Home is where the art is

Arts advocates stock the city with plenty to see and do

January 15, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

As 2009 begins in an uncertain economic climate, local museums and galleries are launching a variety of initiatives - from 200th birthday tributes for Edgar Allan Poe to a Bible story told with comic-strip art - to draw visitors in the new year.

One reason for the diversity of offerings is the mix of groups and organizations that present art in and around Baltimore. They include everything from commercial galleries to nonprofit venues to full-fledged museums supported with public and private funds.

One commercial gallery owner moved his business this month from the suburbs to Fells Point in an effort to attract more of the tourists visiting the area.

"I've already sold four Amy Lamb photographs ... and I haven't even officially opened yet, so that's a good omen," Steven Scott, owner of Steven Scott Gallery (stevenscottgallery.com), said before opening his relocated gallery last week in the former Fells Point Visitor Center at 808 S. Ann St.

Scott ran a gallery on North Charles Street from 1988 to 2002, when he moved to Owings Mills. Among the artists he represents are Robert Andriulli, Helen Glazer and Annie Leibovitz. Scott said he's looking forward to being back in the city and getting more visits from people strolling along Baltimore's waterfront.

"My artists were thrilled because it's a more tourist-friendly area," he said. "More people will be coming through. And it's a gorgeous, soaring space."

At the other end of the spectrum is Creative Alliance (creativealliance.org), a nonprofit art center in the converted Patterson movie theater at 3134 Eastern Ave. One show opening there this weekend features the work of resident artist Megan Hildebrandt, a Michigan-born painter who spent much of last year roaming the streets of Highlandtown, offering to clean people's front steps as a way to keep alive a fading Baltimore tradition.

Dressed in 1940s-era washer-woman garb and carrying cans of Bon Ami cleanser, Hildebrandt, 24, knocked on doors to ask if residents wanted their steps washed. The resulting exhibit, The Rumors Are True: Megan Hildebrandt & Christine Sajecki, includes a video and photos of Hildebrandt's cleaning adventures, paintings by Hildebrandt that depict some of East Baltimore's early personalities, and paintings by resident artist Sajecki. The show opens with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and runs through Feb. 21. About 6 p.m. Saturday, Hildebrandt will give a talk about her step-scrubbing adventures and other observations about Highlandtown and its history.

Somewhere between these extremes is Gallery Four (galleryfour.net), on the fourth floor of the H&H Building at 405 W. Franklin St., on Baltimore's west side. It's run by a collective of artists who live and work in the building. The most recent show, Asterism, featured paintings and sculptures by three out-of-town artists and two local artists. The mix reflects the curators' desire to present the work of emerging Baltimore-based artists "within the context of the larger contemporary art community."

Eddie Winter, a photographer and member of the collective that runs Gallery Four, said that while the group is certainly pleased whenever art is sold at Gallery Four, its chief goal is to mount creative exhibits and give artists valuable exposure. "We try to approach our shows the way a museum would, but with a shoestring budget. Then people will say, 'Can you imagine what we could do if we had a budget?' "

Winter said the group benefits from having a large space with relatively low rent, and members of the collective make most of their own repairs and renovations, which helps keep costs down. He said the best way to create interest and draw visitors can be summed up in two words: "strong shows."

Baltimore's museums, meanwhile, have an impressive lineup of events planned for early 2009.

The big show at the Baltimore Museum of Art (artbma.org), 10 Art Museum Drive, is all about the big top. A Circus Family: Picasso to Leger (Feb. 22-May 17) is an exhibit about "daring feats, exotic acts and colorful circus characters," as seen through the eyes of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger and other 20th-century artists fascinated by the spectacle of the circus and its performers. As part of the exhibit, the museum will erect a circus tent in one of the high-ceilinged Thalheimer galleries. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15.

At the Walters Art Museum (thewalters.org), 600 N. Charles St., exhibits during the first half of 2009 will include Romance of the Rose: Visions of Love in Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts (Jan. 24-April 19); The Saint John's Bible: A Modern Vision Through Medieval Methods (Feb. 15-May 24); and Herman Maril at the Walters Art Museum (June 28-Aug. 30).

Here is a list of nine more exhibits and events coming up this year.

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