Free lunches lure cab drivers to Monet exhibit

October 09, 1991|By Eric Siegel

The colors at the Baltimore Museum of Art were varied and vibrant: yellows, oranges, reds, greens, blacks.

We're not talking about the hues in the upcoming exhibit of 32 paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet, but rather the shades on the steady stream of cabs that pulled up outside the museum's main entrance on Art Museum Drive yesterday.

The occasion was the BMA's "Cab Driver Appreciation Day" -- a promotion designed to familiarize area taxi drivers with the museum's location before the expected influx of out-of-town visitors to the Monet exhibit and to get cabbies to talk up the show to fares who ask them what's going on around town.

"Man, I never seen anything like that. It's lovely in there," said Walter Dukes, 58, a Yellow Cab driver after viewing the exhibit. "There were so many pictures in there. I was thinking how much money they're worth, total."

Drivers who showed up got a catered bag lunch with a roast beef or turkey sandwich, a piece of fruit and a soda; brochures, bumper stickers and window-sized posters for their cabs; and free admission to "Claude Monet: Impressionist Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," which will cost $6.50 when it opens to the public Sunday.

By late afternoon, about 400 cabbies from 11 companies had driven by to pick up the free lunches and information, delivered curbside by museum personnel. Maybe one in six parked their cabs and went inside to look at the art, with others saying they might return later.

Lee Morant, 33, a Royal cabbie, looked at Monet's early urban landscape "Rue De La Bavolle, Houfleur" and said it reminded him of some of the streets in Fells Point. And he said the artist's "Snow at Argenteuil" reminded him of the Norwegian countryside where he did cold-weather training while stationed in Europe with the U.S. Army.

"They're very interesting pictures you can get into and meditate over," he said after touring the exhibit. "Now, let me get my lunch."

Thomas Potts, 44, another Royal cabbie, said he does "a little artwork myself, mainly abstracts" and said he wanted "to see [Monet's] style."

He liked what he saw.

"He had a very good style. You can tell what the painting is about from a distance," he said.

Jackie Johnson, 30, a Royal dispatcher, hadn't been to the BMA since she was a small child. "I could stand and look at some of these pictures for hours," she said. "They put you in solitude."

Museum officials said they were extremely pleased with the promotion, which they said cost under $10 per lunch. At midday they ordered another 150 lunches on top of the 500 they began with to assure they wouldn't run out.

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