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THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE I.W.S.A. & THE ANNAPOLIS ARTS DISTRICT

SUMMER 2017

ART+CULTURE+LIFE

ANNAPOLIS


CONTENTS 2 | Summer 2017

Volume 4

|

Issue 2

Publisher & Creative Director Jimi Davies jimihaha@gmail.com

THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE I.W.S.A. & THE ANNAPOLIS ARTS DISTRICT

SUMMER 2017

Editorial Director Andrea Stuart upstarteditor@gmail.com Copy Editor Leah Weiss Associate Editors Katherine Matuszak MacDuff Perkins

ART+CULTURE+LIFE

ANNAPOLIS

COVER Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah. Photo by John Bildahl.

SNAP

4

Trolling For Serendipity By Emmy Nicklin

WAVES

12

Love On!

By Brenda Wintrode

WUNDERKIND

18

Snapshot of a Naptown Rapper

24

Continuing History at Peerless Rens

Contributing Editors Leigh Glenn Melanie McCarty Emmy Nicklin Leah Weiss Brenda Wintrode Art Director Cory Deere cdeere@gmail.com Contributing Photographers Dan Gillespie Alison Harbaugh Nina Kavoossi Caitlyn Mae Mark Peria Christian Smooth Advertising Jimi Davies jimihaha@gmail.com Melissa Lauren melissalaurenupstartannapolis@gmail.com Kim O’Brien up.st.artkim@gmail.com

By Leigh Glenn

AGO By Melanie McCarty

HOOD

30

Freedom to Sing By Leah Weiss

SPACE

36

The Arts District’s Newest Studio By Andrea Stuart


Publisher’s Note Editor’s Inkwell I like to turn things upside down,

to watch pictures and situations from another perspective. – Ursus Wehrli Welcome to a different

perspective of Up.St.ART Annapolis, in which art becomes culture and culture becomes us. In recent

months, our frames of reference for a myriad of things have undergone

a redesign of sorts. Many people are

- Jimi Davies

Contributors

feeling challenged by this reframing, and the uncertainty and global

conversations take up a lot of space in our heads. So we’re turning this

baby on its head, literally, with the hope that a new perspective will make room for more beauty.

Emmy Nicklin

Brenda Wintrode

WRITERS

Caitlyn Mae

Dan Gillespie

Mark Peria

Alison Harbaugh

Leigh Glenn

Melanie McCarty

Leah Weiss

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Nina Kavoossi

Christian Smooth

upstart-annapolis.com | 3


SNAP

4 | Summer 2017


TROLLING FOR

Serendipity by EMMY NICKLIN

Y

photography by JOHN BILDAHL

ou’ve probably seen it—a line of legs, dressed in crisp, Navy whites, all in a row, all with neatly laced shoes, all male, save one. There, in the middle, bare and crossed with just the right tilt, is a pair of female cadet legs. Navy Legs is a striking and powerful image with a nod to refined pop and curiosity, a trademark of John Bildahl photography. With more than 40 years of experience shooting everything from products to yachts to fashion to fine art, it’s hard to

believe that Bildahl’s photography career began serendipitously, in the Fiji duty-free shop, while he was en route to Australia. There, the 18-year-old bought his very first camera, a Mamiya-Sekor 35mm, before enrolling at the University of Sydney and taking pictures for the school newspaper. “I did more of that than go to class, actually,” he says. Eventually, Bildahl finished his undergraduate and graduate degrees stateside before heading to New York City to work with fashion photographer megastars Hiro and Dick Frank

Navy Legs (front row graduating class)

upstart-annapolis.com | 5


while shooting product still life—that is, creatively depicting inanimate subject matter—for 10 years. “That was back when New York was raw,” says Bildahl with a glint in his eye, “dangerous and fun.” When asked why he left, Bildahl laughs. “I wanted to live to be older . . . I saw a limit to my capacity to endure the concrete, the jungle there.” And so he left the concrete in favor of water—an element he’d always been drawn to ever since spending childhood summers on the Rappahannock River near Montross, Virginia. When he moved to Annapolis, more than 30 years ago, Bildahl immediately started taking pictures of yachts. “I’ve always loved being on the water. I grew up with boats. Little boats, big boats, boats with motors, boats without motors.” His work has appeared in almost every boating magazine imaginable— Yachting, Sail, Cruising World, Power & Motoryacht, PassageMaker, Boating, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Soundings, WoodenBoat . . . the list goes on. He estimates that he’s shot more than 100 covers for Chesapeake Bay Magazine alone. When he’s not on the water, Bildahl shoots events and people. More recently, he’s been collaborating on creative projects such as his latest with advertising legend Alan Weitzman (Up. St.ART spring 2017 issue). With Bildahl as photographer and Weitzman as the subject clad in dusty cowboy attire, the two have created another, grittier world through a photo series featuring a character of their own creation: Alamo Joe. In one image, Alamo Joe is presented in dramatic light on a dilapidated chair in the old abandoned barbershop of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. “It’s an amazing image,” says Weitzman. “You 6 | Summer 2017

Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge


upstart-annapolis.com | 7


Jaguar XKE.

“Pictures don’t always have to be pretty, but they just have to be really desirable and suck you in . . . I have a taste for the bizarre and the grit and the underbelly.”

can’t see the face in it. It becomes the archetypal image of the American cowboy.” Bildahl draws inspiration from photo icons Walker Evans and Richard Avedon, and their straightforward way of looking at things. “Pictures don’t always have to be pretty,” he says, “but they just have to be really desirable and suck you in . . . I have a taste for the bizarre and the grit and the underbelly.” Weitzman adds, with affection and admiration for his friend, “John has an acute sense of curiosity. Creative people always do.” That curiosity and the need to explore are fundamental to Bildahl’s work. “I’m going out with my radar for curiosity wide open,” he says of his creative process, which he later refers to as “trolling for serendipity.” “I’m receptive to people I see and open to new situations that I never thought would be presented to me. And this can come in different forms and different ways . . . Can just be something when you get back home—you go, ‘Man, I’m glad I went out because that happened.’”

United States Sailboat Show from top of State House dome.

8 | Summer 2017


John Bildahl. Photo by Alan Weitzman.

In all his years of shooting, Bildahl has not lost his wonder of and joy for the craft. If anything, he is even more curious, more energized, and more inspired than ever before. “I wake up every day and think about the same thing: photography. I think about it

now, more than I ever have. And I’m really excited about that . . . I don’t know where it’s all going, but [I know] it’ll be a good trip.” █

SNAP

Alamo Joe.

For more information, visit www.bildahlphotography.com.

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WAVES

Powerful, lively, and energetic, Sweet Leda engages audiences through their music and even the lens of a camera. Omar, Don, Julie, and Jamie. Photo by Caitlin Mae ( a Fearless Girls photographer girls)

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Love On! by BRENDA WINTRODE

L

ead singer Julie Cymek breathes life into the microphone as the musicians of Sweet Leda pump energy through the crowded space at Middleton Tavern. The once-still hips of the audience start swinging to a gut-thumping beat, and heads bob as Cymek’s lush, sultry notes swirl over the crowd. From the first song of the night, Sweet Leda is the heart that makes the room pulse. Decades of practice flow from Omar El Dieahy’s guitar. Don Boyette drives the beat for bassist Jaime Horrigan to match. They play, attuned to each other with the hard-earned confidence that only develops with trust and time. Cymek dances and flips her hair around during instrumentals as if she were singing with a hairbrush in the comfort of her bedroom. Her soul-filled voice rises from her center, inviting the audience to connect. “After a show, I am exhausted. I feel it,” she says. Seeing her perform live, one would never expect that Cymek was once a shy, quiet

chorus girl who, like many artists, still faces stage fright. She had never even performed solo before fronting a band. “When I first started fronting a band and writing music, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I had to try it,” says Cymek. Her bandmates and the Sweet Leda fans are all too glad she did. Sweet Leda has been together for nine years, with the same lineup. Horrigan says that he and Cymek spend at least 40 hours a week on “band stuff,” practicing together and on their own, promoting, booking, maintaining the website, and posting on social media. “So many emails,” adds Cymek. The hours of hard work have paid off. In the last four years, the band has been awarded five Tri State Indie Music Awards, four of which were MD/DC Indie Band of the Year, and one Groupie’s Choice Award. May 2017 was its first appearance at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, an event that hosts mostly national acts. Yet Sweet Leda remains humble and gracious, and maintains its commitment to each other as musicians and friends.

