Release of poster an event

Art: Buyers held a spontaneous street party last year as they waited in line for a limited-edition poster at a low first-day price.

Arundel Live

October 04, 2001|By Katie Arcieri | Katie Arcieri,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Long before dawn Sunday morning, some Annapolitans will probably start assembling on State Circle to wait patiently in the moonlight - early birds hoping to be first in line for a once-a-year art phenomenon.

Some will bring blankets, others will sit on lawn chairs and play Monopoly to pass the time - before the doors to artist Nancy Hammond's State Circle gallery open at 10 a.m. and they spill inside to purchase her annual poster featuring some aspect of their hometown.

What's unique about the sale is that it always takes place on Hammond's birthday (her 60th this year), and as part of her celebration, the first 100 customers pay just $45 for the unframed artwork. As the day progresses and the line of customers winds down Maryland Avenue and Prince George Street, the price for the signed and numbered lithograph prints goes up in increments. Her first poster in 1998 has sold out, the last one going for $1,000, and last year's posters are selling now for $750 each.

Hammond donates 5 percent of the sales to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. After the first day, the posters can be ordered by fax, phone or on the gallery's Web site.

"It's become almost an October street party," says Betty Brunell, Hammond's manager. "We have people that come from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware."

This year's poster, called "Action on the Foredeck," depicts a prominent aspect of Annapolis - sailing. Five-hundred copies have been created. Hammond used a throwing-paint technique to convey strong winds and the splashes of the Chesapeake to create a "supercharged" dynamic scene on the foredeck of a racing sailboat.

Hammond admits she's a mess after completing the throwing-paint technique, but she likes it that way.

"It looks very slapdash," she says. "I describe it as a mix of Jackson Pollock and a Sports Illustrated photo. You're very connected with the technique, with how it's done, and the spontaneity of it. You have to show that side of Annapolis and that side of life."

Each year, the poster's theme is kept "top secret" and is previewed just before its release in two local magazines -What's up Annapolis? and Inside Annapolis. People call the gallery to find out what the poster will look like.

On the day of the sale, Hammond is often spotted hugging and talking to customers as they wait in line, giving out cookies and serving as host of her "birthday party." Brunell plans to offer the early patrons coffee, breakfast rolls and doughnuts.

Hammond says she believes her poster event became a "major, major thing," last year.

She recalls a truck driver stopping her on the street and saying, "You better get to your gallery right way because there is a long line of people waiting to buy your posters." When she saw the crowd, it was a shock.

"I got weepy, teary and giddy all at the same time," she recalls. "I got sort of a weird stage fright."

To create each year's poster, the artist says she "goes into hibernation" each May.

"It's like writing the second book, so for months you're filled with a nervous anxiety," she says.

She has, at times, torn up the first draft, but she tries to be kind to herself by feasting on what she considers an indulgence - dried cranberries and peanut butter on Granny Smith apples in her studio.

Last year's poster, "The Ship of State" - a drawing of the State House featuring midshipmen as vertical windows and crabs as oval windows - was a limited edition that sold 287 copies on the day of the sale.

"What she does each year is she creates something unique that everyone can relate to," Brunell says.

A native of upstate New York, Hammond views her annual creations as a "conversation" between herself and the community.

"I try not to be scared," she says. "I want to let it all hang out and give an art show of myself to Annapolis. At first, I tried to do things that I thought they would like - crabs, black Labs and sailing. But then I figured, what the heck. I started doing anything that interested me. They have just received it all."

"The reaction is so satisfying, it's unbelievable," Hammond says. "It's been a love affair ever since."

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