Hey! How's about some good news for a change?
* At Hilton Elementary School, Hiram F. Ammons wears a mischievous smile.
We are in the school's library. Excited youngsters, seated Indian-style on the floor, giggle and squirm and bounce up and down.
"OK," says Ammons, "this is the guessing game. This is the guessing game." He makes mysterious squiggles on his sketch pad. Then another. Then he presses it close to his chest, all the time grinning with mischievous joy. "Who can guess which animal I'm drawing. Let's see how good your memories are."
The children squeal with delight and shout out their guesses and Ammons grins sometimes and laughs sometimes and plays along and makes encouraging comments like, "Oooh! Almost!" or "Come on now, let's put our memory caps on." And when a kid guesses correctly, Ammons reveals the drawing with a triumphant flair and rolls it up and presents it to the winner and invites the others to celebrate the victory with a loud round of applause.
Ammons, 61, taught art in the city schools for almost 40 years. His own works have been displayed in museums all over town and his coloring book on the City Zoo is available at many of the local bookstores. Now retired, he gives presentations to public school students during the school year, interspersing his art-related games with words of wisdom.
"I'm having fun," he tells the kids, "you know why? Because I have a talent and I'm sharing it with other people. You have a talent too. Maybe it is drawing, maybe it is music, maybe it is something else. Find out what yours is. And then share it with others like I am doing."
On this day in late July, he is sharing his talent at Hilton Elementary School with campers at the Children's Cultural Exploration Workshop, operated by Rose McNeill.
This summer camp is McNeill's brainchild, her dream, an outgrowth of a thesis paper she did at Towson State University.
"My theory," she says as children head off to lunch after Ammons presentation, "was that you could use cultural enrichment as a way to enhance children's self-concept.
"We take three trips a week," she says. "We go to museums, art galleries, places where people work. And when we aren't on trips we have talented people like Mr. Ammons in to speak. That's why I call us cultural explorers."
* Back now, after a nine-month tour with the Ebony Fashion Fair, model Andrea Carter sits in the living room of her parent's home in Cedonia, and she says, "I've never liked compliments, really. If someone said I was pretty or something, I didn't think about it. It's more important what I feel about myself."
And so, now I have nothing to say, for Carter is pretty -- cover girl pretty, movie star pretty, fashion model pretty. She has big, soft, brown eyes and warm, even-toned, coffee-colored skin. She is tall and slender and . . . but hush! No compliments.
Carter, 23, is a Baltimore native. She went to school at Eastern Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore County, and at the Community College of Baltimore. She is a devout Christian and she likes dancing, aerobics, and jogging.
And, she's a success. The Ebony Fashion Fair, of course, is a very big deal. Beginning in Matson, Ill., last September, the tour took her to 200 cities including those in the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and Canada, working six nights a week.
Later this month, she will take her resume and portfolio to Paris. In September she will model at the fashion fair during the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend, another very big deal.
But the main thing about Carter is that she seems like a genuinely nice person: down-to-earth, intelligent. If she is a role model for local youth -- and she is -- then it's because of her ability to walk with kings without losing the common touch.
"Do you think of yourself as an artist?" I ask, because she has seemed so thoughtful about her craft.
"I think I am," she answers after considering it for a while. "I take what I do very seriously and I work very hard. When you go out there [on the runway] it's like a performance. We're acting. We're projecting a different personality. I tend to be shy and quiet when I'm around people, but on stage I appear bold and confident.
"I don't think good looks makes a successful model," she says. "There are millions of gorgeous women. I think it is personality and how you project yourself. And that takes hard work."