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live photography by DAN GILLESPIE “We are very much a family and see each other a lot,” says Horrigan, the more serious, business-minded of the four. He attributes the band’s longevity to spending time together outside of gigs and practices. “We go to shows together, we are close with each other’s families, and we’re always there for each other,” he says. Boyette, the more talkative humorist, attributes their solid relationships to many inside jokes. As with any band or group of people working together, Horrigan admits that the years have not been without interpersonal strife. “We have struggles, but we’ve always talked Bass—Jamie

Guitar—Omar

14 | Summer 2017


through them and shown each other a certain amount of respect. [It’s] like being in a marriage with multiple people,” says Horrigan, knowingly. Cymek and Horrigan have been together for 15 years and married for 11. The band members feel that making themselves vulnerable to one another has strengthened their creative process. “You need to feel safe to express yourself. Creating art is like exposing your soul; it takes a certain amount of closeness and trust,” says Boyette. Cymek’s description of how Sweet Leda’s songs are born exemplifies this. Most practices open with a warm-up, during which everyone just starts jamming. “Sometimes one of us has something in our head that we’ve been thinking about,” says Cymek, “I start making some noise. Maybe we just start playing random sounds, and sometimes it feels so good, we know we have something.” From there, band members write their own parts and continue collaborating. The results are what they have coined “Rockin’ Soul,” a bluesy, funky, dare-younot-to-move, two-album collection of original songs created with lots of love. “On the first album [Need the Music], I wrote more about problems. The second album [Let It In] might pose more solutions,” says Cymek. “I started thinking about what I really wanted to say to people, and the songs are about suggestions on how to be happy.” Vocals—Julie Cymek professes that caring about people is one of the most important things we are called to do in the world, declaring, “I want everyone to be okay. I want everyone to get along and be happy!”

“ You need to feel safe to express yourself. Creating art is like exposing your soul; it takes a certain amount of closeness and trust ...”

Cymek’s lyrics are direct and relatable, and her nuanced vocalizations remain cognizant of the voice as instrument. “Let it in; let it begin,” sings Cymek with lingering force on the track “Let It In.” The phrases are looped and repeated, surfing the song’s rhythm. On “I Came Here to Play,” a smooth, steady jazz-funk rhythm backs up poetic vocals. Each band member has favorite songs. El Dieahy’s is “She’s Not Coming Home,” “just everything about it.” he says, sitting back, plucking his guitar. “Let Her Love Her,” was written before same-sex marriage was legalized in Maryland. The song features an inspired rap by Jay Crawdads of Higher Hands. Sweet Leda was driven to make a political statement because of meaningful relationships they had formed over the years with same-sex couples. Wide-eyed and emphatic, Cymek says, “I think it’s important to speak out for things you believe in. We absolutely, completely agree. Love is a beautiful thing, so, yeah, love on!” Sweet Leda plays the Quiet Waters Park Summer Concert Series on July 15. █

WAVES

For more information, visit www.sweetleda.com.

Drums—Don

upstart-annapolis.com | 15


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WUNDERKIND

SNAP SHOT

of a Naptown Rapper by LEIGH GLENN

18 | Summer 2017

photography by NINA KAVOOSSI


D

ylan Gilmer has spent about half of his life feeling shy. Considering that he’s just eight years old, that’s a good thing. Also known as Annapolis rap artist Young Dylan, Gilmer picked up rap easily, memorizing the songs he heard his father playing. “I like lots of rappers, and I started to act them out, kind of,” he says. But he would get nervous when people were around. “ One time, when I was, like, three, my grandmother and grandfather were out here [in the living room], and I was too scared to dance.” To see Young Dylan today, you’d never guess he’s had anything but oodles of confidence. Since September 2016, he’s been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show four times. Twice, DeGeneres sent him to basketball games—first in Toronto for a Raptors game, where he met Drake, his favorite rapper, and earlier this year to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star game, where he met many of his favorite players, including Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Magic Johnson. DeGeneres’ team found him through the Instagram account that his parents, Damon Gilmer and DeAundra DeJesus, created. Through @officialyoungdylan, they chronicle their son’s rapping, celebrity appearances, sports events, and down time. He has more than 220,000 followers Gilmer likes to note that he was born the same year that Drake came out with his first recording, in 2009. He enjoys listening to “Trust Issues” and other Drake songs. Gilmer’s mother says that Gilmer doesn’t yet understand all the lyrics, but here and there he picks up something inappropriate. When he performed the DJ Khaled and Drake song “For Free” for DeGeneres and her audience, he “PG’d” the lyrics. But behind the rap and beyond the bling, there’s still a child who enjoys doing regular kid activities like

upstart-annapolis.com | 19


Dylan performing at his birthday Party. Photo courtesy of the Gilmer Family.

