The Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center’s most recent exhibition, Through Their Eyes–Art, Education, and Influence, features works by some of today’s most prominent visual artists, all of whom honed their skills in the Prince George’s County CVPA (Center for Visual and Performing Arts) Programs at Suitland and Northwestern High Schools. Rush Baker IV, one of the exhibition’s featured artists, is a testament to the impact of arts education in the County. As a native Prince Georgian and the son of the current County Executive, Baker is deeply connected to Prince George’s past as well as its future. From his contributions as a renowned visual artist to his work as Assistant Director of the Brentwood Arts Exchange, Baker’s dedication is equal parts creativity and public service.
Baker credits his experiences as a student in Suitland High School’s CVPA Program as the catalyst for his later career. This year marks the 30 year anniversary of Suitland CVPA; the program has shaped the careers of many of today’s known talent such as J. August Richards of ABC’s Notorious and Daniel Harder of Alvin Ailey Dance Company. “These programs – from dance and theater to TV production, graphic design, and the visual arts – attract young talent and cultivate a love and respect of our chosen professions from an early age,” Baker reflects. “I definitely came out of the program with a bit of a head start.”
Baker’s artistic reach has since expanded across the country. After earning a BFA from Cooper Union and an MFA in Painting/Printmaking from Yale, he has gone on to be featured in exhibitions from Los Angeles to New York City. But it was Baker’s experiences in the Suitland High School CVPA program that provided him with the foundation for his future achievements. “[The CVPA] experience made us all much better artists than we were coming in,” Baker says, “and I can’t ever thank them enough for that. I attribute [the CVPA] experience to helping to get me into Cooper Union’s BFA program and later going on to Yale… The rigorous formal training I received early on gave me the tools down the road to push the boundaries of my practice.”
Now, as an artist whose work is rooted in giving back to the community, Baker has truly come full circle. In hindsight, he realizes that his CVPA teachers exemplified what it means to be an artist that not only creates, but also gives back. “It’s worth mentioning that all of my teachers [had] art practices of their own, and teaching us was truly a labor of love,” Baker says. “It was not something they had to do, and we can all agree that there are easier professions… Looking back, their commitment to us and to public service inspires me to this day.” Led by the example set by his CVPA teachers and his family’s legacy of service to the County, Rush Baker IV exemplifies a new generation of Prince George’s artists in service.
(From The Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center’s press office)