IT WAS BACK TO SCHOOL for several hundred grown-ups at the Baltimore School for the Arts. More commonly known as "Expressions," the school's annual fundraising party gives its guests a chance to take a class with some of the BSA's students as their teachers.
Party chairs Teri Alexander, Nathalie Beatty, Elizabeth Linehan, Mary-Ann Pinkard and Krissie Verbic welcomed the new "students" as they filed into the school. Many bolstered their confidence and energy with a stop at the bar and at the hors d'oeuvres tables - and then decided which subject they wanted to give a whirl.
Whirl was the operative word in the dance studio. There, folks such as Curt Decker, Carole and Bean Sibel, Terry Morgenthaler and Molly Shattuck were busy mastering the salsa.
Around the corner, would-be thespians were acting up a storm with help from their young coaches.
Down and around a few hallways, you peek in one room and see a class of novice violinists - including Eleanor Carey and Lainy Lebow-Sachs - being tutored by student teachers.
Then, you hear a cacophony coming from across the hall, where, in a large rehearsal room, other would-be musicians are practicing on French horns, kettledrums and saxophones, with very patient young teachers at their sides, and a newly-formed chorus limbers up on tunes from Grease.
Since it's a well-known fact that good pupils need good nutrition, guests then headed off to the auditorium for a healthy supper.
Then, it was time to see true talent at work.
BSA director Leslie Shepard introduced the evening's highlight - a show presented by the school's real students. Good thing the audience had cupcakes to ease their envy.
Untweedy museum leader still feels 24
A Drink With Gary Vikan
Some might say that Gary Vikan is the Walters Art Museum. He's been its director for 13 years. And before that, he was its chief curator for nine years. A Minnesota native, Vikan lives in Guilford with his wife, Elana, a teacher at Roland Park Country School, and two dogs, Pippi and Scooter. They have two adult daughters, Nicole and Sonja.
You've been at the Walters, and in Baltimore now, for 22 years. Does that make you feel old?
Oh, I felt old a long time ago. Except that 60 is the new 30, right? I was thinking about this the other night. ... You have an awareness of yourself as being a certain age. ... I would say [my self-image] is around 1971. I was 24. ... [As] an undergraduate in college, I had this image of myself [later in life] as driving a convertible, wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows. Well, I have a convertible. But, I don't wear tweed, and I don't teach in an undergraduate college. And I never would've thought I would be running a museum. You stumble into those things.
So, you still feel like there's a 24-year-old in there?
Yeah. Except I can't stay up that late. I cook from the same cookbook that I got in 1971. I use the same pot. I'm doing essentially the same things. Wine was $2 then. And that's not a bad thing. And, [my wife and I] still go to France. Paris is still my favorite city.
Does that 24-year-old inside ever get you into trouble?
I don't think so. I think I have integrity. But, I don't think I've changed very much [since that age]. My wife would be a better judge of that. I'm not sure I had as many opinions then. But, gradually, over time, things seem a lot more obvious to me. I think I know a lot less in the specific and a lot more in general.
What would surprise the 24-year-old you about the 60-year-old you?
That I care about money. At all. ... I think he'd be surprised at how civically engaged I am. That the sense of social commitment and liberal values would take a form that would be civic.
Is there a stereotype of a museum director? Do you fit it?
There was. It was a "to the manor born" endeavor. The people who ran the museums were of the same social standing as the people who formed them. They tended to be people of wealthy backgrounds, and they chose a profession because they just happened to be interested. Somehow this generation of the '60s ended up in the museum world, and it has a very different perspective. It's very fluid. ... My generation, we were all academics and basically kind of wandered into a museum cultural life.
Do you still have goals, dreams?
If I have a dream, it's to acquire a functional facility to realize a couple of projects that have occupied me for years as books.
What are those books you'd like to write?
One's on Elvis and the other is on the Shroud of Turin.
So Elvis is a passion. Do you have others?
I would watch, again and again, Alfred Hitchcock - because you cannot see most of his movies too many times. Casablanca is the greatest movie ever made. And I puzzle over why it is that so many great movies were made between 1950 and 1960; High Noon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Rear Window, The Searchers.
What's your ideal way to spend a Sunday?