A prize-winning 'painted lady'

Competition: Two shades of purple, coral and teal. Those are the colors that helped Silvija Moess win Best Porch Facade honors in a Charles Village contest.

June 25, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Her home has been the hottest "painted lady" in Baltimore's Charles Village since the news broke that Silvija Moess won the Best Porch Facade prize in the Victorian neighborhood's house-painting contest.

With the honor and praise come $3,000, said Steve and Linda Rivelis, contest founders and coordinators who live and work in their Victorian house on St. Paul Street.

The Moess house is a colorful sight in the 2700 block of N. Calvert St.: a study in two shades of purple, with a brush of coral and teal. The trend of creative house painting to dress up a street began in San Francisco.

The Painted Ladies of Charles Village contest started in the fall and will have another round this year. It is not just for fun.

The purpose, said Steve Rivelis, a professional campaign consultant and volunteer activist, is to enhance the quality of life in a city village.

The house painting contest has captured the interest of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which contributed a $20,000 grant to fund the contest because of its power as a community building block.

When an elated Moess talked about neighbors and friends pitching in to help her paint in the days before the May 28 deadline, Rivelis said that fit the concept, too. "It's an urban barn-raising," he said.

Moess, 42, a scenic artist on movie sets and locations, says she had lived for a decade in the tall brown brick house with the front porch and pillars painted a dull green. When she found out last year that she had a chance to buy it, she said, "I decided then and there I was going to paint that house."

In scraping, sanding and caulking, Moess relied on her craft of scenic art. But in the movies she has worked on in New York and Baltimore -- including "The Pelican Brief," "Washington Square" and "Meet Joe Black" -- she is used to seeing her work evaporate after a shoot finishes.

House painting is not the most permanent medium, but the artist has put her signature on her city block for passers-by to see, and it will stay as long as she pleases.

"It's me," she said, pointing to her favorite embellishment, a sculpted flower -- whose mold she cast herself -- in the roof gable.

Steven Allan and Beth Francis, also named winners in the Best Porch Facade contest, took home $1,000 from a block party June 18 when the results were announced. They live a few blocks from Moess, but had not met her until that evening.

"I can't wait to see yours," Moess said.

Their pastel color scheme is more "muted," said Francis.

"It was a labor of love, such fun," she said, adding that the contest gave her home a new look going into the next century. "The contest was an incentive to finish before the millennium."

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