Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District

Conversations with Past Gateway CDC Artists in Residence, 39th Street gallery: Rushern Baker IV

Rushern Baker IV on paintings that take on a mind of their own and being immersed in a developing arts ecosystem.

artist talk 4

Photo courtesy of Rushern Baker IV

What artistic mediums do you work in? 

I get most of my supplies from Home Depot, working in a variety of mediums including concrete, ceramic tile adhesive, and aluminum.

Artist Talk, Photo courtesy of Rushern Baker IV

Artist Talk, Photo courtesy of Rushern Baker IV

Where were you trained as an artist, art school, mentor, classes, self-taught? 

I went through a phenomenal visual and performing arts program that’s part of the Prince George’s County public school system. Suitland High School had a rigorous formal program and teachers like Phyllis Wilson, Heeku Hong, and Michael Burroughs set the bar high for my classmates and I. This experience made us all much better artists than we were coming in, and I can’t ever thank them enough for that. I attribute this experience to helping to get me into Cooper Union’s BFA program and later going on to Yale for my MFA in Painting/Printmaking.

What does it mean to you to be an “artist”? 

This is a complicated question, that I’m not sure can be easily answered.

I’ve always believed that an artist’s role is to speak truth to power. I believe that most artists I know are not only intelligent, but also extremely perceptive and empathetic to others and their environment. More often than not, this makes us more open to new ideas, new ways of thinking- which is great and desperately needed in any community.

This line of thinking enriches societies; you cannot have a compelling environment without great art and great architecture.

Photo courtesy of John Paradiso

Photo courtesy of John Paradiso

Tell us about your time as an Gateway’s artist-in-residence? Did the artist-in-residence program impact your artistic practice? 

Just after grad school, I moved back to Maryland for what I thought would be a few months while my fiancée finished her degree at the University of Maryland. I took and part-time job working at Brentwood Arts Exchange and teaching at UMD and the Corcoran. As I met more and more local artists, I became excited about the possibilities of the Route 1 corridor, the Arts District, and Prince George’s County’s upward trajectory as a whole. As exciting as seeing all the arts-based development in my hometown was, it wasn’t until the residency at Gateway that I felt fully immersed in the developing arts ecosystem.

The creative process is unique to each artist, what is your favorite part of your process?

I’m not sure if a painting is ever really done. I start off a painting with an idea of what I’m trying to accomplish- usually involving a sketch or small study of some kind. Often the painting takes on a mind of its own throughout the process and exhaustion usually spells the end for my time working on a piece. Occasionally I’ll revisit a work if it still speaks to me and it feels right to further elaborate.

About the Artist In Residence Studio Program (AIR)

The Gateway Community Development Corporation (CDC) offers artists the opportunity to work in the 39th Street A.I.R studio, Gateway Arts Center, while interacting with the culture and the art community in the Gateway Arts District bordering Washington D.C.

The Gateway CDC seeks artists in all visual arts disciplines, and in any media, who desire a chance to create their work in a community art center environment. The A.I.R program is by invitation/and by calls for entry applications. (Due to the community aspect of the AIR studio, chemicals used, and working methods will be considered in choosing the visiting artist participants) For more information email John Paradiso at

The Artist in Residence Studio is located at the Gateway Arts Center, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood MD, 20722. Three residencies of 4 months each will be offered annually.

Mailing address is the Gateway CDC Office, 4102 Webster Street, North Brentwood, MD


About neenajoe

Joe’s Movement Emporium is a cultural arts hub that acts as a catalyst for creativity and economic opportunity for all through productions and programs in education, artist services and work readiness. Located in the town center of Mount Rainier, Maryland within the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District, the organization supports and promotes creative projects of local artists and community groups. For additional information on programs and events, please visit

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