Museum director leaving for new post Art: For 13 years, under Bernard Fishman, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has achieved enormous success. Now, he has accepted a new position in Pennsylvania.

Fine Arts

June 30, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Bernard Fishman, director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland for the past 13 years and the person behind its remarkable success story, will leave at the end of August to become director of the Lehigh County Historical Society in Pennsylvania.

As the position here did when he took it in 1985, Lehigh County offers the kind of challenge Fishman welcomes. "It's a little bit larger than the Jewish Museum but somewhat similar in its general outlines," he said. "It has two historical sites and an imposing collection of materials related to the region and going back to the 18th century. They need a director to help them consider their future and to establish a more satisfactory permanent home for them."

When Fishman came to the Jewish Museum (then known as the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland), it was operating out of a one-bedroom apartment in Northwest Baltimore and was in the process of building its first real headquarters on Lloyd Street. That building opened in 1987.

The museum complex includes the Lloyd Street Synagogue, just north of the headquarters building, and the B'Nai Israel Synagogue, just to the south. The latter was restored during Fishman's years here.

In 1992, the museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums. The next year, it started a capital campaign for a major expansion. The successful $4 million campaign provided $1.5 million for endowment and $2.5 million for the expansion, which more than doubled the size of the museum from 11,000 to 23,000 square feet. The expanded museum opened in March.

Other figures reinforce the story of Fishman's successful tenure. When he came to the museum it had a budget of $127,000 and an endowment of $1 million. The endowment is now $6 million, and the 1999 budget will be $700,000. Attendance has grown from 4,000 a year to 20,000, membership from 1,000 to 2,000.

"Whatever we have achieved up to this point is to his credit," said museum board president Ira Askin. "The present institution is his monument."

And Lee Rosenberg, longtime board member and chairman of the building committee for the expansion, said of Fishman: "He's an incredibly knowledgeable, bright man who has brought a very high level of professionalism. The work the museum does is of the highest quality."

Fishman will leave on Aug. 28. According to Askin, a search committee now being formed will conduct a national search for a successor. Meanwhile, assistant director and curator Barry Kessler will serve as acting director.

'Emerging Talents'

Edmond Hardy's three sculptures in Towson University's "Emerging Talents" exhibit all deal with enclosure. There's his cage-like "Natural Form," an egg-shaped enclosure that shields its interior from the world. There are the cocoon-like hanging forms of "Natural Environment" that look like vertical sleeping bags. And there's the womb-like "Nesting," a nest of willow branches that invites the viewer to crawl right in.

Hardy's sculptures suggest a turning inward, an unwillingness of the individual to grapple with social problems or the nation to grapple with world problems. They have much in common with the rest of this challenging, handsome exhibit of the works of 11 Washington-area sculptors. It was curated by Foon Sham, associate professor of sculpture at the University of Maryland, College Park, and appears as part of Towson's Maryland Arts Festival.

In one way or another, many of these artists challenge the notion that the power and prosperity America enjoys bring fulfillment, either on the personal or on the national level. Christoph Fields' torsos in cagelike enclosures, "Remedies Last Year" and "Yvonne's May," present partial human beings unable escape confinement and grow to full size. This can be an individual or a national metaphor, or both.

Paulo Machado's sculptures made of rows of cardboard boxes imply a society crippled with delusions of freedom. "Fool's Raft" is made of boxes of drinking water tied together; it would never float. His "Connecting II" stacks open boxes to look like an apartment building as a prison of conformity, every unit alike and allowing of no individuality.

Mansoor Azarhooshang's expertly crafted wood and aluminum sculptures bring together a land of plenty and a people crippled by leaderlessness. Aluminum arms and hands in a wooden wheelchair ("Collateral Damage") and the lower half of a body sitting on a park bench ("Untitled") are not going anywhere.

Kathleen Carlson's ceramic sculptures imply that history does no good, for it's his story, not hers. In "Restoration: The Revision of History" a once-erect column, the symbol of masculinity, lies in ruins.

"Emerging Talent" is in the Holtzman Gallery of Towson University's Fine Arts Center, Osler and Cross Campus drives. The gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6: 30 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m. on evenings of performances in the Fine Arts Center. The exhibit runs through July 19. For information, call 410-830-2787.

New position at BMA

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