20 | Summer 2017


private demonstration in which his young voice encompasses phrasing and a vibrato that recalls some of the old-school artists he likes—the Temptations, The Jackson 5, and New Edition. (Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook suggested that he sing when he grows up because “singers get the ladies.”) Around Annapolis, people know Young Dylan through some of his performances, such as the ones for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, Ignite Annapolis at Maryland Hall, and a Black History Month program at the Stanton Center. He’s heard that his classmates and friends think what he does is cool. For all of his newfound acclaim, Gilmer remains humble and doesn’t see himself becoming a star. He’s grateful to DeGeneres, who’s said she wants to keep an eye on him as he grows up. “It was really a blessing, and it was fun,” he says, of the experiences with DeGeneres, the basketball players, and Drake. In his travels, he’s started to see some of the less shiny parts of the world—kids who don’t have parents or homes like his, adults who make their way on the streets of New Orleans or New York. In one of his interviews with DeGeneres, he said he wanted “300 mansions”—one for himself, one for his parents, and the rest to house orphans and poor people. His parents have their own hopes for him. “I just want to feed off what he wants to do,” says his father. “I let him sit in on meetings so he can make his own decisions and see what’s going on. I see him being real big . . . not just rap— acting, all different types of things.” Neither does Gilmer’s mother worry too much about what he does. “[ Just that] whatever he does, whether rapping or acting, he’s happy and he gives back like he says he would,” she says. Above all, Gilmer is grateful for his family. “They put me up for something that I get nervous for, and they help me a lot and they teach me more, and teach me not to do bad stuff,” he says. “When I hit a song right, they get proud of me, and that gives me more confidence.” █

WUNDERKIND

coloring Marvel characters and playing with Home Alone figures. Yet Gilmer has talent in all areas—from sports (basketball, football, and soccer) to visual arts (he loves to draw), to the stage (he’s studying acting in DC). Thanks to DeGeneres, he met actor Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson/Falcon in Marvel’s Captain America and Avengers movies. Mackie taught Gilmer how to makebelieve punch—and Gilmer demonstrates the technique with his father, who does not flinch, even though Gilmer comes within inches of his face. “I want to be Captain America’s son or Black Panther’s son,” Gilmer says of his Marvel heroes. He wouldn’t want anything else if he could just be in a Marvel movie. “Then I’ll be the happiest man in the world,” he says. “I want to be in a drawing book.” Gilmer gives his imagination room to roam in his play and in his stories. “I just write stories all the time,” he says. “I like drawing and writing.” He draws to accompany stories—like Home Alone 2 or his own fictional character the Mad Artist. Other drawings include a cousin; one of himself, based on a baby picture; one of his parents, with his mom holding him; designs for shoes; and a self-portrait he gave to DeGeneres. Many of his drawings also focus on sports. He gave one he drew of Stephen Curry to the Golden State Warriors point guard, and then they shared dance moves on national TV that Gilmer choreographed just for Curry. Gilmer has a couple of songs coming out soon. “I still have to make a hook, a verse, I mean,” he says—and gives a

upstart-annapolis.com | 21


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AGO

Peerless Rens basketball team. (Seated center is member Charles (Petey) Smith, father of members Ernest Smith and Marva Smith Henson, and grandfather of current club president Deni Henson.)

CONTINUING HISTORY AT

PEERLESS RENS by MELANIE MCCARTY photography by CHRISTIAN SMOOTH with B&W photos courtesy of PEERLESS RENS

24 | Summer 2017


Roger (Pip) Moyer speaking at an event at the club. To his left is member Richard (Dick) Simms of WANN Radio Station.

Members of the Peerless Rens and Rennetts Social Club.

James (Punch) and Myrtle Jackson, original members who acquired the loan to start building the club, standing outside.

I

n the 1970s, Leslie Johnson was new to Annapolis. The navy had transferred him from Pennsylvania to take a position at the US Naval Academy. “I was an immigrant,” he says, laughing. He had a hard time feeling at home in his new city until he found the Peerless Rens Club. “I came in here one night, and it

made me feel comfortable,” he says. “It made me feel welcome.” He has been a member ever since. For nearly seventy years, the Peerless Rens Club has been a gathering place for generations of African American Annapolitans. Founded during the era of segregation, the club offered community, warmth, and friendship

A Peerless Rens ceremony.

at a time when African Americans were excluded from many of Annapolis’s social and recreational institutions. The club’s roots go back to the early 1920s, when Eastport was a tightly knit black community. Fifteen men from the neighborhood came together to play basketball and socialize. They

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TOP LEFT: Ralph Johnson, Ernest Smith and Les Johnson. TOP RIGHT: Peerless Rens Club.

