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A RT | M U S I C | PH OTO G R A PH Y | D ES I G N | FAS H I O N | C U I S I N E



In a city of classic grace, sometimes a single picture

stands alone.


THE ANNAPOLIS COLLECTION GALLERY 5 5 west st reet 2 1 4 0 1

www. An n apol isC o llectio m



Publishers’ Note

Select Poems



Visionary Art, Fish & Dreams

Out and About with Annapolitans


Southern Fried, Foot-Stomping Swampcandy

OUTREACH Drawing Life from Art



Photographer’s Anthem

Young Artists en Flor



An Artist by Any Other Name BY JAKE LINGER

When “Practical” Doesn’t Work, What’s Next? BY DESIREE SMITH-DAUGHETY


COVER Photo by David Hartcorn Photography. Model is Lauren Ruth Ward.


Chris Iatesta

Jimi Davies

By its very definition, art expresses the perceived world around us, often times challenging preconceived ideas, examining and reimagining what we know to be reality. Art may exist aesthetically while inducing emotive responses, or it may serve as a tool for digging beneath the obvious in order to find resolve. Its diversity and power is intrinsic in nearly everything we do and see. Annapolis, being a composite of unique people, cultural significance, and geographic beauty, has a long history of serving as a palate for creative minds. From classical sculptor William Henry Rinehart to decoy carvers The Ward Brothers and editorial cartoonist Walt Handelsman, Annapolis is no stranger to playing the muse either. That’s why we couldn’t think of a more appropriate venue for an art and culture magazine designed to highlight the people, places, activities, and characteristics that make this city inspirational. Annapolis Underground is the brainchild of Annapolis native, graphic designer, and photographer Chris Iatesta. After many years on the West Coast, and having worked on numerous publications, Chris returned to his roots and was immediately drawn to Annapolis’ vibrant art and music scene. A seed was planted. Chris and good friend and artist/musician Jimi Davies have since begun trekking through the Annapolis art scene, seizing the opportunity to shine a spotlight on this underserved segment of the community. Welcome to Annapolis Underground! We consider the magazine a labor of love. It’s a cacophony of madness spawned by creative excess. But most of all, it belongs to you, Annapolis. Open it. Dive in. Devour everything.


Some guys get sports cars; others, mistresses. Brian Bolter thinks cars are a terrible investment and his best friend is his wife, Lisa. So, when his “mid-life crisis” rolled in, Bolter realized what he really needed after 21 years as a local television news anchor and reporter was freedom. Opening two Annapolis bar/ restaurants in two and a half years provided Bolter with autonomy, which quickly translated into the freedom he sought. Storytelling isn’t just part of his former TV life. It’s in his DNA. From the anchor desk, Bolter saw a cultural shift. People were embracing food and drink as experiences rather than simply as sustenance. This inspired Bolter’s exploration down the avenue of his two favorite libations: wine and whiskey. That avenue quickly turned into a street. Main Street, that is, in downtown Annapolis. Red Red Wine Bar and DRY 85 are riddled with passion and wry humor as evidenced in the menus. Bolter writes every description based on the principle that the more you know about someone, the more likely you are to be interested in them. He believes the same holds true for beverages. DRY 85 193B MAIN STREET IN ANNAPOLIS | 443-214-5171 | DRY85.COM


In any given month, Bolter can be found in the vineyards of Napa, Monterey, and beyond, touching the dirt, tasting from the barrels, and speaking with winemakers. He admits that they sometimes feel like he’s actually grilling them. Old habits die hard. Then, he hits the back roads of Kentucky to hunt down the world’s best bourbon, dipping into the fermentation tanks, barrel sampling with master distillers, and listening to whiskey legends over a finger…or two... of the good stuff. A deep-rooted appreciation for craft is easy to see, literally. A look around Bolter’s establishments illustrates how much the Bolters are patrons and supporters of the local Annapolis arts community. An entire wall at DRY 85 is a modern Prohibition-era mural created by local artists Jah-Haha Collaborative Art. It’s a purposely designed focal point to connect the past with the present. The bottles of wine at Red Red Wine Bar are separated by locally hand-painted flavor profile signs. Local photography adorns their walls and websites. A local graphic artist is behind some of their most memorable event posters. In fact, almost every Annapolis band and singer-songwriter has entertained guests there at one time. Reporter-turned-restaurateur, Bolter turned what so many consider a “crisis” into an opportunity by putting two decades of curiosity and communication to work. Now, every time a guest raises a glass on Main Street, they toast to their community.






Amy Abrams Desiree Smith-Daughety J.C. Elkin Patty Speakman Hamsher Jake Linger Todd Pierce Paul Schatzberg Matthew Buckley Smith Cindy Welch Kerri Marvel Katrina Boldt Sudha Nyhm



Jimi Davies Chris Iatesta Rose DiFerdinando David Burroughs Allison Harbough David Hartcorn Joe Heimbach



Cristina Berron



Annapolis Underground, LLC P.O. Box 6751 Annapolis, MD 21401 831.869.6327 SUBMISSIONS: For article submissions, email proposal to Annapolis Underground is published quarterly. Subscription rate: $40, payable in advance. Single copies $5. Back issues if available, $15 (includes shipping and handling). POSTMASTER send address changes to Annapolis Underground, P.O. Box 6751, Annapolis, MD 21401. Entire contents © 2014 by Annapolis Underground™ unless otherwise noted on specific articles. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is strictly prohibited without Publisher permission.


