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Another Baker Throws His Hat into the Ring

Gale Horton Gay | 9/4/2013, 3 p.m.
In his bid for a Maryland House of Delegates' seat, Rushern Baker IV presses the flesh at the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade. (Courtesy of Theo Linder)

For years Rushern Baker IV expressed his political views through his art. Now he’s seeking a much more direct approach. He wants voters to send him to Annapolis.

Baker, 25, said he’s a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 22, and he used Greenbelt’s Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 2 as his first campaign event to shake hands and make his candidacy known.

“I want the residents of Greenbelt to know that I love their city just as much as they do, and I see a lot of opportunities for growth here,” said Baker. “Greenbelt’s history, sense of pride and community involvement make it unique, and I will work hard in Annapolis to make sure they have someone representing their interests.”

Baker is seeking one of the three District 22 House seats in 2014. Currently those seats are occupied by delegates Tawana P. Gaines, Anne Healy and Alonzo T. Washington. All three will be up for re-election with the top three vote-getters taking office.

An educator who lectures at the University of Maryland, College Park on drawing and two-dimensional design, Baker previously coordinated a publicly funded mobile arts program for youth. He’s the current artist-in-residence for Gateway Community Development Corporation in Brentwood.

He’s also the son of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and said he’s been inspired by his father’s leadership, which he called “undeniably beneficial for Prince George’s County.”

He acknowledged that politics is in his blood, recalling knocking on doors at age six when his father campaigned and continually having political debates at the family dinner table.

Asked about two Bakers in the political arena, the younger Baker said, “We are going to serve in different roles, different issues.”

This is Baker’s first bid for public office.

“I think right now is the time to capitalize on the momentum in the county,” he said of the growth and development taking place in areas such as the Gateway Arts District. “If we don’t strike now, it will be a lost opportunity.”

He said he wants to advocate on behalf of residents to ensure that the district receives the resources it deserves.

Baker said “fresh, young leadership” is needed.

He also said that he wants to see the arts, which he described as the catalyst for much of the current development in the district, to continue to be cultivated and advanced.

“I really feel like the 22nd [district] could be the mecca for culture,” he said, citing the influx of “great restaurants, great live performances, [and] cool galleries.”

In July during an hour-long talk at the 39th Street Gallery in Brentwood, Baker, described his evolution as an artist and how politics and foreign affairs factor into his work.

“I want my paintings to generate a discourse around policy, especially foreign policy,” said Baker.

Baker attended Suitland High School before going to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City to pursue a bachelor of fine arts degree and then to Yale University in New Haven, Conn., for his master of fine arts degree.

In the past year, he exhibited his work at the Reginald Ingraham Gallery in Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn, N.Y., Motus Fort and Koki Arts in Tokyo and Yale University. He also recently co-curated “On the Verge,” an exhibition recognizing Prince George’s County artists in Annapolis.

During his talk, Baker projected images of his works on a wall.

One of his themes was suburban architecture and he showed a piece titled “Gerrymander” with a bright yellow line cutting down the center. Another painting has President Barack Obama outfitted as an astronaut with a predator drone in the background. Baker, who volunteered for the Obama campaign in New Hampshire, said he wanted to capture the angst and elation of an African American in the White House but also with a foreshadowing of things to come. A piece with dominant colors of blue, orange, green and gray was related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and several others showed explosions, missiles, tanks, predator drones and other war-themes.