Zappa Bust Finds A Highlandtown Home

Public Art

Donation From Lithuanian Fans Will Go Outside Library

December 18, 2009|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,sam.sessa@baltsun.com

After more than a year of deliberations, city officials have decided to place a bust of the late Frank Zappa at the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown.

The bust, which sits atop a tall column, is a gift from a Zappa fan club in Lithuania. It will be erected at Eastern Avenue and South Conkling Street sometime next year, said Anne Perkins, chairwoman of the Public Art Commission.

"We think this is a great place for it - a terrific neighborhood" Perkins said. "I think it will be the focal point for a lot of really fun festivals."

The commission considered several sites for the statue, including South Broadway in Fells Point and Patterson Park. Members wanted a spot with plenty of foot traffic, where the statue would be the most visible, Perkins said.

"This seemed to be the site where everything came together," she said.

Zappa, a Baltimore native who is celebrated for his innovative, eccentric musical compositions, would be pleased with the location, according to his widow, Gail. Zappa's mother, Rose Marie Colimore, was a librarian, and Gail Zappa said she lobbied to have the bust placed near a city library.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "That's where he went to school, in the library. The library was a really important place for him in his teen years."

The bust is a replica of one that overlooks a square in Vilnius, Lithuania. Baltimore accepted the bust, a gift from a dedicated Zappa fan club, in May 2008.

Library officials hope the bust will raise the profile of the Southeast Anchor Library, a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system. When it opened in 2007, it was Baltimore's first new library building in 35 years.

"The first two words that popped out of my mouth when I heard about it were, 'We rock,' " said Roswell Encina, the library's director of communications. "We're hoping when Zappa fans come to see the statue, they're like, 'Wow, look at this cool library. Let's check it out.' "

The decision to put the bust in Highlandtown saddened Jason Sullivan, executive director of Fells Point Main Street. He worked with the committee and the neighborhood for about seven months, trying to find suitable spot in Fells Point. The neighborhood's final recommendation - a site at Fleet Street and South Broadway - was rejected.

"It would have been great here - more appropriate than Highlandtown, but what can you do?" Sullivan said. "It was upsetting to have gone through that whole process and not get it. ... He would have fit perfectly in this neighborhood, had he grown up in Fells Point."

Zappa was born in 1940. His family lived on Park Heights Avenue before moving to Edgewood in Harford County. Zappa's father, a chemist and mathematician, had a job at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The family moved to California when Frank was 10. He died in 1993 of prostate cancer.

"[Baltimore] is not a bad place to be from, when you consider who else is from there," Gail Zappa said. "Edgar Allan Poe, John Waters - come on. It's all great."

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