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For artist Charles Lawrance, life began smack-dab in the middle of New York City’s art scene at Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his mother’s water broke; a perfect start for this prodigy of painting. Charles was one of those brainiac kids rendering medieval warriors and dinosaurs, as well as winning art awards, while his peers drew stick figures alongside lopsided houses with one line of smoke curling from the chimney. Unlike many parents, who shower accolades on their artsy kids while sounding a message, loud and clear, to dabble all you wish but pursue a real career, Lawrance’s parents sincerely encouraged his passion. His childhood home in rural New York, where a thick forest and trout stream offered afternoons immersed in the marvels of nature, sparked him to revere and replicate the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

Today, the Annapolis artist features his paintings and prints celebrating nature on West Street, where his art studio hums with creative inspiration. Fusing decades of research to accurately depict animals and fish, as well as their land- and seascapes, with a flamboyant imagination, Lawrance cleverly juxtaposes incongruencies for a surrealistic style. “I want to create art that’s inspirational, but I’m also aiming to offer the viewer a new reality—to bend their mind,” he says. Odd pairings of objects, figures, and animals, often showcased in warped scale, place the viewer as Alice peering through the looking glass. Successfully playing with perspective, the artist puts us underwater or flying through mid-air. While whimsical, with adept draftsmanship, these altered realities provoke serious questions about human existence. “Who am I?” we may wonder, or “What is life about?” we may ask. Dreamscapes paired with realistic imagery have been the essential tools in the toolbox of surrealism from the start, yet Lawrance adds present-day themes including environmentalism and the hazards of our high-tech culture, sounding alarms about contemporary society.

In Octorilla, Lawrance portrays an octopus and gorilla, hence the painting’s kitschy name. Front and center, an elaborate octopus grasping a cell phone in one of its eight arms emits its infamous black ink, a defense strategy against predators. From this inky infusion, a gorilla emerges, holding a banana. In today’s society, the cell phone is the new banana—an essential means of survival. While the imagery is humorous, the message is not. Among the most intelligent of invertebrates, the octopus (with no skeleton), adeptly squeezes through tight places; a metaphor for navigating our rapidly tech-centric society lacking elemental sustenance. Out there in the choppy water sans nourishment for the soul, modern man has drastically changed the rules and the outcome seems, um, spotty— at best. Varied paintings and prints by the artist explore other “advances” of industrialized society as a wake-up call for championing environmentalism. Frequent use of images depicting tribal lifestyles, including varied Native American cultures, illustrate the importance of honoring and respecting Earth and its inhabitants. Fish are signature icons in Lawrance’s artworks. FINART, a fishy and witty “take” on fine art was the name of his venerable Baltimore gallery for a dozen years prior to his relocation to Annapolis and the opening of FINNAPOLIS, two years ago. Drawn to the charm of historic Annapolis and unique beauty of its shoreline, when not creating art, you can find Lawrance paddling his kayak, enjoying his favorite sport: fishing. Inspired by the ancient Japanese technique of recording one’s catch, gyotaku, Lawrance uses his catch of the day to create a print by inking up the fish scales, pressing mulberry paper onto his “subject” and hand-pulling a print, finally mounted on wood and coated with clear glaze. Popular among collectors, these images line the walls of homes and offices, locally and nationally. Snorkeling and underwater diving inform the artist about the unique, surrealistic light below the water’s surface, masterfully captured to depict an otherworldly

environment. In Pura Vita Water Walking, a large-scale canvas recently featured in a prominent Florida museum show, Lawrance portrays two children, each representing the artist’s primary themes. One child lassoes a shark, illustrating human co-existence with even the most unruly of the kingdom; the second child manifests—seemingly magically—a made-up creature (a cat/squid) in celebration of artistic imagination. Prior to his career as a fine artist, Lawrance hit the big time as a commercial artist with big-name clients including Red Bull and Virgin Records. In addition to a strong presence in the graphic design market, he creates murals for exterior walls and retail interiors, for which he has also become well-known. Evolution of the species is another frequent theme in the artist’s highly imaginative and finely rendered alternate universes. Yet, in real life, Lawrance has transformed his own career. Multidimensional and fiercely individual, this artist is poised for continued growth and success. Finnapolis Art Gallery; Annapolis Arts District; 214 West Street; Annapolis, MD; 443-254-2787; Also watch Charles Lawrance make fish prints and more on

A gentle reminder from the SPCA of Anne Arundel County... PLEASE do not leave pets in the car, especially during the hot summer months. We appreciate you spreading the word to be CONSCIENTIOUS and VIGILANT about taking care of our precious pets. Thank you! For more information, please contact us! or call 410.268.4388 The SPCA of Anne Arundel County



