Horse racing has become a cultural staple in Baltimore, and for the first time ever, local college students and community members engaged in “The Art of Racing” competition that reflects the uniqueness of thoroughbred racing and the city’s esteemed Preakness Stakes.
The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Maryland Jockey Club, 1/ST and Park Heights Renaissance partnered to announce the winner of the inaugural statewide art competition at a ceremony in MICA’s Brown Center on March 25.
Mayor Brandon Scott, a Park Heights native and avid supporter of Baltimore’s rich horse racing tradition, participated in the announcement and was joined by MICA faculty and staff, 1/ST executives and Park Heights Renaissance representatives for the special announcement. A number of Art of Racing contestants attended, too.
The Art of Racing was launched January 10 by 1/ST and the Maryland Jockey Club in conjunction with MICA through a call for entries to all artists in Maryland. The deadline to submit artwork was March 2, which is the same date voting began and ran through March 20.
“The Art of Racing focused on bringing the element of design to the Preakness while celebrating Maryland’s vibrant arts and culture scene by highlighting the talents of local artists,” said David Wilson, chief marketing officer of 1/ST. “All of the incredible pieces submitted reflect the rich heritage, diversity and optimism that connects the Preakness with the community.”
The public was encouraged to visit a Preakness webpage to cast their votes and from there the top 10 vote getters were judged by a panel of five: MICA’s Leslie King-Hammond and Lowery Sims, Baltimore City Council members Yitzy Schleifer and Sharon Middleton, and Park Heights Executive Director Yolanda Jiggetts.
Of the 147 submissions, Theresia Zhang was announced winner of the competition to culminate The Art of Racing. Zhang’s captivating art piece entitled “Speed” is a digital painting portraying a jockey on a horse and captures the thrill and excitement of thoroughbred racing.
“Preakness is such an important part of the spirit of Maryland, and I am thrilled that my piece was selected to represent what the event means to the community,” said Zhang, a junior illustration major at MICA. “By participating in this event, I get to know more about this city culturally.”
Participating in Art of Racing was a valuable learning experience, added Zhang, a native of Beijing. She took interest in horse racing after watching Japanese anime series “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby” and said she has watched Preakness in the past and plans to watch it this year. After all, she’ll get in Pimlico for free as a reward for winning the Art of Racing.
As the winner of the inaugural contest, Zhang receives a $4,000 stipend and two tickets to the soon approaching Preakness 147, which will be held at Pimlico Race Course on May 21. Out of respect and admiration for what Park Heights Renaissance does in various communities of West Baltimore, Zhang announced that she will donate a portion of her winnings to the organization.
“I’m standing on that stage because of the people supporting me,” said the 22-year-old, reflecting on winning the competition. Following graduation, Zhang plans to become an independent artist and an art educator.
Audra Madison of the Maryland Jockey Club and MICA President Samuel Hoi delivered remarks at the 45-minute function in addition to several other distinguished speakers.
Tiffany Holmes, the interim vice president of academic affairs and provost at MICA, also serves as an art administrator and played a significant role in coordinating the event along with Zvezdana Stojmirovic, MICA’s associate dean of design and media.
“Of the 147 submissions, there was something to love about all of them. Theresia’s, I think, captured the movement and the excitement of racing,” Holmes said. “My hope is that this is the first of many competitions.”
According to a press release, Zhang’s work will be reproduced on a curated collection of Preakness 147 merchandise including posters, journals and t-shirts available for purchase during Preakness weekend. Proceeds from merchandise sales will be used to support Park Heights Renaissance programming and activities.for the people of Park Heights.
“I’m looking forward to seeing another set of submissions next year that will allow emerging artists, whether they’re from MICA or from the community, to be paid for their work and to be able to see their work reproduced on posters, postcards, more affordable kinds of items that folks can purchase to celebrate the history of racing in Baltimore,” Holmes continued.
“I think as an administrator at MICA, I love to see our students get these kinds of real world opportunities to let their creative gifts be seen in the world and I’m excited about the potential of this partnership moving forward.”