Volume 12, Issue 23 ~ June 3-9, 2004
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A Day in the Village at Maryland Hall
Celebrating 25 years of making each day — and many lives — festive with art

by Sonia Linebaugh

C hristine Maceo with sons Domenic and Anthony at the Beaux Arts Café at Maryland Hall.
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts looks like the old-fashioned public school building it once was, but step into its long, cool hallways and you’ll soon discover a village of creativity: a lively community of dancers, artists and performers of all ages. It’s a village that celebrates its 25th anniversary this week with a festival of the arts, but every day is a festive occasion inside the brick walls of Maryland Hall.

Earliest Artists
Little ones bring the village to life each morning.

In this village you can see little dancers in tights running down the hallway, hear some young musician in the Peabody studio or take a break in the gallery or café.
Teresa Sweeney, a Kindermusik regular, fuels up at the cafe.
Three-year-old Anthony Maceo of Annapolis has been a regular at Maryland Hall since he was three months old. He takes art and Peabody music classes. These days, one-year-old brother Domenic joins him.

“They’re making friends,” says Christine Maceo who attends classes with her sons. “They love the music. They sing, dance, play drums and shakers. They’re very happy.”

Anthony and James say nothing. They’re busy with a post-class snack of animal crackers and juice in the Beaux Arts Cafe.

“They love the cafe too,” says mom.

Nearby, Annapolitan Teresa Sweeney, going on two years old, is a veteran of Kindermusik classes. She samples cream cheese and juice for her snack. “Kindermusik exposes her to rhythm and music in a fun way. She loves the music and dance,” mom Gabriella Sweeney says.

Lindsay Shaner ballet, tap and creative movement instructor for two- to five-year-olds.
Lindsay Shaner of Arnold is the only one without a child in this morning’s cafe. That’s because she has three classes worth of children each week. Since last November, Shaner has been teaching ballet, tap and creative movement for two- to five-year-olds at Maryland Hall.

“The two-year-olds are the most satisfying,” says Shaner. “You see how they grow and progress. When they first come into the class, they cling to their mothers. In a few weeks, they don’t need the parents anymore. Sometimes, they don’t even need me. They’ve gained the independence to want to do what they want to do.”

“The four-year-olds,” Shaner adds, “are learning to skip. They’re ready to be introduced to ballet and tap. They learn three ballet positions: heels together, toes open; feet apart; and heel to toe.”

Shaner finds her own contentment in this village of creativity. “I like the studio here — though it’s so echoing that tap can be quite deafening,” she says. On the other hand, she finds it “great that there’s a theater in the building. The students look to see what’s going on as they leave class.”

Kirsten Striegel manages the theater’s lighting, sound and the stage itself.
Lighting the Hall
Just now, the only one in the darkened theater is Kirsten Striegel of Annapolis. This has been her workplace for almost three years. With stage director Alex Brady, Striegel runs the shows at Maryland Hall. Whether it’s opera, ballet, concerts, meetings or political inaugurations, the technician is responsible for lights, sound and general stage conditions. During the fall-spring season, she works as few as 40 or as many as 70 hours per week.

“I learned my craft when I was a dance major at Goucher College,” says Striegel. “I like this a lot better than dance. I like the manual labor. I never sit down. There’s a sense of accomplishment after a big show. I get to do everything.”

Rock concerts — like the recent Hall performance of David Byrne of Talking Heads — are the hardest for Striegel to light intelligently. “There’s lots of equipment and lots of expectations,” she says. But everything went well.

The biggest incident of her tenure was the fall of the stage curtain. Luckily the dry-rotted curtain came down during the night. There was no solution but to buy a new curtain.

“We should replace a few other old things,” says Striegel. “We could use more money.”

Learning from His Students
Upstairs in the art gallery, Mike Patton of Pasadena is taking colorful artworks off the wall. It’s the end of an exhibit by the special adult art students of Providence Center in Baltimore, where Patton is director of the Providence Art Institute.

Eileen Razzetti teaches 22 ballet classes each week.
In Patton’s art classes are 154 art students and 154 styles. “But,” he emphasizes, “the work is not accidental. Like all artists, these students make choices to organize space, use color and create imagery. Some are sophisticated and some are not. Ninety-five percent of the students are non-verbal and non-expressive, yet given materials and opportunity, they create work that is not derivative of art history or the media.”

Patton’s approach to his own sculptures and paintings has been challenged by his work with developmentally handicapped students, he admits, but it is not yet so free. “I still give too much attention to expectation,” he says. “I’d like to just do it like they do.”

Patton takes down another piece. He says, “We’ve been lucky. Maryland Hall has given us space for an exhibit for the past 10 years.”

Striving for Perfect Form
Ballet instructor Eileen Razzetti of Annapolis has been part of this village longer still.

“I started at Maryland Hall 12 years ago,” she says. “Now I have 150 students and teach 98 percent of the Academy Ballet School classes.” That’s 22 classes each week. She’s just finished with a group of four-year-olds. Later she’ll teach nines, tens, teens, adults.