26 | Summer 2017

called themselves the Peerless Rens, taking the word Peerless from Peerless Clothing Company, the Main Street business that sponsored the team. The origin of rens remains the subject of debate. Some believe it is a play upon the name of the bird (the wren). Others maintain that it is short for renaissance, perhaps borrowing from the name of the popular all-black professional basketball team of the time, the New York Renaissance, which fans referred to as the Rens. Over time, Peerless’ membership grew. Rather than continuing to meet at each other’s homes, the men decided to build a social club that would serve as a neighborhood gathering place. It was a collective effort. Founding member James “Punch” Jackson and his wife, Myrtle, mortgaged their home to purchase the land on Chester Avenue, just two doors down from another neighborhood institution, Davis’ Pub. The other members pitched

in on construction. “A lot of the guys worked at the Naval Academy, so after work and on weekends, when they had time, they actually built the club themselves,” says Gordenia Henson, the club’s current president.

“More than just a place to grab a drink, Peerless is an institution that seeks to sustain the community around it.” Peerless Rens Club came to occupy an important role in Annapolis. It became a home away from home for some of the Naval Academy’s first black midshipmen. Its events—from

the Peerless Rens Ball to annual crab feasts—drew crowds from Annapolis and beyond. The club became a required stop for politicians seeking office, a tradition that continues to this day. “They say that everyone who runs for office wins if they come to the Peerless Rens Club,” says Martha Henson, a lifetime member whose father was one of the club’s founders. More than just a place to grab a drink, Peerless is an institution that seeks to sustain the community around it. The club has a long tradition of giving back, from donating food and necessities to families in need, to providing scholarships to deserving students. It also has contributed generously to Eastport Elementary School and nearby Mount Zion United Methodist Church. In return, the community has worked to sustain the club. Over the years, countless people have made sacrifices to keep the club going. For instance, in the 1990s,


In the meantime, club members are committed to ensuring that Peerless is around for future generations to enjoy. “What makes Peerless special for me is the history,” says Johnson. “It’s something that you can touch that’s still living. You have got to have something to touch. This is more than I am.” Longtime member Jean Bryant Herndon sums it up, “This is what we hope: that this will be an institution, here forever, open for everyone.” █

TOP: Ernest (Nicky) Smith (chaplin and member of the club). ABOVE: Stephanie McHenry (member), Marva Henson (member), and Deni Henson (club president and treasurer).

AGO

facing declining membership and changing neighborhood demographics, members kept the club from folding. “The president wanted to close it up because business wasn’t great, but I refused,” says Leslie Johnson. “I said, ‘I know you can’t pay nobody, but I’ll come in and work, just to keep the doors open.’” Today, Peerless Rens Club is one of the last surviving African American institutions in Annapolis. Many places that made up the fabric of this once thriving community have all but disappeared, from Carr’s Beach, to the myriad of black-owned businesses downtown, to the former Fourth Ward. “Today, almost everything that is black in Annapolis is on a plaque. For me, that just hurts,” says Ralph Johnson, a Peerless Rens member and the club’s business manager. Johnson and a group of longtime members have been working to revitalize the club and help a new generation to discover it. Since taking over as business manager in September, he has modernized the club’s sound system, replaced the floors, and added weekly events to help draw in the public, including jazz on Friday nights from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by a DJ. “My dream is to make it a destination spot,” he says. Johnson is also working to make the entrance more welcoming, correcting the misperception that the club is for members only. “We’re open to the public, anyone can come,” he says. A more diverse clientele has started to find Peerless. In February, the club hosted the Iconaclash Cinema Review, a one-day film festival, which drew people from throughout the city. Johnson and other members hope that this is just the start.

