By Jillian Amodio, Kathy Knotts and Krista Pfunder
When we think about viewing art, we often default to the idea of walking through an art gallery or museum, gazing quietly and reflectively at the numerous works that hang upon the walls. In Chesapeake Country, we have no shortage of places to go to experience that, although the pandemic has made it a little more challenging to spend quality time indoors with some museums closed or limiting capacities.
Thankfully, the art world works hard to bring that same experience to the public in other locations. And if you look, you will start to see that art can be found everywhere. Public art enriches our physical environments, bringing streets, plazas and buildings to vibrant life. Public art also gives us the opportunity to watch creators in action, from seeing muralists tackle a blank wall to sculptors leading the installation of massive pieces. It helps connect us to our neighbors and makes us proud of where we live. And it’s fun to turn a corner and discover a sculpture or a mural in a surprising location.
This week, we look at a few organizations, artists and alliances who are making sure that public art stays accessible and visible by putting it outdoors, in public spaces, with no visiting hours necessary.
The David Hayes Art Foundation, named for the renowned sculptor, has brought a group of abstract steel sculptures to Annapolis and the Annapolis Arts District.
In partnership with Annapolis Arts District and The Inner West Street Association, the installation at locations across the city allows for people to experience the joy and creativity of art in a casual and organic way.
The collaboration is being spearheaded by Darin Gilliam and Alison Harbaugh of ArtFarm Studios. In an effort to bring art to community members who may not otherwise have the opportunity, ArtFarm is eager to make this a community project that will uplift and inspire.
“Our goal is to create both visibility and community around the arts. We are excited to connect local artists to the David Hayes Foundation and the art they provide. In turn, we see positive collaborations and educational opportunities for both artists and students in Annapolis,” says Gilliam, the studio’s co-owner.
“As one who represents both visual and sculptural artists, I am excited to see such a prolific and renowned artist’s work in our town. This will bridge the gap between local and global art and artists and bring further excitement to the Annapolis arts scene,” says Katherine Burke, owner of Annapolis Collection Gallery and board member of the Annapolis Arts District.
The outdoor art installations are a yearlong offering to the city and can be seen at Maryland Hall, MC3 at ParkPlace, Lemongrass on West Street, Bates Middle School, Stanton Community Center and The Graduate Hotel. Future locations will be unveiled over coming months, along with education and programming around sculptural art and color theory (annapolisartsdistrict.org/david-hayes).
Hayes has been involved in over 400 exhibitions and his work is included in over 100 institutional collections—including New York City’s MoMA and the Guggenheim. He has also been awarded the Logan Prize for Sculpture and been recognized by the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Hayes was introduced to Annapolis through the Mitchell Gallery on the St. John’s campus in 2013. A Hayes sculpture still greets visitors at its entrance, adding a juxtaposition of abstract art to its traditional landscape.
Art in the Quad
On the St. John’s campus, the Mitchell Gallery is currently closed to visitors. But that doesn’t mean art can’t be found. In addition to the Hayes sculpture, a smaller installation of art awaits students and visitors alike in the Quad.
A Season of Shakespeare is a recently-installed outdoor exhibit of bronze sculptures influenced by the works of the Bard, created by artist Greg Wyatt.
The figures, called maquettes, are mid-sized models placed around the quad at St. John’s and some will be recreated as full-sized sculptures when Wyatt’s full exhibit comes to the gallery next year. The 600-pound statuettes are held in place by two-foot anchors in the ground.
“We invited Greg to have a full exhibition here,” says gallery executive director Lucinda Edinberg. “We had planned to have it last spring with full-size sculptures, the maquettes, watercolors and what-not. That had to be postponed due to the pandemic.”
So Edinberg decided that having some elements on display outdoors was an acceptable compromise. “We can still have art on campus and this way we don’t have to worry about COVID or colds or the flu or whatever comes our way. People can walk around them and enjoy them.”
The eight bronze maquettes will be on display until Oct. 15 and each is a realistic image inspired by a Shakespeare work, such as Falstaff or Macbeth. Other works by Wyatt can be seen in the gardens of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and Arlington Cemetery, as well as installations around the world.