Somewhere between Nashville, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida, Ruben Dobbs sits in a car beside his Swampcandy stand-up bass and kick-drum band mate Joey Mitchell, reflecting on the early days of the band, back when it was only himself, a sound engineer at Rams Head On Stage, as Swampcandy. Dobbs knew what he wanted to do with his life, and he felt no further desire to tune someone else’s guitar. He always wanted to be on a stage, working a room, delivering melodies and foot-stomping beats. It was 2007—two albums and an EP ago—when Dobbs first performed as Swampcandy. Since then, Swampcandy has evolved and Dobbs has garnered a reputation around Annapolis as a torrid guitarist and supporter of other local bands. “I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he says. “For me, it was always to gain the respect of my peers. Everything else after that would be fucking gravy.” He credits Annapolis-based Jimmie’s Chicken Shack for altering the path that local musicians now take and for breaking the mold of perception regarding the success potential of Annapolis-based bands. Mitchell, a Kent Island native, began playing bass at 16, and was admittedly more concerned with playing X-Box than buying an instrument at the time. When he and Dobbs met, they “just clicked.” “It’s just kinda like you’re in it, you’re doing it, and you just kinda take things as they happen,” says Mitchell. “We don’t have a five-year plan. We just take it as it comes.” Dobbs and Mitchell spent the entire month of May touring the United Kingdom for the second time as a duo. Mitchell always wanted to tour at least once during his musical career, so he emphatically seized the opportunity to play those first European shows and enjoy the unlikely experience. In the early days of his songwriting foray, Dobbs wrote about what he knew best: “living in crazy situations.” He’s past that now. Dobbs is married and no longer feels the need to “ruin” a relationship just so he can write some deep, dark music. But meeting his eventual wife, Alison, was not necessarily an event that Dobbs received well at first. He liked her—a lot. But what would happen if he and Alison started a life together? And considering his repertoire at the time, where would Dobbs find his inspiration to continue writing songs that would make even the Grim Reaper cry? Thanks to sage advice from an artist playing at Rams Head On Stage during one of Dobbs’ shifts as sound engineer, he was reminded that there is no songwriter’s code that personal relationships must be destroyed in order to write good music. The advice: “Stop being a pussy! You have the right to be happy,” recalls Dobbs. “You don’t have to be miserable to write songs.”

Music was practically mandatory in the Dobbs household, where Dobbs was raised mainly by his grandparents. There were heavy doses of the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash, and Dobbs eventually found himself listening to the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. At around 11 years old, he befriended the guitar, a discovery that would change his life forever. His love for Hendrix growing by the day, Dobbs made sure he didn’t copy that style. Dobbs and Mitchell have similar music philosophies. Mitchell found inspiration in bands like Bush and NOFX, and even Presidents of the United States yet his playing does not imitate. “I play what I think should be there, not play what I’ve heard somebody else do with that kind of music.” Imagery surrounding the rock and roll lifestyle—sex, parties, and shunning the law—were attractive, but it was what the sound of rock’s biggest weapon could create that drew Dobbs toward researching other bands and creating his own brand of music. “You can create your rhythm (with a guitar), you can create your melody,” he adds. Swampcandy’s most recent studio release is Midnight Creep, a 10-song album that has garnered added attention for the accompanying documentary, filmed by Sugar Farm Productions. The 48-minute film documents the creative process behind the band’s making of the album, and was featured during the Annapolis Film Festival in March. The documentary is imagery at its finest: imagine what it would be like for a southern-style rock band to play for an Amish audience somewhere in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Add in some interviews and otherwise strange occurrences, and the Midnight Creep documentary is what a “rockumentary” should be. “The documentary just happened,” says Mitchell. “It was all the things we were already doing, and then people had cameras there. It was amazing.” For all Dobbs has experienced as a musician—playing international solo gigs, bringing Mitchell and his stand-up bass into the fold, and consistently aiming for new creative heights—it all comes back to Annapolis. Dobbs’ happiness is largely due to his summation that he’s “doing something right and good” with his time in the world. Even though “weird shit happens on the road,” says Dobbs, Annapolis is home. “It’s awesome to grow up here and realize it’s fucking good.” He might one day be widely seen as a role model for up-and-coming Annapolis musicians, or he might not ever find out how many local artists consider him an inspiration. Deep down, though, Dobbs knows Swampcandy is in the midst of goodness and on the cusp of greatness. “It’s wild: you can’t really look at it from the outside,” he admits. “You don’t feel like you’re doing something special, but you’re doing it.” (photos: Noah Saydel)

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Photographer’s Anthem STORY BY ANDREA STUART