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28 | Summer 2017


upstart-annapolis.com | 29


HOOD

30 | Summer 2017


F R E E D O M

TO SING by LEAH WEISS

I Choir director Elizabeth Melvin works with one of her choirs, The Freedom Choir, during a recent rehearsal at Unity by the Bay.

photography by ALISON HARBAUGH

t’s a breezy Wednesday morning, and the only sounds heard in the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church sanctuary are intermittent gusts of wind pushing at the windows. People filter in, and quiet chattering arises from small groups around the room. Elizabeth Melvin walks down the aisle, carrying her djembe in a bright-orange-and-blackpatterned case. She sets the West African drum in the middle of the dais. Talking ceases as she begins warm-ups, and folks follow along from wherever they are standing. Melvin gathers the group into a semicircle and shifts to vocal exercises: “Pick a high tone in your head voice and release that with an ‘ahhh.’” A serene cherubic sound wafts through the space. “Now move into your chest voice. Pick a nice, low, resonant tone,” she says, and deep, sonorous notes resound. After playing with a few more textures, Melvin turns to melody. “Just follow my

hands,” she instructs, leading the group through a scale, first by counting up, one through eight, and then changing to las, her arms rising with each higher pitch. Melvin asks some voices to drone—stay on the first note—while others sing up the scale. She switches roles around the semicircle so everyone gets to drone. “What you were hearing were intervals,” she explains, “and a way to tune your ears to different intervals.” Thus begins a typical session of the Annapolis Morning (AM) Song Circle. The AM Song Circle and its Thursday-evening counterpart, The Freedom Choir, are local community choirs whose purpose is to bring people together to discover and experience the joy of ensemble singing. Their credo: Fill your life with songs—all voices welcome, no audition, no experience needed. “Everyone has a voice,” says Melvin, who founded and leads both choirs. “You may have been told in the past

upstart-annapolis.com | 31


Melvin works with a soloist during rehearsal.

that you can’t sing or carry a tune. You might have been told to mouth the words by a teacher long ago. But when you find yourself supported by a section of people, you’re not tied to written sheet music, and the teacher is standing right in front of you, singing to you, it does something to that barrier you may have constructed for yourself. ” The repertoires are based in world roots music and include chants, rounds, and inspirational songs in different languages. Most pieces are unaccompanied or include hand claps or drums. Melvin teaches by rote, singing a part, giving hand signals to show how the song line rises and falls, and letting the singers sing it back to her. She starts with the melody—going line by line, many times over “to get it nice and deep into our heads and hearts,” she 32 | Summer 2017

says—and then does the same for the harmony parts. Everyone hears each part and how they fit together. “It’s a fun process. We take lots of time. It’s a very relaxed and joyful experience.” Born and raised in Annapolis, Melvin was drawn to and played music from an early age. While studying anthropology and ethnomusicology in Baltimore, she immersed herself in African music and rhythms. She saw African bands perform in Washington, DC, took marimba (wooden xylophone) lessons from a Guinean master player, and joined a 10-piece world-beat band led by a Senegalese griot (musician, storyteller, and oral historian). In 1987, she and the late Jeff Sarli formed Mama Jama, a reggae-calypso-soca band. Melvin left the group eleven years later to collaborate with a Trinidadian musician. She currently performs with The Late Boomers. Ensemble work is Melvin’s passion. She speaks of the thrill of blending voices: “One [aspect] is vibrational. When you hit the right harmony with someone, it has this attuning effect, which can’t be found in any other mode of communication. And then . . . it’s a connection between people that’s rare.” In August 2010, while reading a listing in the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies catalogue, she noticed that its workshop leaders had trained at the Community Choir Leadership Training in Canada and immediately felt a calling. Within months, she was in British Columbia at a two-week immersion training, learning songs and harmony, singing all day and night. Energized, she returned to Annapolis and started up LifeSongs Community Choir—later renamed The Freedom Choir (its motto is “liberate your voice”)—and the AM Song Circle. The morning group focuses on learning short, easy songs within the hour and has an informal drop-in arrangement. The Freedom


instructs the basses. “Get a little closer in, because you’re gonna need each other,” she tells everyone, “and you’re gonna see how much fun it is!” After working through and nailing a difficult section, the singers clap heartily while Melvin raises her hands over her head and lets out a

gleeful “whoop!” Then, with a “one, two, everybody sing,” they burst into song, swaying and clapping, and the sanctuary is awash in harmonious polyphony. █

