Highland community abuzz with creativity Usually quiet area has become haven for artists, craftsmen

September 24, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

The two-lane ribbon of road that winds through Highland cuts through miles of farmland and wide, open-spaced lawns.

It's about as far from ever-expanding Columbia as southeastern Howard County residents can get: quiet, pastoral, soothing. Just the kind of place where you can live peacefully and let your creative juices flow.

Now Highland is unexpectedly the center of a burgeoning artists' community, with amateur and professional musicians, painters, sculptors, architects and craftsmen living within three miles of one another.

While the community is neither large nor cohesive -- it has no formal association, meeting place or retail space to sell wares -- there's a feeling in the air that Highland is a place where Henry David Thoreau might have felt at home.

Glen Salas, 45 -- who grew up in the Highland home he shares with his artist wife, Beverly -- says Highland "draws like-minded people. It's really coincidence that so many artists live out here, but it kind of makes sense, too."

"It's a really pretty area, sort of like the backwoods used to be," says Salas, whose band, the Tree Surgeons, rehearses, performs and records its compact disc in the Salases' private, backyard amphitheater. "Living out here where it's very secluded is just great."

Beverly Salas, 49, an environmental sculptor, dancer, painter and art teacher, says people move to Highland to escape sprawl, congestion and noise.

"You really feel cut off from the world out here," she says. "The Montgomery County border is just down the hill, but you really don't feel as if development is encroaching."

The Salases live on a 6-acre lot off Mink Hollow Road, within a stone's throw of Patuxent River State Park and the river.

Their two-level home has become a meeting place for neighbors, friends, colleagues and collaborators.

The house sits in front of an apple orchard, an environmental garden complete with carved totems and a bonfire site, which is sometimes used as the gathering point for celebrations.

Painter K. D. Nicholson, who lives with sculptor Jim Birks on property next to the Salases' home, works in her small studio in the basement of their house overlooking man-made ponds and waterfalls.

"Sometimes I'll be working in the studio or on the back porch, and I can hear Glen playing his music through the forest," says Nicholson, 51, who teaches art at Towson University. "Living out here and hearing that is like being at the Renaissance Festival every day."

For those with creative minds, Highland offers the kind of peace and quiet that is hard to find, says Birks, 51, whose contracting company specializes in producing formal gardens, fountains and ponds.

"It's magic," he says. "With the state of Howard's zoning laws, there's not really much property left. Highland is really protected from development, which makes it cool. There's so much space and land, which is great for someone like me who likes to work with the earth in a creative way."

Dorothy Black, 73, who has lived in Highland since 1958, says the growing number of artistic people who have moved to the area during the past few years is a coincidence.

"I think it just sort of happened," says Black, a former advertising executive who spends her time as a watercolorist and potter. "I don't think it's any one thing in particular that's bringing people out here. Maybe they just like the fact that they can live in the woods."

But Liz Humes, owner of Sundog, a framing shop and gallery at jTC Highland Road and Route 108, says, "A lot of artists who live in the suburbs gravitate toward each other. The suburbs have a lot of space, unlike the cities, and that's often a perfect medium for people."

Her gallery will offer art classes this fall, drawing more creative minds to the area.

Art, Humes says, "should be able to be perfectly integrated into people's everyday lives. They shouldn't have to go out of their way to find materials, galleries, classes, whatever they need."

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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