Alanna Margulies has won this year’s Arthur Kouguell Memorial Prize for her undergraduate senior thesis, “Baltimore School for the Arts and the City that Built It.” Thanks to her sophisticated scholarship and exhaustive investigation into local source materials, Margulies has made a major contribution to Baltimore civic history.
As her advisor Victoria Harms writes, “Margulies presents a remarkable, nuanced analysis of the political environment in which the BSA was founded, its role as exceptional, pioneering educational institution towards inclusion, equity, and artistic excellence and place in Baltimore history… However, Alanna also reveals the constraints that the post-1968 White backlash and liberal consensus placed on education reforms, and the stress that this adverse environment placed on BSA students and teachers alike. Inadvertently, the BSA’s success became a welcome decoy for politicians not to address racial inequity in the city and it did not translate into progress for Baltimore City public schools at large. Instead, this thesis highlights the price that the founding aspirations and the overriding desire to protect this unique lighthouse for racial progress and artistic excellence exacted: to retain political goodwill and preserve its pioneering reputation and prestige, the BSA occasionally compromised on its anti-racist promise in practice and hushed up sexual harassment and assault allegations. Moreover, focused on creating a safe haven and a racism-free institution, students left the BSA underprepared for the real existing racism in this country.”
The Arthur Kouguell Memorial prize was established by the parents and friends of the late Arthur M. Kouguell ’73. The prize is awarded annually by the Department of History to the senior honors thesis that best represents Arthur Kouguell’s commitment to scholarly and humane values.