The conversation is a twentieth-century waltz set in a time capsule packed with smoky sentiments. Anecdotes are swathed in cultural and social hindsight as the Mad Men era runs thickly through his dialogue, the score of which is accompanied by a cross-rhythm of uninhibited vocal percussion. His words are framed in colloquial cadences. David Hartcorn is anything but a pantywaist. He’s a pioneer of experiential learning, having amassed a lifetime of impressions, translating the timbre of his life behind the camera lens. Although Hartcorn’s early life ran parallel to the “decade of discontent,” his upbringing, having begun in Long Island, was more “Leave It To Beaver.” He intersected with society via his older brother and sister—twelve and ten years his senior, respectively—living on the peripheral of their perspectives, influenced by their music and couture. “I was invocated by the culture,” says Hartcorn of growing up with them. “We used to play basketball in the backyard and discuss whether The Beatles would be eclipsed by The Dave Clark Five.” A chuckle squeezes between his words as he eases into conversation about being in garage bands with his bass-playing brother. Raised by parents who were “loving and respectful,” Hartcorn found inspiration outside of the era’s marbled backdrop of misogynistic undertones and political discord by tapping into the period’s right brain. Cultural adversity remained at arm’s length. What seeped in was a miscellany of images from Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and myriad LIFE magazine photographers, including Robert Capa. Hartcorn was drawn to the textures and sincerity in their works, careful to study only that which he loved. A discerning approach to observation allowed Hartcorn to harness his own brand of photojournalistic creativity; that, and the provision of photography and film processing equipment, supplied by his father at an early age. Photography became a steady companion until inexorably taking a back seat after high school.

In those ensuing years, he aspired to ski with the U.S. Ski Team, competed in professional cycling (a happy accident prompted by his acceptance of a bicycle in place of rent money), served as a roadie for an ’80s punk band, and made a career in finance for twenty-three years. “Everything you do, every relationship, every job is cumulative,” explains Hartcorn. “I remembered something my mother said to me in sixth grade: ‘You’re good at everything you do, so you need to do a lot of things.’ That gave me courage.” In 2001, after nearly three decades of having put down the camera, the beat began to change for Hartcorn. A humanitarian trip with friends to El Salvador inspired him to buy a film camera with one lens. The goal: to chronicle the expedition. By the time he returned, the camera had become a companion. He has since revisited numerous times, camera in hand, and started Friends of El Salvador, a nonprofit effort that provides shelter, water, and other necessities to the country’s villages. Of course, he always comes home to Annapolis, where he’s been anchored for thirty years. The city has served as comfort, friend, even as his muse. When Hurricane Isabel bullied her way through Maryland, he captured the city as her feet marinated in the storm’s soggy aftermath. “That day, I thought about how I had been to the Grand Canyon and how impossible it can be to photograph it in a panorama,” recalls Hartcorn. “Being on that roof, photographing Annapolis during the flood made me want to try it again.” When Hartcorn moved to Annapolis, he had been living out of a suitcase for five years. Something about the town called to him, although it wasn’t her aquatic personality. “I might be one of three people in Annapolis who doesn’t own a boat,” says Hartcorn, his voice etched in

levity. “I’d rather drive a fast car.” When he’s not in the studio rocking out to dubstep or behind the lens at a wedding—which he credits for making him a better photographer—he’s often taking the proverbial apex in his VW GTI. The innocuous little racer is a far cry from the 1964 Ford Galaxy he once owned, but Hartcorn is anything but passiveaggressive about his affection for the car. Long gone are the days when Hartcorn could have been mistaken for Robert Plant, an image that makes him cringe to this day. Fashion is part of his repertoire, proving that he’s inspirited by each decade’s signature trends. Although he admits to feeling that fashion has flatlined a bit since the 1990s, today’s muted palette has only motivated him to be more of a contrarian. Art is in his blood, after all. His mother having been a respected needlepoint designer, Hartcorn would have been happy in any artistic medium. “If I could have passed a math class, maybe I’d have become an architect.” His voice buckles with laughter. As it turns out, the camera is the perfect concubine for Hartcorn. She doesn’t mind sharing time with his family or space with the music that fills his studio. In fact, each of them is a verse of the same song. Outfitted with an arsenal of grit, intuition, and ferocity, and having digested lessons from his mentor, Mark Robert Halper, Hartcorn taps into the intangible factor between photographer and subject. Whether or not he’s shooting with his Nikon or Leica 35mm, he’s always got an eye on the viewfinder and a hand drumming out the rhythm to his next photograph.

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ABA Board Members pictured: Ryan Seth (Annapolis Running Store) Scott Gardiner (Gardiner Appel Group) Jen Gerety (Hats In The Belfry) Sean O’Neill (RBC) Judy Buddensick (Dex Media) Chip Johnson (Watermark Journey) Mike Radike (Historic Inns) Bruce Chance (W.R. Chance Jewelers)

Most people don’t know who they are, but if we said Midnight Madness or Annapolis Restaurant Week, you’d surely know something of what they do. The Annapolis Business Association (ABA) has long been the voice of the business community in Annapolis. The active membership is as diverse as the city itself; a composite of retailers, restaurants, hotels, attractions, media, and service companies. The issues they tackle vary from parking solutions and development to marketing and events. They address the business needs and challenges of their members by striving to improve the business environment and the consumer experience. When the fall boat shows leave town and “tourist season” comes to a close, the ABA goes into full throttle, executing their strategic marketing campaign along with a series of events designed to carry their members through fall and winter. They raise the funds to decorate Annapolis like a picturesque postcard for the holiday season, and then they roll into their first event, Small Business Saturday. You’ll find their board members in Pocket Park awarding gift cards and prizes to shoppers. Midnight Madness, a longtime local favorite, follows. These three fun holiday shopping events feature carolers, dancers, musicians, entertainers, and of course, a strolling

