American Visionary Art Museum invites Charles Village residents to visit free

Unusual donation results from Phila. parade entry

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

Sometimes, it pays to live -- and parade -- in Charles Village.

Because of the generosity of Philadelphia photographer Neil Benson and his fellow "Dumpster Divers," the American Visionary Art Museum is offering free admission tomorrow through Sunday to Charles Villagers and others in North Baltimore's 21218 ZIP code.

The relationship between the City of Brotherly Love, Charm City, and the museum was launched in the spring when Benson and his team of recyclers -- the Dumpster Divers -- came to Baltimore to enter the first East Coast kinetic sculpture race, which involves creative vehicles that can move on land and float on water.

Such a hit was the Philadelphia group that Marshall Leavy, a Charles Village parade committee member, invited Benson's group to appear in the neighborhood's traditional June parade. The Benson team sculpture was judged to have the best art in the parade.

But when it came time for the Philadelphians to collect their $100 prize from the Charles Village Civic Association, parade organizer Steven Rivelis could not find them. Benson and his pals had gone to Bertha's Mussels, unaware they had won a prize.

Reached in Philadelphia, the group declined the award: "We've had an unbroken chain of no money and no treasurer, which could only cause us problems. In the spirit of hanky panky and a desperate attempt to keep it that way, we decided to donate the $100 to complete a Hall of Mirrors effect," Benson said, suggesting they wanted to bounce the money back to Baltimore.

"We were inspired to do something crazed, that would cause consternation and confusion," Benson said from his Philadelphia home.

The Visionary Art Museum, the beneficiary, was not to be outdone.

"We did not want to be out-recycled," said Theresa Segreti, the museum's director of design and education.

So, they set up the "Charles Village is Free! Thanks to Neil Benson Weekend," as the museum's latest public outreach, for the three days after Thanksgiving.

The line-up of activities goes way beyond the main show, "Angels and Other Aliens." Benson will lead a workshop at 1 p.m. tomorrow on "exquisite trash." For $5, he will share his secrets on how to construct figures and images from objects found in scrap heaps.

At noon Saturday, a kinetic sculpture race pep rally will be held in the museum's barn for those who wish to know more about it -- during which a piano-playing dog named Bongo will play for a turkey supper.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, a dozen Tibetan monks will display a sacred sand painting (a mandala) and then throw it into the harbor water in a ritual. "It's really quite beautiful," Segreti said.

Rivelis says he plans to take his wife and mother to the museum's "bizarre bazaar" for a holiday shopping spree.

"It's rewarding to watch this unfold and blossom and wonder, `What's the next circle?' " he said. "Something will have to happen now."

Pondering the new Philadelphia-Baltimore connection, Benson said, "We're a bigger city, but we're not nearly as much fun as you guys. We are terribly jealous; Baltimore's really a happening place."

Information: 410-244-1900.

Pub Date: 11/25/99

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