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Every two years, Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents the Mary B. Howard Invitational, a group exhibition featuring the work of regional contemporary artists. For each iteration of the show, Tephra ICA works with a guest curator to produce the exhibition through an open call for artists. This program values exhibition-making as a meaningful collaboration between artist and curator and a generative process that feeds the development and public presentation of innovative new work. The Invitational is named in memory of Mary B. Howard, an artist, long-time board member, and staunch supporter of Tephra ICA.

Application Deadline: May 3, 2022

About the Exhibition

This year, Guest Curator Deirdre Darden will work with selected artists to develop a group exhibition, for which each artist creates and presents new work. In acknowledgment of the many traumas that have been endured individually and collectively over the past two years, this exhibition will explore the concepts of rest and reprieve as a starting point for the artistic process. Seeking diverse perspectives around this topic, Deirdre Darden and Tephra ICA encourage all eligible artists to apply regardless of whether the artist’s prior work engages this topic. Instead, artists are invited to apply for participation with a portfolio of recent work, an artist statement, and a statement of interest addressing the following exhibition prompt:

•  What would your artwork look like if you were well rested?

•  How could you conceive of your practice if all your needs were met?

Artists working in any medium are invited to submit their qualifications for consideration.

Image courtesy of Deirdre Darden

Image courtesy of Deirdre Darden

About the Guest Curator

Deirdre Darden is an emerging curator born and raised around art in Washington, DC. She began her curatorial practice in 2014 with Black Artists of DC. Since then she has exhibited and collaborated with contemporary artists from DC, Baltimore, and New York and organized panel discussions and artist talks touching on themes of race, womanhood, societal pressures, and art's ultimate power.

Shows include Black Lives / White Light (2015), Pressure Points (2016), and Lest We Forget (2016). In 2018, Darden received a curatorial grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to curate We Got Next: Young Contemporaries. She has consulted for the art fair Art on the Vine and as a curator at Eaton Workshop. Currently she is prioritizing rest during the pandemic(s) and working on projects from home, including curating public art for 11th Street Bridge Park. 

Eligibility Requirements

•  Artist must live or work in Washington, DC; Maryland; or Virginia.

•  Artist must have availability during the first two weeks of December 2022 for installation and exhibition opening.

How to Apply

Submit an application through Jotform HERE.

Pay your $25 application fee HERE.
If the application fee is a barrier for you to apply, please email

Do not submit a specific artwork or exhibition proposal. Artists will be selected based on the quality of prior work and the ideas addressed in their statement of interest and artist statement. Selected artists will be supported in the creation of new work for the exhibition.

When submitting your application you will need the following:

Statement of interest addressing the exhibition prompt: “What would your artwork look like if you were well rested? How could you conceive of your practice if all your needs were met?” (max 300 words)

Artist statement (max 300 words)

Portfolio submission Up to ten (10) images. All images must be in jpeg format, sized to 5 X 7 (or approx.) inches at 300 dpi, and titles using the following format “last name_firstname_Image number.jpg.) Up to five (5) minutes of time-based media submitted as Vimeo, Youtube, or Soundcloud link.

Incomplete or improperly submitted applications will not be considered.

Opportunity Details and Project Timeline

Tephra ICA will provide an honorarium of $250 and an additional $1,000 fee for materials for each participating artist. This exhibition is produced at a professional standard, including installation, use of Tephra ICA’s facilities and material resources, marketing and press coverage, printed gallery guide booklet, an online viewing room, as well as the production of associated public programs.

May 3: Application deadline

June 6: Artist notifications

July – November: Exhibition and project development, facilitated by guest curator working directly with participating artists

December 1 – 9: Exhibition installation

December 10: Exhibition opens

February 26: Exhibition closes

Feb 27 – March 3: Exhibition deinstall period

The previous MBH Invitational exhibition was presented in Fall 2020 and guest curated by Zoë Charlton and Tim Doud, co-founders of | ‘sindikit |. Learn more about that exhibition, An Excellent Thought About a Quality Idea, and participating artists, here.

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