Three Baltimore-area artists — a musician who has pioneered the use of the bass clarinet as a solo instrument and two sculptors — have been named winners of the 2014 Baker Artist Awards.

The $25,000 juried prizes were conferred Thursday night during Maryland Public Television's "Artworks" program on clarinetist and composer Todd Marcus, on MICA-trained sculptor Brent Crothers, and on machinist and sculptor Chris Bathgate.


The three will be feted at a May 12 reception at the WTMD-FM studios in Towson. Their work will also be showcased at an exhibit and performance in fall 2015 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"I'm really honored because this comes after 30 years of struggling," Crothers said. "My community is saying to me, 'Yay, you're doing something worth supporting.'"

The award, established in 2008, aims to encourage local talent and is given annually to up to three regional artists across a range of disciplines. Artists are encouraged to nominate themselves, using an application process that includes text, video, audio and images.

In addition to the major awards — the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize — three visual artists also won $5,000 "b-grants": Jowita Wyszomirska, 34, of Baltimore; David Paul Bacharach, 65, of Cockeysville; and the former meteorologist Ed Gross, 74, of Baltimore.

Marcus, 38, of Baltimore, who previously won a b-grant, is self-taught in jazz theory and composition. He is half Egyptian, and though his compositions draw on jazz and classical influences, he has increasingly begun to explore the sounds of his Middle East heritage. A CD coming out later this year was inspired, he said, by the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

"It's been a labor of love … and a massive amount of work," Marcus says on the Baker Awards website. "But the payoff is the music we've created."

Crothers, 58, of Bel Air also is a past b-grant winner. A plumber's son who grew up in Harford County, Crothers uses recycled materials to create evocative modern artworks.

Crothers' sculptures often incorporate holes that demand the viewer's attention and underscore his theme of the fragility of life, according to a biography on the awards website.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he writes, "made me re-evaluate what it means to be an American."

Bathgate, 34, of Baltimore is a self-taught machinist and sculptor who designed and built the computer-controlled equipment he uses to create his elegant stainless-steel, bronze and aluminum artworks.

He's fascinated by the aspect of creativity that focuses less on inventing something new than on solving specific problems.

Bathgate's work combines the math and logistics used in modern machine work with emotions and intuition. His pieces, he said, result from "superficially intricate logic puzzles that I set out for myself in order to learn new skills."