Santa. This year, they added a new element, “The Rockin’ Stocking,” a chance to win a stocking filled with gift cards worth over $3,000 from local businesses. In late February, Annapolis Restaurant Week brings everyone out of hibernation to enjoy two-course breakfasts or lunches and three-course dinners at fixed prices. Over 40 restaurants participated this year. The event is popular with Annapolitans and our neighbors from Baltimore and Washington that make the drive to sample the incredible culinary scene in Annapolis. Lastly, in late March, you can rock March Madness Annapolis style by shopping the two-day sidewalk sale. The ABA Park & Shop program offers patrons two hours of free parking in the four downtown garages. Yes, we said FREE parking in Annapolis. How did you miss that? Ask if your favorite merchant participates. Visit their website at and like their Facebook page to keep up-to-date on happenings in Annapolis. If you own or operate a business in the city, join this dynamic group and help make a difference. This is OUR Blank Canvas!

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Jennifer Culpepper knew from an early age that she wanted to be a war zone photojournalist. Then, she was absolutely sure fashion design was where she would make her mark on society. By the time Culpepper graduated from high school, she was sure architecture was the industry to pursue. That is, until she attended Penn State University as an art major. Culpepper since found a name for herself in graphic design insomuch that she started Peppermill Projects, a graphic design firm, in 2009. Peppermill is a combination of Culpepper’s married name and her maiden name, Miller. “The idea was that you start with stuff and you grind it all up,” says Culpepper. “Then you add some spices.” Life for Culpepper began in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County. Born of a family profuse in business owners, Culpepper’s branch off the family tree is befitting. Her father is a retired dentist, having once owned his own dental practice, and her mom owned a marketing business. Culpepper’s sister runs her own psychology practice. Art is Culpepper’s life, having always

loved the freedom and expressiveness it provides. Yet, she admits, “I never thought I was good enough to make a career as an artist.” Perhaps that explains why “artist” is not a label Culpepper places upon herself despite the fact art is her hobby, and there are clear elements of artistic talent laden throughout her graphic design work. “An artist expresses his or her emotions and feelings through their art,” she explains. “Whereas a designer solves problems; there is an objective that needs to be met. Sometimes the designs use art to help solve the problem, but not always.” The merging of pragmatism and forethought with inventiveness has erupted within Culpepper a geyser of artistic savvy. “I want to design for the type of clients that … get me going,” says Culpepper with enthusiasm. She becomes animated and says she feels “jazzed” working with clients who enjoy taking risks. Start-ups are her favorite. Following her graduation from Penn State, Culpepper moved to Boston for a year before returning to the nation’s capital for the next decade. Then life happened. Culpepper met her husband, Philip, a trial attorney, and married him in 2006. The couple spent their honeymoon exploring Croatia. Growing up means buying a house, and D.C. was too expensive to raise a family. Before the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Macie, they moved from one capital to another. “I always loved Annapolis,” she admits. “We sort of decided spur of the moment, ‘let’s move out this way.’” Now they also have a son, five-yearold Eli. She isn’t yet sure if the children have inherited her creative genes, but she admits to admiring their artwork.

Rounding out the family is Charlie, a 13-year-old Dalmatian-Cattle Dog mix who has been a part of Culpepper’s life since he was a puppy. But her life is not all geometry, typefaces, color scapes, and kids. She and her husband unwind by taking in live shows at 9:30 Club and Black Cat in D.C., or even closer to home at Rams Head On Stage on inner West Street. They also travel extensively. During a trip to Jamaica last year, Culpepper and her husband drove across the country. Her jaw nearly dropped when she discovered hand-lettered signs adorning concrete walls. As someone who is fascinated by urban decay, Culpepper found a kindred spirit in Jamaica. When she travels to New York City, the graffiti, peeled posters, and window displays draw undivided attention from her. Culpepper may not consider herself an artist, but she views the aging world with artistic discrimination. “I’m inspired by texture,” she says. “I experiment with different mediums to layer paint and other things to create a feeling of time passing through the physical layers.” Culpepper has a bucket list. Not surprisingly, it’s filled with travel goals. Her love of travel goes back to high school when she spent two high school semesters studying abroad. Her eyes still light up when she recalls first admiring Picasso’s Guernica in Spain. These days, she’s planning a whitewater rafting trip at the Grand Canyon and an African safari. “I just want to see everything,” she admits. Zeal emerges in her. “I want to go everywhere!”







The nature of art is the art of nature.


