Creative Alliance honors benefactor from its early days

Amalie Rothschild's influence continues

Arts: museums, literature

April 01, 2004|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,SUN ARTS WRITER

Less than a year into the existence of the Creative Alliance, when the cash-strapped organizers were practically checking the upholstery cushions for loose change every night, they received -- unsolicited -- a check for $150 from Amalie Rothschild, the Baltimore sculptor and arts philanthropist.

"We didn't know her," said Megan Hamilton, program director of the nonprofit Baltimore arts center. "We hadn't met her. We hadn't solicited her. She just spotted what we were trying to do and lent her support. It was the first time anybody had ever taken notice of us, the first time we had ever received a check for more than $25. It was a big, serious vote of confidence, a little imprimatur that said, `You guys can do this.'

"And she didn't just give to us. She did the same thing for dozens and dozens of Baltimore cultural organizations."

Now, the alliance is in its 10th year, and even though Amalie Rothschild died in 2001, her influence continues in the form of a new gallery that will show artworks created by members of the alliance. It will be dedicated Saturday night. The $50,000 to build the gallery was donated in Rothschild's name by her filmmaker daughter, Amalie R. Roths- child.

The evening, a benefit for the Creative Alliance, will include a buffet supper and a lecture on the sculptor's life. An exhibit of her work will run through April 17.

Finally, there will be a performance of one of the 58 musical compositions commissioned by the sculptor's husband, the late Randy Rothschild. An attorney by profession -- his family owned the Sun Life Insurance Co. of America -- he also was a patron in the music community until his death, as generous and beloved as his wife was in visual-arts circles.

Between them, they had a considerable impact on the local cultural scene.

A favorite family story is how the smitten Randy Rothschild wooed his future wife in the 1930s by writing two original jazz compositions for the piano: "When You're Sleeping" and "Amalie."

"Dad played wonderful jazz. I grew up thinking that a home was a place where there's a piano and someone plays it every day," said Amalie R. Rothschild.

Randy Rothschild was a longtime member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and was president of the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore for nearly 50 years.

Perhaps most important, he placed few restrictions on the 58 compositions he commissioned. Saturday will feature the performance of one of them -- Steven Stucky's Son et Lumiere.

"He was unique because he wouldn't say, `Oh, I want a short, peppy piece.' He'd say, `I want the piece you want to compose,'" Hamilton said. "He was a really dreamy guy for the composing world."

Just as music was an integral part of family life, so was art.

Among other things, Amalie Rothschild was a founder of the Baltimore Outdoor Art Festival and a longtime trustee of her alma mater, Maryland Institute College of Art. While supporting other artists, she avidly pursued her own artwork.

"She was an artist before she was my mother," Amalie R. Rothschild said.

"Some of my earliest memories are of being in her first studio. It was 1950, I was 4 years old and standing on a table with brushes [and] about 15 pots of brightly colored fabric paints, and before me was a vast expanse of muslin on which I was to paint the designs for the curtains for my new room.

"I was intimidated and didn't feel up to the task of filling all that space. Mom encouraged me, didn't let me give up, and eventually the ideas flowed. She was always like that -- the born teacher, the person who knew how to coax others into finding their own voice."

Perhaps that's because she was so sure of her own.

"We would have been proud to show her work with or without the bequest," Hamilton said.

"The art world tended to be dominated by men, and the pieces that came out of that era were kind of macho. Amalie's trick would be to take these macho forms and put on a big nose -- use them, exploit them, and ultimately subvert them. It's really quite amazing."

For the Rothschilds' daughter, there is satisfaction in the thought that her mother's relationship with the Creative Alliance has come full circle.

"Even though my parents are gone, even in the future when no one is left who knew them, my goal is that their memory and their names will still continue to do good in the cultural life of Baltimore," she said.

The benefit dinner begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets cost $50 and are must be bought in advance. Call 410-276-1651.

Want to hear Amalie Rothschild's story in her own words? She is included in "Weaving Women's Words: Baltimore Stories," an oral-history project running through July 16 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd St. Call 410-732-6400 or visit www. jhsm.org.

For more art events, see page 39.

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