Maquettes are scale models used by artists to help visualize and test ideas without the effort and expense of a full-sized model. “So like a muralist would start with a scaled drawing, or even a billboard ad, when you are working on such a monumental scale, you make several smaller sized pieces and work you way up to the finished product,” explains Edinberg. “For sculpture, it’s important because it determines what you are going to see at a larger size, you have to think about the visual perception and perspectives those larger pieces will create.”
Edinberg says the public reaction to the pieces has varied. “Our students look at them with a lot of curiosity, most of them have read Shakespeare and enjoy the characters, while others want the Quad left completely blank. But it’s a nice diversion from the usual. It creates change and elicits comments. Being able to see artwork when institutions have been closed nourishes the soul. And that is our intention. We are closed but not gone.”
“I fully expect to see them dressed for Halloween,” Edinberg adds.
Watch a live-stream interview with artist Greg Wyatt, Sunday, Sept. 19 at 3pm.
Art in Public Places
Annapolis is quickly becoming known for its wealth of outdoor murals, thanks to the efforts of the Art in Public Places Commission. A new mural joins the party this week on the side of the Samuel L. Gilmer Department of Transportation headquarters in Parole.
The mural honors more than 60 Annapolis men and women for “taking us in the right direction.” The mural was created and painted by Jeff Huntington and collaborators at Future History Now (FHN), a nonprofit organization that creates murals with youth in underserved communities. The project was painted over the summer to honor the many African American taxi drivers throughout Annapolis’ history. Since its inception in 2016, FHN has created 39 murals in Anne Arundel County.
“A primary concern of FHN is sharing authentic street art experiences as a means of teaching contemporary mural production,” says FHN founder and artist Jeff Huntington. “FHN projects promote skill sharing and problem solving, employ mathematical processes, and often address civic, social, and historical content.”
Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles, who advocated for the mural project, says, “The design is striking, and reminds us of the commitment of our taxi drivers and transit service operators to serve this community.”
Mayor Gavin Buckley, a longtime champion of public art, added, “you have got to see this mural in person. It ‘drives’ home the importance of all manner of transportation options that make a city like Annapolis function.”
Elevate Your Game, a colorful new mural, was also unveiled this summer on the basketball court at Studio 39 behind Maryland Hall by FHN and the Performing & Visual Arts (PVA) Program of Anne Arundel County schools.
Maryland Hall’s ArtReach team, led by Laura Brino, has also recently completed a mural called One Annapolis located on the track behind Bates Middle School. This collaborative project also included FHN, the PVA program, and artist-activists Comacell Brown and Deonte Ward.
Huntington says more projects are in the works. “We are currently working on/preparing for mural projects for Chesapeake Art Center in Brooklyn Park, phase 2 of a basketball court mural in collaboration with Bike AAA at Lindale Middle School, and one for the International School at Largo High School in Prince Georges,” he said. “We are also planning the 7th mural of the 9-mural walking tour called Kids Making History, which will be the only mural tour, to my knowledge, that will be accompanied by time lapse videos and a virtual docent activated by QR codes and voiced by the youth who worked on each project.”
ArtsFest at Annmarie Garden
In Calvert County, art lovers can find plenty of outdoor wonder at Annmarie Garden. A sculpture greets you as you pull up to the art center. It’s the “Tribute to the Oyster Tonger, a Chesapeake Waterman” by Antonio Tobias Mendez. This memorial to the oyster tongers was created with the intention to celebrate a people of pride, character and integrity and to create a feeling for their space and to symbolize the elements of their existence. The sculpture is meant to invoke a sense of timelessness and enduring quality.
Beyond, in the 30-acre sculpture garden you’ll find all the outdoor art you could hope to see, nestled in the woods down a shady path.
Enjoy Annmarie’s artists, sculptures and plenty of activities during Annmarie’s ArtsFest this weekend.
The annual fine arts festival features more than 160 artist booths, 35 performers on four stages and activities. There will be Pilates demos, kids can mine for gems, and at the Discovery Tent, you can pick up painting supplies, grab an easel and create your own masterpiece. Street performers—including bubble artists and musicians—will entertain throughout the festival. Food, beer and wine are available and the arts building and tent circle are open.
ArtsFest: Sept. 18 & 19 (11am-5pm), Annmarie Garden, Solomons, $10 w/discounts, RSVP: annmariegarden.org.