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When “Practical” Doesn’t Work, What’s Next? Local Fashion Designer Cat Reinheimer’s Triumph from Pain to Prize-Winning STORY BY DESIREE SMITH-DAUGHETY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY NUSRAT MOMIN AND CHRIS MARCH MODELS: ALEXANDRA BABIARZ AND MELANIE BLANKENSHIP

The Annapolis area’s burgeoning fashion design talent, Cat Reinheimer, is a selfdescribed normal girl who just happens to know a lot about fashion. Her future in fashion design was foreshadowed early on. While many little girls apply their creative vision to restyling their Barbies and dolls, Cat took it a step further, setting her sights on the coat rack. She also turned her young, style-discerning eye toward her mom, stopping her prior to heading out on a parent date night with, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” Make no mistake: Cat is no fashion snob. Nor is she a brand sycophant. Though she has set a goal of one day owning a Birkin bag, and considers her favorite American designer Michael Kors to be a “bad ass dude,” she describes her own style as liking what she likes. This outlook informs her designs, which she envisions for real people, currently creating vintage confections with a modern skew. “I want everyday people to wear my clothes.” She loves it when someone buys a piece and does a twirl. Cat has always sketched, painted, and “chopped up things.” As she grew older, she made up brands, such as a logo featuring a little chickie with a bow. As for the designs themselves, “There were lots of overalls.” Time for art had to be diligently weaved into her schedule since her career as a competitive gymnast required extensive traveling around the country—which she counts as one of her fondest memories. She credits this competitive training for making her who she is today and contributing to her work ethic. But her innate creative talent couldn’t be suppressed as she was quickly recognized by a high school art teacher who planted the seed about attending art school. She was torn between her desire and the words of her concerned parents, which echoed in her head: “Think practical, Catherine. Art is not a career.”

Her trajectory from young fashion neophyte to emerging fashion designer veered at first, taking her to her second love, children. After Cat enrolled in nursing school, hoping to focus on pediatric nursing, a severe back injury left her bedridden, subject to surgery and prolonged recuperation. Her dream was dashed: doctors told she would never be a nurse—or even work full time. The would-be aspiring nurse was now the patient. Her mother—and heroine— retired in order to care for her. While initially she couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes at a time, she eventually set small, art-related goals. Cat put this recuperation downtime to work, engaging in the type of deep reflection that spawns lasting passions. She came to a seemingly mundane conclusion that ripples today, “Life is too short.” Cat wanted to design clothes. So, despite unrelenting back pain, she taught herself the elements of design, including how to sew on a machine. After taking clothes apart, she analyzed how the seams were put together. She credits a friend for getting her involved on social media, where she learned how to break into the fashion business. Life took another leap when a boutique clothes store, Vivo!, in downtown Annapolis invited her to bring her pieces—and everything sold. This gave her the courage to take the next big step: Baltimore Fashion Week in 2011. She entered with just 10 pieces, but managed to show 21 looks. Whereas before she would grab a cute friend, apply her makeup, buy her coffee, and take pictures of her modeling the designs, now she had talented photographers and models reaching out to her. The first were Timothy Lowery, who shot her first “look book,” and Chris Rushton, who provided makeup and hair styling while stitching in some advice and guidance. Cat’s painstaking efforts—at times literally, requiring frequent breaks from the sewing machine—won her “Designer of the Year” for the 2013 Maryland Fashion Awards in the ready-to-wear category. Cat’s vision continues to expand. She wants to put Annapolis on the map for fashion design and would like to place her collection in boutiques. As an independent designer, she’s currently working out the logistics of finding a manufacturer to help with the increased volume and demand. As for her family, while they are glad that she tried practical for a time, they couldn’t be more supportive and proud of her design talent and efforts.

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Alex Manfredonia wants to find the wine for you. “People love talking to me about wine, and I love talking about it,” he tells me on the cozy back patio of his Eastport restaurant, VIN 909. “I might not hit it right away, but I sure as hell can bring you three tastes of something, and of those three, you’re going to love one of them.” Wine is, appropriately, one of the house passions at VIN 909, but the selection is neither impoverishing nor obscure, and at no point during my visit does anyone don an accent for the sake of pronouncing a foreign

vintage. There are three basic categories on the menu: the $6 glass, the $8 glass, and the $12 glass, and some of Manfredonia’s favorites are in the $6 section. He doesn’t want anybody to feel intimidated. “Arrogance with wine, it’s just not necessary,” he says. That seems to echo the philosophy behind the restaurant as a whole. “It’s creating an environment that we would want to be in,” he invokes with a gesture his business partners, Justin Moore and Chuck Manfredonia, the latter a long-time D.C. restaurateur and Alex’s father. Their partnership has been a fruitful one. People don’t go to VIN 909 so much as they frequent it. On April 18, the restaurant celebrated its third anniversary. Housed in a converted residence on sleepy Bay Ridge Avenue, VIN took over

