If traditional art galleries are a bit like restaurants, the Hot Sauce Artists Collective is more like a food truck—instead of people coming to see the art, they bring art to the people.
Since 2019, this band of Gen Z artists, all fresh out of art school and in their 20s, is quickly becoming one to watch, catering roaming exhibitions from locations as diverse as parking lots in Station North to greenspaces in West Baltimore.
“We want to be nomadic,” says co-founder Alpha Massaquoi Jr., emphasizing what he considers to be the antiquated notion of museums and galleries as the only spaces to experience art. “Art is everywhere around us.”
Just look at Massaquoi’s art-filled apartment, where he lives with Hot Sauce’s co-founder Italo Duarte De Déa. The Baltimore townhouse functions not only as a makeshift studio but also a meeting space for the collective, where ideas are bounced around, proposals are workshopped, and ambitions have taken off. So far, they have collaborated with the likes of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, Eubie Blake Cultural Center, Jubilee Arts, and Towson University.
“Being a collective helps with our ambition and dream,” says Kayla Fryer, the third co-founder of Hot Sauce. “It keeps us energized.”
Indeed, as a collective, Hot Sauce is, at its core, a group of young artists bonding together to make a dent in the often impenetrable art world. As for its name, “I started calling us ‘Hot Sauce’ just as a joke, because we all like spicy food,” quips Massaquoi. But even this arbitrary moniker holds the undeniable truth of these creatives: their life experience is not bland.
Fryer, pictured center, is the daughter of a Black, single-parent family in Prince George’s County, Massaquoi, pictured left, is the youngest to an immigrant household uprooted from Liberia, and De Déa, pictured right, is an international student from Brazil. Each makes Hot Sauce more dynamic, and the trio is set on bringing this flavor to the city’s art scene.
Curating pop-up exhibits across the city, they want to showcase the richness of their own art, as well as bring artists from across the world to Baltimore. For instance, in their pop-up shows at the Bromo Arts District this August, Hot Sauce featured two artists from Brazil, whose works co-mingled with local art. Their exhibitions also aim to support young artists who need a leg up, with the collective hosting an art raffle every two months to promote such work.
While some young artists wait for their big “break”—recognition by a gallery or prominent dealer— these creators took matters into their own hands.
“We make great art and we know we make great art,” says Massaquoi. “So, why wait?”