HOOD

Choir works on more challenging songs, which require a weekly commitment to learn. Members enroll for 15-week sessions and practice at Unity by the Bay Church. Both choirs occasionally perform, and any proceeds go to nonprofit service organizations. “Many [people] have music in their souls but no outlet for it,” says Melvin. “The chance to sing with others in a nonthreatening atmosphere, where the goal every week is to blend our voices in harmony and leave with a little joy in our hearts, is a real gift—to them, and to me.” “It’s kind of like riding a wave, where you hit that sweet spot, and you realize you’re a part of something bigger than you,” affirms Freedom Choir member Eric Mohler. “I never had any sense of my own voice before, and this group gave me a certain confidence.” Says fellow chorister Mary Applegate, “When I showed up, I just felt totally at home right away. And I love how [Melvin] teaches everything organically and joyfully.” Melvin deftly explains counterpoint and dynamics. “Altos, you’re gonna parallel that,” she says during rehearsal. “When I bring [other voices] in, I want you to bring your volume way down,” she

For more information, visit www.thefreedomchoir.com.

upstart-annapolis.com | 33


SPACE

Arts District’s Newest Studio THE

by ANDREA STUART photography by MARK PERIA

W

ooden moons hover just above eye level while wall-sized paintings stare at passersby with an air of suspended animation, offering layers of vibrant colors and wild textures. Places like FINART are redefining this hamlet by the sea, seeding Annapolis’ reputation as an art hub.

36 | Summer 2017

FINART, the brainchild of artist Charles Lawrance, came to the Annapolis Arts District four and a half years ago, after previously residing in Fells Point, Baltimore. Lawrance planted his space at 214 West Street with the intention of rooting down and growing. In 2015, after watching the art scene grow, he helped create and manage


FINART sign repurposed from old Ritz Camera sign.

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Artworks of various artists displayed in FINART. Photo by Rachel Fry.

45, a pop-up gallery housed at 45 West Street. “45 held 11 Maryland artists, went for 6 months, and was very successful,” says Lawrance. The pop-up’s popularity inspired Lawrence to shift gears. He turned his West Street FINART space into FINART Gallery, a multiple-local-artist showcase featuring paintings, drawings, sculptures, pottery, glass works, and prints. Everything about the space is a product of art. The front of the building features a seascape painted by Lawrance. FINART’s sign is a repurposed Ritz Camera store sign that was collected from a store that closed. Artist Haha worked with 38 | Summer 2017

“At FINART, patrons can watch artists in action and engage in conversation with them while they create.” Lawrance to turn the E into an F and the Z into an N, and Gaylord Livingston fabricated the final sign.

While Lawrance was recreating FINART gallery, 11 Madison Avenue opened up. Lawrance saw an opportunity for growth in the Arts District by forming a collaborative artist workspace, which he named Studio 11. It is meant to feel much like an artist’s residency, offering space away from usual work environments and obligations and allowing artists to offer demonstrations and classes as well as to work on current projects. Its funky, freespirited atmosphere is partly due to its bones belonging to a house that has been converted into a communal workspace. The artists at Studio 11 pulled together to carve out this creative space since these kinds of environments are rare in Annapolis.


Eric Roberge's painted oyster shells. Photo by Rachel Fry.

Glassworks by Michelle Jones of Lillie Pad Studios

Rachel Fry's window-framed photograph.

The affiliated artists work at both spaces. At FINART, patrons can watch artists in action and engage in conversation with them while they create. At Studio 11, artists can work in a private space while spreading their creative wings. Once a work is completed at Studio 11, it can be showcased at FINART Gallery. Mark Peria, proprietor of Markedcanvas and one of the artists in residence, values the collaboration with Lawrance. “I enjoyed [the 45 West] popup so much, and I wanted to rekindle the time we had [there],” he says. “Working Charles Lawrance freshens up the FINART sidewalk sign.

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Chris Pagent works in his studio at Studios 11. Stewart Weiss' moons and Michelle Jones' glass orbs dangle in in FINART's front window with wooden sculptures by Chris Pagent. Photo by Rachel Fry.

around other great artists helps inspire me. They all push me to do better and to make more art. When Lawrance approached fellow artist Eric Roberge to join Studio 11, Roberge didn’t need a work space, as his projects are relatively small, so he painted two of the larger rooms in Studio 11 in exchange for gallery space at FINART. “I love being around all the other artists,” says Roberge. “A lot of us artists are unconventional, and it’s nice to have a space for unique art.” █

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SPACE

See more work at W W W . F I N A R TA N N A P O L I S . C O M .

q Charles Lawrance | Painter, Found Object Sculpture w Nevan & Doug Wise of Printemps Pottery | Potters e Mark Peria | Painter, Photographer r Rachel Fry | Photographer  Stewart Weiss | