


95.1 Shine-FM


Lamar Jackson



School principal


Dish Baltimore


Get the scoop on that new restaurant, learn about chef changes and discover your favorite new recipe. All your Baltimore food news is here.

Kevin Jennings, Joppa View Elementary

Stage actor

Molly Shayna Cohen

Twitter personality


Visual artist


Luke Martin