Young artists brighten Reservoir Hill buildings Painting party celebrates work of teen muralists

October 26, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The medium was acrylic latex exterior house paint, and the message was "paint what you feel." So Reservoir Hill neighborhood children made art yesterday to complement murals their friends had painted earlier on three abandoned buildings.

Yesterday's painting party was for everyone who had walked by while the murals were in progress and wished they could share in the fun, said Madison Avenue artist Rebecca Yenawine, party-giver and mother of the project.

It became a neighborhood gathering. Adults stopped to watch young people make chalk drawings on the sidewalk and create bright purple houses, red hearts and blue stars on the windows. Ray Eckenrode, who had seen the murals on television, drove from Parkville to ask Yenawine if her students would decorate the front of his camper.

The doorways that frame murals and the boarded-up street level windows that served as canvases yesterday might have been covered with graffiti if Yenawine, 25, an artist and a sculptor, hadn't run into three teen-age girls on the street about a year ago.

Yenawine knew the girls because her kitchen has become what she describes as "sort of a community center" in the 3 1/2 years she has lived on the avenue. When she learned they were going to a nearby alley with a can of spray paint, she told them, "Give me the paint. I'm going to give you art lessons."

But first Yenawine briefed the Upper Eutaw/Madison Community Association governing board and won its endorsement of her project. She got permission from the owners to paint the boarded windows and doors on houses in the 2400 block of Madison Ave. She won a $500 grant from the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture to cover materials, then began teaching charcoal drawing in her studio last winter to "whoever can fit, about 10 or 15."

Attendance was sporadic, Yenawine said. By August, however, 11 students were working from photographs to draw rough drafts of their murals on paper. A neighbor donated scaffolding, and the students spent a day painting the murals on the boards last month.

Most of the murals are self-portraits. They depict a bicyclist, a teen-ager holding her young cousin and a boy sitting on steps, as well as a leaning tree and an airplane flying over rowhouses.

Karen Haley, 15, a freshman at Frederick Douglass High School, found her subject in the bent tree she spotted on a trip to a park with Yenawine.

"I'm going to keep on painting and keep on working with Rebecca," said Karen, one of the girls Yenawine saw with the spray paint. "She stopped me from doing something bad and got me doing something good."

Yenawine said she has become "something between a mom and an agency. Part of it is helping them figure out what they're really good at, and part is nurturing, telling them how good they are and not to give up."

She is forming a nonprofit corporation to continue her work of preparing students to audition for the Baltimore School for the Arts, providing transportation to classes and raising money to buy musical instruments and cover the cost of music lessons.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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