Exhibits bring heritage of Annapolis into focus


February 25, 2002|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CREATIVE ANNAPOLIS residents are finding new places to tell the rich stories of their heritage. Three local history exhibits are as exciting for the locations where they are displayed as for their content.

Photographs from Blacks of the Chesapeake, a project documenting African-Americans' contributions to the region's maritime and seafood-processing industries, are on display in one of Annapolis' newest exhibit spaces, the entrance of City Hall.

Errol E. Brown Sr., vice president of the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation and exhibition coordinator, said the display is part of a larger project honored as a "local legacy" by the Library of Congress during its bicentennial celebrations in May 2000. Members of Congress nominated thousands of projects to be registered in the library's American Folklife Center. The Anne Arundel project is one of 27 selected from Maryland and one of two on African-American heritage in the state.

Preparing City Hall for changing art exhibits required some creativity and commitment. Alex Tasi of Maritime Plastics in Eastport helped install the exhibit and is delighted with the results.

"It is really going to change the atmosphere of City Hall," he said. "It will warm it up. It was pretty stark."

Vincent O. Leggett, founder and president of the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, hopes that people will come away from the exhibit with an increased awareness of the important and diverse roles of African-Americans in the maritime and seafood industries. Leggett says the exhibit is also a call to action.

"There is a lack of involvement by minorities in the conservation and preservation of the bay and its tributaries," he said. He hopes that the Blacks of the Chesapeake project will make a strong connection between African-Americans and the bay, encouraging more participation in its preservation.

The exhibit is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until March 4 at City Hall, 160 Duke of Gloucester St.

Information: 410-260-8744.

Maritime Museum exhibits

The Annapolis Maritime Museum is displaying two outstanding exhibits: photographs of the Chesapeake Bay by Marion E. Warren, and a pictorial history of the African-American community in Eastport from about 1860 to 1960.

The Warren exhibit features 20 black-and-white photographs of the Chesapeake Bay. Few have captured the feel of bay life as Warren has through his photographs.

"If there is anyone who can communicate the Chesapeake Bay through photographs, it is Marion Warren," Peter D. Tasi, an Eastport resident and design director of Peter D. Tasi & Associates, Designers, said at the exhibit's opening at the museum's Barge House headquarters.

At the opening, members enthusiastically spoke about the museum's planned renovation and expansion into the adjacent McNasby building. The museum plans to sign a lease with the city soon to begin work that would allow it to collect and tell a more complete story of how the bay, boating, seafood and other aspects of maritime life have shaped the Annapolis region.

The pictorial history of Eastport's African-American community is on display at the Stanton Community Center. The exhibit was developed a few years ago after the Maritime Museum won a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust to document Eastport's African-American history.

Historian and City Economic Development Director Mike Miron coordinated the project. He asked members of the Mount Zion United Methodist Church, the historical anchor of the neighborhood's black community, to help gather artifacts and photos for the exhibit.

"The church did all the work. Peter Tasi designed it and I edited it, but the committee gathered all the materials and wrote the text," Miron said.

Denise Johnson, the museum's community liaison and a member of the church, has been involved in the project since the beginning.

"Sharing the pictures created a nice fellowship," Johnson said. "I've stayed involved in the project because African-Americans have played a vital role in the community, and I believe if you don't know where you've been, you don't know where you are going."

After seeing an exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen at the newly renovated Stanton Community Center, Johnson approached the center's executive director, Kirby J. McKinney, about displaying the Eastport exhibit there. As the earliest school for African-American students in Anne Arundel County, it has strong community connections, and it became a wonderful place for the exhibit.

"This is where you get your sense of community," McKinney said.

The exhibit is in the community center's restored historic classroom with some of the hundreds of photographs and artifacts on permanent display. It is on display from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays until March 5 at the center, 92 W. Washington St., off West Street.

The Warren exhibit is on display at the Barge House at the foot of Second Street on the Back Creek side of Eastport from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays until April 8.

Information: Warren exhibit, 410-295-0104; Eastport exhibit, 410-295-5519.

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