An artist who cut her teeth at McDaniel College will have work in the Walters Art Museum as a finalist for a prominent Maryland art fellowship.
Cheeny Celebrado-Royer was among the finalists for the 2019 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize.
Her art will appear in the Walters starting June 15 alongside her fellow finalists. She is still in the process of deciding what she will install as part of the exhibit.
“Installation art tends to be ephemeral and the way that I work, is very intuitive,” she said. “My process in making thrives within the realm of spontaneity and intuition because I am working from memory.”
She earned her bachelor of arts in studio art from McDaniel College.
“When I was at McDaniel, I took a lot of different liberal arts classes. It was an important time to learn about a wide array of subjects; a lot like developing the foundation which allowed me to pursue art further,” she said.
Steven Pearson, professor of studio art and chair of the art department at McDaniel, was a mentor who helped her build the foundation she would need for graduate school at Maryland Institute College of Art, she said.
As her advisor, Pearson remembered her as a serious student who spent a lot of time working in the studio.
“It was easy to tell she wanted to do this for a living,” he said, noting that as part of a liberal arts college, the art faculty encourages students to find ways to bring their other studies into their artwork.
In Celebrado-Royer’s own words, her art practice when she was an undergrad “had to do with really personal background and my history growing up in the Philippines. It was all about my family history and memories that I had.”
Later, while working on her master of fine arts at MICA, she connected with the Baltimore arts community, as well as a diverse group of students, visiting artists and faculty.
“I mean, these are well-established artists. So I was able to meet them, learn from them through their own experiences and get their feedback about my work,” she said.
In grad school, she took the personal nature of her undergraduate work and began to contextualize it in more broadly too with the addition of more education in history and art.
“You have to start with a very personal thing, some internal conflict or something that means a lot to you,” she said. “Finding an issue, a problem that you deeply care about and attempting to communicate or channel that through making, that's what keeps me going … whatever I've experienced in the Philippines, or my life in the US combined, those influence how I make art.”
She currently serves as the artist-in-residence for the post-baccalaureate program at MICA where she advises students and critiques their work. When they talk about their ideas, she helps to suggest further paths of research they can explore.
Next year she will teach at the Rhode Island School of Design.
An experience shortly after she graduated helped form the way she mentors others.
“After I graduated from MICA in 2016, I decided to stay in the city and learn more about Baltimore, beyond the immediate arts community,” she said.
Through the the AmeriCorps Program at MICA, she served at the Refugee Youth Project. There, she she taught art and helped with homework after school with refugee students from a wide range of countries and ages kindergarten through high school.
“It gave me the opportunity to get to know another part of Baltimore through connecting with people from other cultures. I can sympathize with them and their adjustment in moving from their home country to the US,” she said.
She came to the United States at 13 years old when she and her siblings were adopted. They lived in Havre de Grace and Baltimore. “Since I didn't speak English very well, it was really hard to succeed academically in school. And so I found other ways like making art and using art to to make my projects or to respond to the lesson that we were doing because speaking and writing in English were not my greatest strengths at that point.”
“Working with newly arrived refugee students was extremely important to me. It allowed me to travel and teach in different neighborhoods in Baltimore. I was able to get to know my students, their families and their struggles attending inner-city schools or living in their neighborhood,” she said. “I was able to mentor my high school students, and encouraged them to stay in school. I still talk about that experience, even when I was applying for my professorship jobs, because it’s a very valuable experience for me.”
Later, she served as the AICAD Fellow for 2017/18 Post-Graduate Teaching Fellowship at Pratt Institute in New York.
She first applied for the Sondheim prize in 2016 and again in 2018, and was a semi-finalist both times.
The winner of the prize will be announced at an award ceremony and reception on Saturday, July 13 at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The winner will receive a a $25,000 fellowship and each finalist will be awarded a M&T Bank Finalist Award of $2,500.
The Artscape prize is named in honor of Janet and Walter Sondheim and is designed to further the career of a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Greater Baltimore region.