Experiencing art, artists

Studios: For two weekends, the School 33 Art Center's open tour provides the public with an intimate look at how art is created.

October 25, 2004|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

Dozens of artists across Baltimore threw open their studio doors yesterday, put out snacks and then waited, as only a trickle of visitors took them up on their offer to peek inside their workshops.

Although the first half of School 33 Art Center's annual open studio tour ended on a slow note, there's always next weekend: The tour continues Saturday and Sunday at uptown art venues north of North Avenue. Last weekend's tour explored downtown studios.

But artists enjoyed spending time with arts patrons who care about their work.

Stained-glass artist Daniel Herman, who sold two pieces, was equally pleased with the visitors who took in his works with appreciation.

"There were people here earlier and they were looking at the sculpture with real empathy," Herman said. "They saw the poetry in it and that's very gratifying."

Herman is one of a group of artists based in the former Crown Cork and Seal factory in the Station North Arts District. Light streams into his second-floor loft-style space from windows that take up nearly half his wall space and offer a sweeping view of the city.

Seeing art here, as opposed to in a museum-like gallery, heightens the experience, Herman said. "You're seeing it right in its environment. ... . You get the grit and tooth of the place where the thing is made."

Maps helped guide visitors to open studios throughout downtown - everywhere from Federal Hill, where School 33 is based, to the Sowebo arts area, and into Fells Point and Highlandtown. More than 100 studios are participating over the two weekends.

People could step over painters' color-splattered floors, see panels of glass and metal scraps that inspire sculptors and - on occasion - tip back a glass of cider with an artist in her kitchen.

As Leslie Schwing grated cheddar for a fresh batch of macaroni and cheese at her studio/home on Baltimore Street just east of downtown, she acknowledged it's not the typical gallery wine and cheese. But that's entirely the point.

"We're opening up our homes. It's not just another art gallery," she said. "So why not have real food?"

Schwing, who lives with artist Greg Fletcher, said because Baltimore isn't a city overflowing with collectors, events such as studio tours help artists cultivate customers. "The year before last there was a woman here all day looking and she came back in December and bought two things," Schwing said. "She wanted to see everything and she wanted to think about it."

A few studios down Baltimore Street, Bill Hoke opened his doors to show off his grandly scaled interpretations in oil. He explained how one 4-foot- by-8-foot piece, a seemingly abstract smudging of purple tones, was his take on the resurrection: "It has to do with realizing how much Christian religion is in my soul and I kind of went with that."

Hoke knows that not everyone will go for that - or has a wallet deep enough to afford it. But that's not why he was participating in the studio tour. "It would be nice," he acknowledged, "but it's more to share and to be able to expose what I'm doing to the world."

Back at the Crown building, Mia Pomerantz strummed a guitar in a back corner of a studio while portrait artist Paul Moscatt painted her image. As the woman's fingers moved across the strings, Moscatt perfected the image of her hand on the canvas, swiping color onto the knuckle.

Jennifer Hubbard, a fellow painter taking in Moscatt's work, and some of his wine and cheese, said this is the first year she's attended the tour instead of showing her own place.

Even if artists don't sell anything, she thinks the show is worthwhile because it allows people who might not know much about art to get behind the scenes. "Art can be kind of mysterious, and this makes artists more accessible to the public and demystifies things a little."

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