All aboard for art in Carroll

August 06, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A museum on wheels has brought four days of fine art to Taneytown, on a stretch of railway that normally runs raw stone and cement through this city of 5,000.

Artrain opened yesterday and will stay through Sunday before rolling on to Bethlehem, Pa. While it is in Taneytown, about 3,500 people are expected to walk through converted rail cars that hold about 60 artworks by major U.S. artists, such as an original silk-screen by Andy Warhol, and paintings by Norman Rockwell and James Browning Wyeth. They are among the 250 artists the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has invited to document the space program in ways that words could not.

"I don't get excited about space, but I've discovered a lot of things that I wasn't excited about at first," said Barbara Lyons, apart-time clerk at the Taneytown True Value hardware store.

She is happy to visit a museum that is a few miles from her rural home in Tyrone.

"When I was a kid, we lived in Baltimore City and we used to go to the Walters [Art] Gallery," Lyons said. Usually she would stop at the Walters while making the long walk home from the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

"All those things were free," she said. "We had to go to the museums because we couldn't afford movies."

Now, she takes her grandchildren to the Baltimore Museum of Art, but it's more than an hour's drive each way.

"It's a big deal," she said, and Artrain is considerably more convenient.

All week long, Lyons said, Artrain staff members have been going into the store to buy things to set up the exhibit. Taneytown is the first stop since the exhibit opened in Washington on July 20.

The private, nonprofit traveling museum has been taking original art exhibits to rural areas since it was created by the Michigan Arts Council. It went national two years later with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"They thought we were going to be just a two- or three-year program," said Jean Steppe, an Artrain administrator. "It was just kind of a rural initiative."

The rail cars are historic cars from 1948, 1949 and 1950 that have been stripped to their metal frame and turned into climate-controlled museum rooms. The first car is a former New York Central sleeper car, and the next two are Pennsylvania Railroad diner cars.

The walls hold breathtaking works, such as the Warhol silk-screen of Buzz Aldrin on the moon 30 years ago. The bright pink Warhol used to color the spacesuit makes the work appear three-dimensional.

Admission is free and donations are accepted. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sunday.

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