Annapolis artist depicts America's first female newspaper publisher

Publishing pioneer in a grand image

September 28, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Anne Catharine Green gave birth to 14 children and raised the six surviving ones with her husband in Colonial Annapolis before his untimely death thrust her into an unlikely new role: America's first female newspaper publisher.

She allowed no interruption of the printing of his paper, the Maryland Gazette, announcing on the front page after his passing in 1767, according to the state archives, that she "shall venture to supply [customers] with News-Papers, on the same Terms he did."

After getting complaints from William Paca about anonymous letters to the editor directed at him, she began requiring submissions to have names attached.

"The more I read about her, the more I liked this lady," said Annapolis artist Sally Wern Comport.

Her grand images of the printing magnate and of a print shop worker were installed Wednesday and yesterday on the brick facade of a downtown bank, the fourth installment of a public art display celebrating the signing of the seaside city's charter 300 years ago.

Artwalk was sponsored through a $70,000 grant from the Art in Public Places Commission and is celebrated as part of Annapolis 300, a yearlong commemoration.

Five well-known local artists, including the late photographer Marion Warren, are represented in the Artwalk collection, which organizers would like to keep in place for up to three years.

The artwork is being hung at six downtown sites including the seawall at the Naval Academy, on West Street, the Annapolis harbormaster's building at City Dock, Calvert Street near the Clay Street community, a Compromise Street playground and yesterday, on the Severn Savings Bank on Westgate Circle.

Comport, the Artwalk curator, said city officials who safeguard the pristine 18th-century and 19th-century architecture worked with Artwalk organizers to ensure that the artwork blended into the areas for which they're proposed.

Facing east on West Street is the large portrait of Green holding a copy of the Maryland Gazette. The smaller, collagelike painting, facing north on West Street, depicts a man operating a printing press with the backdrop of the downtown Annapolis skyline, prominently displaying the State House dome.

She said it took about a year and a half to complete the paintings because she spent an enormous amount of time researching the life of Green and paintings from that era to create an accurate depiction.

Once she was finished, Comport still had a daunting task ahead of her: transforming the art into a form that could be durable enough to survive the elements.

The paintings were digitally enlarged and printed on UV-resistant vinyl and laminated to make them graffiti-resistant. Then the prints were mounted on a thick piece of aluminum PVC.

"It's educational. It's inspirational," Comport said. "What's really great about it is, how much discussion this has started. From a homeless man ... to the billionaires walking by after lunch, everyone talks about the pieces and it's a point of discussion for the public. ... I just love this project."

The Annapolis 300 celebration commemorates the charter established in 1708 by England's Queen Anne.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, the Art in Public Places Commission and Artwalk organizers will unveil the paintings at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Severn Bank Building lobby, 1 Westgate Circle.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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