number 909 from the Wild Orchid Café and in just three years has established its own distinctive atmosphere. The dining tables are modest but elegantly dressed, watched over by jaunty paintings that neither draw a stare nor offend a glance. The place feels a little like the rental of your thirty-something bachelor friend, if that friend also ran the neighborhood bar and had studied culinary arts at an affiliate of Le Cordon Bleu. Come to VIN 909 and you can savor the wild boar meatballs over a bottle of Duckhorn Migration Pinot Noir, but you probably can’t find a sports coat in the house, let alone a tie. Manfredonia grew up in Annapolis, working at his father’s restaurants, but when he left home for college, it was with the aim of becoming a DJ: “I tried to separate myself from the restaurant world all through my twenties.” Happily, though, he got pulled back in, and when he and his father decided to open a wine bar in Annapolis, he was able to bring along Moore, an experienced fine dining chef who sets the menu at VIN 909 today. “For a non-Italian kid from Connecticut,” Manfredonia laughs, “he really knows how to make pasta.” Guests often encounter transitory specials like Moore’s black uni pasta—handmade with sea urchin and squid ink—as well as perennials like the classic margherita pizza. But even the simple stuff requires attention to detail. “Sometimes it’s just a shot of salt, or sometimes it’s just a squeeze of lemon, and those little things can just really,” Manfredonia snaps his fingers, “pop it, and really make a difference.” By design, VIN 909 is a restaurant for Annapolitans, though non-locals are always welcome. Just come early because reservations are not in their vocabulary. And don’t be intimidated by the line that starts at 4:30 p.m. and soon stretches out the front porch onto the sidewalk. Manfredonia says people constantly ask why they don’t add more seats and tables since they have access to the whole property. The answer: the owners would rather preserve the homey ambience they’ve worked so hard to create, one in which diners can take their time, split a few plates, and linger over wine and conversation. In this way, they have merged European traditions with their mélange of offerings. Along with years of restaurant experience, Manfredonia and Moore brought to the restaurant a commitment to environmental sustainability. They’ve built their business practices to conform to

both local and national green standards—going so far as to recycle their oyster shells, produce their own mozzarella, and purchase twenty percent of their power from certified green providers. At VIN 909, “farm-to-table” is more than a buzzword. The farm in question is Groundworks Farm—a free-range, compost-fertilizing, herbicide-free venture owned and operated by Kevin and Margaret Brown across the bay in Pittsville, Maryland. Margaret is an old family friend, a boon Manfredonia doesn’t take for granted. “Justin and Margaret have the sort of relationship where Justin’s like, ‘I’d really like to see favas, can you grow me favas?’ And she’s like, ‘sure, I’ll grow you favas.’” With a sigh, Manfredonia tells me he wishes the faddish designation “farmto-table” could simply go without saying. For now, he’s happy that the mainstream is starting to catch up. “Hey, if it takes money or financial reasons for people to do farm-to-table—whatever it takes—if they’re still doing it, that’s pretty awesome.” When Moore steps out onto the patio in his apron to remind Manfredonia that it’s time to open the restaurant, I ask the two men––old partners and friends—what it is they hope people hear about VIN 909, if they only hear one thing. They laugh for a moment and then, opening the door to head inside, finally agree on an answer. “That it’s worth the wait.”

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Eating Cherries with Van Gogh He preferred the nearly rotten ones, the way they mushed about his gums, to spit the pits straight up, and catch them in his mouth for fun, then spit them at the cat to make it leave the sunflowers alone. There is no redder red, he said, than solemn flow from ripe to rotten, no greyer sky than bloom on plums, purple fog so long forgotten. — Todd Pierce

A Sigh in Time Buttoned beneath her ivory breasts rests a love steeped in nostalgia, fastened to a heavy heart, but freed by memory’s calloused fingertips. — Andrea Stuart

WORDS   Words come in bursts Explosions of humor or grief Clarity or confusion Of colors or starkness Or they march sedately one by one Some peeking behind Coaxing the next Or in a torrent Complete in meaning But always ever A surprise — Cindy Welch


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Two blue cranes flying Long fishing necks drawn in Where are they going? Morning crane standing Eyes focused staring below Sudden jab, breakfast Crane standing alone One leg only, reflecting Silence everywhere Gray crane rising Broad wings beating upward Gravity overcome — Paul Schatzberg

Watching Jimi at Monterey Hendrix mounted his Fender onstage a gleaming, virgin Wild Thing. Coaxing, tickling, yanking her strings, he humped her in booty-tight velvet thrusting her toward the mob as she wailed in electric climax. And when he was through he sprayed her with Zippo and set her afire so no one else could ever have her again. And all the girls burned for him. — J.C. Elkin

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Somehow, when he was up on stage during late-night gigs, just after he’d hauled his instruments on the subway to get there and right in the middle of the screaming fans and the adrenaline rush of a live performance, Rob Levit was able to hear that still, small voice that said, “I know my life has more meaning than this.” More than a dozen jazz albums and several years later, Rob found himself at UCLA’s Center for Intercultural performance where he was a fellow in the Asian Pacific Performance Exchange program. He lived, performed, and collaborated with about 20 artists from all over the world. Though difficult, the program was transformational for Rob, who learned so much from the creative experiences, exposure, and observation of how other artists live and what they endure in their own cultures. When Rob moved to Annapolis in 2007, he was asked to bring his music into the schools, giving presentations and leading assemblies. He liked how excited people got about music; he liked being able to infuse music into the classrooms. As demand for this grew, Rob thought seriously about creating a nonprofit that would support arts integration and bring more artists together to deliver music, creativity, and cultural awareness to the larger community. “I realized that I have the power to turn myself into someone who can serve other people effectively,” says Rob. The pieces had come together. Following his passion for music, the arts, and multiculturalism combined with community outreach and social entrepreneurship, Rob formed Creating Communities, a nonprofit with deep connections in the Anne Arundel community and beyond. Today, Rob is the executive director. He is also a painter, writer, jazz performer, and father. He spends his days “out in the field,” engaging students in cultural lessons and exercises in self-expression and self-awareness. He brings his art and his ability to use art to make a difference in people’s lives to those who can benefit from it the most: adults with severe mental disabilities, hospital patients, children with emotional issues, veterans, and the homeless.

