At Hackerman House -- people, politicians, bands and Oriental art

Jacques Kelly

May 06, 1991|By Jacques Kelly

The public unveiling of Hackerman House, the Walters' Museum of Asian art, was a spectacle of people, politicians and brass bands.

By the end of the day yesterday, more than 6,246 visitors had gushed through the portals of the newest addition to the city's cultural scene.

Some patrons wore Los Angeles Lakers caps and sweat pants; others had on their Jos. A. Banks suits. All were well behaved and seemed to divide their attention between the resplendently renovated 1851 mansion at 1 W. Mount Vernon Place and the Oriental art it show-cased.

"I think lots of the people here today will want to come back," said Norman Thomas, a resident of the first block of E. Hamilton St. as he made his way through the crowds and examined a Japanese ceremonial sword.

"I'd heard the lighting would be very home-like. It is. My expectations are met," said Malcolm Winston of the 900 block of St. Paul St.

A series of large white tents, pitched in the bed of Charles Street and Mount Vernon Place, held the overflow of curious visitors. The tents held dozens of lacquered red chairs and four airborne 50-foot dragons constructed by designer Robert A. Zimmerman 2nd.

"They are inspired by Japanese lanterns and flexible clothes-dryer hose," he said of the project that consumed 120 yards of nylon.

"It looked like a Victorian post card of Mount Vernon Square," said Connie Caplan of a Saturday evening outdoor $250-a-head gala designed to toast the Hackerman House opening. Caplan headed a drive to spruce up the parks and fountains facing the Walters Gallery.

"People were dressed to the nines," said Ted Pearson, a Ruxton resident who attended both the Saturday evening dinner dance and Sunday's opening festivities.

The Walters staff and volunteers worked months planning for the opening.

Yesterday, a parade, which had an emphasis on Asian marchin and ceremonial groups, made its way from the Convention Center to Mount Vernon Place via Charles Street. Balinese, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Thai and Philippine units marched in color-drenched ceremonial garb. Many of the groups later danced at the foot of the Washington Monument.

Baltimore's Chinese Benevolent Association also provided a 75-foot-long silk dragon, held aloft on poles.

But the day was not entirely Asian in tone. When the Wheato High School band reached Charles and Centre streets, where the officials' reviewing stand stood, the musical ensemble burst into a spirited rendition of "On Wisconsin!" No explanation was offered.

The Baltimore School for the Arts choir belted out a stirring version of "My Country Tis of Thee," before the formal remarks of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Walters trustee president Samuel Himmelrich Sr.

Schaefer spent several hours touring the gallery and walking around Mount Vernon Place with long-time associates Sally Michel and Jody Albright. On several occasions, when addressed as "governor," Schaefer said, "I like being called mayor."

Later in the afternoon, Schaefer sat at a table in the Walters' new Pavilion cafe and had coffee and a plate of fruit sherbet. He pronounced the repast "superb." Waiters --ed around serving 270 paying persons in the first day of operation of the new basement-level dining spot.

"I would never plan to open under these circumstances, but the day seemed to demand it," said restaurateur Lenny Kaplan.

"Overwhelmed," was lone the word a beaming Robert P. Bergman could summon. As the Walters chief, and a man who demands that all details flow flawlessly, he seemed delighted at his own party.

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