Louise White oversees Maryland Hall’s 100-plus volunteers.
“Children are where my heart is,” says Razzetti, who follows the exacting Royal Academy of Dance program. “I try to make every child as beautiful as they feel. I have the eye to see their line and form. That’s the emphasis. Beautiful line. I recently looked down a row of nine-year-olds and they were perfect. Just perfect.”

Razzetti’s adult ballet classes draw high school girls with no previous ballet experience, including cheerleaders and drama students who are too old for the beginner classes. Women who danced when they were young also come.

“Jazzercise doesn’t work for them because there’s no style,” says Razzetti. “They want a class where they have to strive for a specific form. Striving is part of ballet.”

Organizing a Volunteer Army
Louise White’s striving is of another kind. As manager of volunteers, White organizes and trains more than 100 people who work during theater performances as ushers or in the lobby. Others work as gallery attendants or give clerical help. Recently, midshipmen and Comcast volunteers came to mulch and work in the gardens of the Founders Green and in the perennial beds.

Amanda Pellerin teaches pottery at the Hall.
Pottery students
Leigh Gruber, left, and Debbie Pratster.
White emphasizes training and safety for the volunteers. She teaches ushers where to find fire extinguishers and exits, who to call in an emergency, what to do if someone falls or has a heart attack.
“Now they handle things with more confidence,” says White. With 850 people a full house for the theater, that’s important.

This village is a comfortable home for White, too. “It’s wonderful to work here,” she says. “If you’re at the computer too long, you can come out and see some little dancer in tights running down the hallway, or hear some young musician in the Peabody studio or take a break in the gallery.”

In the Pottery Studio
In the pottery studio, instructor Amanda Pellerin of Baltimore works to trim a student bowl. Pellerin has been teaching her craft for 10 years, over two at Maryland Hall.

“With the great natural light and high ceilings, this is a good studio space,” she says. She and fellow teacher Tina Gebhart are exploring a range of glazes with the studio’s electric kiln. Her short dream list includes an outdoor kiln for higher-temperature firing techniques.

“This is a close group,” she says of her students. “One midshipman comes every session and brings different female mids each time. Women in the day classes make friends and eat lunch together.”

Student Leigh Gruber of Annapolis agrees that this is the place to be. “I’ve been to three sessions. Amanda is patient with me, and I’m getting a little bit better. It’s fun. I like creating. I maxed out on jewelry classes.”

Training with an Artist in Residence
It’s musical creativity on the minds of teenagers Steve Szybowski of Stevensville and Zach Bussell of Bowie, who are playing guitar in resident artist Rob Levit’s studio.

‘There’s a lot going on,’ says Mary Johnson, who keeps Maryland Hall clean. ‘A lot of dancers, musicians, artists.
“These are star students from Summit School,” says Levit. “I’m coaching them for their graduation ceremony. They wrote a composition to honor Elizabeth Carr, a classmate who died. It’s a beautiful acoustic guitar piece with melodic and rhythmic sections and many chord progressions.”

As artist in resident for two years, Levit teaches and takes his music skills into community centers and schools. He’s hosted a world concert series and a gathering of creative women of Annapolis.

Artist-in-Residence Rob Levit (right) with students Steve Szybowski and Zach Bussell of the Summit School.
“This is an inspiring and fun place,” he says. “Guitar is my instrument, but I write my own compositions on my laptop keyboard and computer.”

Szybowski, who’s been Levit’s student for the past year, finds another value here. “This place has great acoustics,” says the teen. “I like the echo, especially out in the hall.”

Sustaining the Village
Mary Johnson of Annapolis cleans up the hall and all the galleries, studios and restrooms, too. “It’s a good place to work,” she agrees. “There’s a lot going on, a lot of people around: dancers, musicians, artists.”

Founders Day Celebration June 5-6
June 5 through 6, the same weekend Annapolis explodes with ArtWorks all around the city, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts opens its arms to the world in honor of its 25th Anniversary:
801 Chase Street, Annapolis: 410-263-5544; www.marylandhall.org

Saturday, June 5: 10am-4pm; 8pm
10am: Walk the outdoor labyrinth of Founders Green with Dennis Younger.
11am: Children’s acting workshop with Bay Area Theatre Company.
Noon: Dancing Through Time: A History of Dance by Ballet Theatre of Maryland with students from the School of the Ballet Theatre ($10).
1pm: Concerts and picnic on the front lawn with the Rob Levit Trio; dance recital; bring a picnic or buy snacks at Café Beaux Arts.

All Day
• outdoor and portrait painters demonstrate their craft on the front lawn;
• Artists in Residence open studios;
• Two art exhibits: Helen Jughaib, Annapolis Watercolor Club members
8pm: Founders Gala Concert that includes local stars and resident companies: jazz vocalist Sue Matthews, pianist Stef Scaggiari, singer Tony Spencer, dancer Kelly Isaac, the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra and Ballet Theatre of Maryland. Footworks’ Junior Company and Peabody Preparatory piano students Paul Hildebrand and Elena Ryapolove will also perform. ($25 w/member discounts).

Sunday, June 6
3pm: Dino Rock’s Divertimento in D(inosaur) with the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra and large-scale puppet dinosaurs ($15).

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