One day, he finds himself engaging a dozen combat veterans in creating mandalas that represent their own inner strength; the next day, he finds himself helping middle school students create Hindu gods out of clay in a study of comparative religions. In all cases, Rob carries out the philosophies that Creating Communities was founded on: delivering life skills through arts programs in order to gain a broader cultural understanding and greater self-awareness. Rob and the team of artists working within Creating Communities use discussion, organizational skills, and entrepreneurial skills to make a difference for others. “Corporations use these same skills to make profits for themselves and their shareholders,” says Rob. “Our shareholders are people like the homeless, at-risk children, and veterans. Instead of seeking a financial profit, we are turning it into community growth.” Creating Communities is not the only place where Rob shines. For six years, he was the first musician to serve as an Artist-In-Residence at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. He also travels across the state as an art integration specialist and is on the rosters at the Maryland State Arts Council, the Montgomery County Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. In acknowledgement of his work within the community, Rob has received many accolades, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Maker Award and being named the 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record. “For any artist that’s going to count, it’s about participating with your community and connecting with the audience in a way that is different,” says Rob. Clearly, he has taken his passions and stayed true to the voice that told him to dream bigger. Rob has created a life that involves working with art every day, extending it to those who may otherwise not be able to reach it, and staying on the cutting edge of inspiring others with his creative talents.



We hadn’t had the piano for a full day before my daughters quickly logged a few hours on its bench, happily plunking notes and singing painfully, but happily, off key. Piano lessons seemed an obvious phone call away, and yet we hesitated. Artists are often born from their own self-discovery, finding their way to whatever medium helps them

share their light with their world; exposure sets them on the path to self-expression. Laura Brino is a shining example of this. The Annapolis-born artist reacted to piano lessons the way my own daughters have so far— with distaste for the formal practice. Yet today, Laura is a working musician who has produced four albums and performs live shows. She plays guitar and sings with a familiar, confident voice. But this is only one dimension of her artistic life.

By day, Laura is an arts integration specialist at Bates Middle School, where a school-wide focus on the arts strengthens curricular connections, increases student engagement, and enhances student learning. Laura works with teachers in every content area to develop plans and teach lessons that connect visual arts, music, dance, and theater. Getting her teaching certificate was just part of growing into a self-sustaining artist, but teaching has also changed her life. Inspired by a documentary, Inocenté, about a homeless teenager in San Diego, Laura began an after school program at Bates two years ago. Inocenté grew up an at-risk student— that is, academically challenged by virtue of her circumstances—like many of the students at Bates but found success, confidence, and mentors in an after school arts program. “These are just kids that need a place and need support and need to learn better ways to express themselves,” says Laura. Watching Inocenté’s story reminded Laura of her own positive experience in the art room as a struggling teen, and she knew that many of the students she encountered at Bates would benefit from a similar safe haven. Maryland Hall stepped up to help, and the new after school program, Jóvenes Artistas, was born. Teachers, administrators, and counselors are now able to identify kids who will benefit from the once-weekly after school mentoring. Laura has been successfully working to create a safe and trustworthy environment as well as art experiences and exhibitions all in the name of keeping students in school. The documentary about Inocenté won an Academy Award about a month after Laura started Jóvenes Artistas. The once homeless and struggling teen now tours the country, attending screenings about her

documentary and engaging with people wanting to make a difference for young people. This winter, she spent an afternoon painting with Laura’s after school program at Bates, a surreal experience for Laura and her students. Matt D’Arrigo, the teacher who discovered Inocenté’s talent and promise at his San Diego nonprofit program ARTS (A Reason To Survive), has since taken to mentoring Laura. “When you find these people whose only interest is helping and wanting to make a difference, things just work out,” says Laura. The same can be said for her own altruism. Laura does not just teach brush strokes after school; she listens intently to what her students need to share and helps them get a leg up on learning about the world. And she does all this after her day job delivering relevant arts-related lessons to middle schoolers. When she’s not teaching or mentoring, Laura is in the recording studio. She is now licensed and was signed by the Indie record label Deep Elm, and has plans to tour and release another album by the end of this year. Her music has recently been played in TV shows and movies, and she’s anxious to start a Masters of Fine Arts program in the fall with the goal of bringing together her passion for visual arts and music, a balance she has yet to gain. Jóvenes Artistas is in bloom and through the mentorship of Matt D’Arrigo and partnerships with other artists and community groups, such as the Annapolis Police Department, Laura hopes it will continue to grow. Laura has wisdom to impart to her students, not only by telling the stories of her own teen years but also by demonstrating how taking a nontraditional path in life can lead a person to exactly where they belong. For her, it’s as an artist, sharing her work, and connecting with others.

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Annapolis Underground, LLC  

A quarterly magazine covering the Art, Music, Photography, Design, Fashion and Cuisine scene in and around the Annapolis area.

Annapolis Underground, LLC  

A quarterly magazine covering the Art, Music, Photography, Design, Fashion and Cuisine scene in and around the Annapolis area.