Picture-perfect additions to city

Galleries: The Annapolis art scene celebrates the area's water, history and people.


Following the trail of the visual arts through downtown Annapolis may seem like gilding the lily just a bit. The capital, with its gracious 18th-century layout, magnificent historic homes and handsome State House, is a feast for the eyes all by itself.

But history - military, maritime and social - and proximity to one of the nations most distinctive and inviting waterways attract a population predisposed to the fine arts, and no jaunt through the Historic District is complete without several peeks into the museums and galleries that reflect and augment the city's aesthetic character.

Mitchell Art Gallery

A tremendous leap forward for the arts in Annapolls occurred in 1989 with the opening of the Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Art Gallery.

Mitchell was a philanthropist, art collector and member of the St. John's College Board of Visitors and Governors. The intimate, superbly equipped gallery she founded, adjacent to Francis Scott Key Auditorium on the St. John's campus, has featured Rembrandt etchings, Picasso ceramnics, Mayan pottery, medieval maps and other treasures.

A show on view through Nov. 9, "of Samurai and Chrysanthemums: Edo Period Woodblock Prints and Melji Period Sculptures," presents a stunning array of Japanese temples, tea ceremonies, cherry trees, courtesans, sumo wrestlers and samurai Warriors.

Fifty-five polychrome wood blocks from the Edo Period (1615-1868) and nine bronze sculptures from the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) make up this exhibit on loan from the Amarillo Museum of Art's Price Asian Art Collection.

Md. Federation of Art

The Maryland Federation of Art was established in the early 1960s by a group of local artists interested in developing professional opportunities for the Maryland arts conununity.

The MFA's Circle Gallery at 18 State Circle in the heart of the Historic District displays paintings and sculptures from artists all over the county in a handsome space featuring exposed beams in a one-time general store.

Artwork inspired by the Chesapeake Bay may be found in just about every gallery, frame shop and knickknack emporium in town.

Annapolis Marine Art Gallery, at 110 Dock St., features exquisite images of skipjacks, clipper ships, lighthouses and the Annapolis waterfront.

John Morton Barber's evocative views of Annapolis from Church Circle to the City Dock are of special interest, as is a Paul McGehee painting of the steamship Emma Giles making her way "Down the Bay" in times gone by.

Handsome still lifes, multiple views of Venice and Paige Carter Robie's classically inspired sculpture "Eurydice's Story" are prominently displayed at Main Street Gallery, 109 Main St.

At Main Street Gallery, Eastern Shore artist Kevin Fitzgerald reveals a kinship with both the naturalists and impressionists in paintings such as "Horizon Clouds," "Downstream Blues" and "River Trees." A solo exhibit of Fitzgerald's recent works will be on display until Oct. 28.

Up the hill at 215 Main St. is McBride Gallery, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as an exhibitor and seller of fine art on the Annapolis scene.

At the McBride

This month, the McBride showcased the Chesapeake marshes, summer skies and finely detailed wildlife that have made the oils and watercolors of Jeremy Pearse such a sensation in the art world.

A group show on exhibit through November, "Autumn Celebration," includes the works of Chieh-Nie-Cherng, the winner of more than 100 juried art shows in her native China and her adopted America, and Nancy Hammond, whose colorful silk-screens and lithographs feature spinnakers, sailboat races, Eastern Shore waterfronts and the Annapolis skyline.

Amid the antiques shops of West Annapolis is West Annapolis Gallery at 108 Annapolis St. There patrons can find stylish watercolors paying tribute to the American West by proprietor Liz Lind and by Don Cook, one of the gifted artists associated with Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

Contemporary fine art and home furnishings are the exclusive offerings at The 8th Wonder, Annapolis' newest gallery, 46 Maryland Ave.

"Its 2001! You don't need a contemporary home to have contemporary art in it," says gallery director Elizabeth Johnson, whose collection features digital collages by David Colvin, a striking pair of acrylics by California artist James Leonard, and a colorful flower series by Matthew Johnson.

For history buffs

History buffs have a number of choices in downtown Annapolis.

Whitehall Gallery, at 57 West St., offers framed presidential portraits from the 1906 White House Portrait Gallery, antique maps and photos of a 1906 women's Army auxiliary unit.

Banneker-Douglass Museum, an exhibition hall housed in Old Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church at 84 Franklin St., although not an art gallery, is dedicated to preserving Maryland's African-American heritage and features detailed shows of works by African-American artists.

Its exhibits - including the current photography show, "Strive Not to Equal But to Excel: African-American Schools During a Century of Segregation" - bear eloquent witness to the themes of struggle and hope in the lives of black Americans.

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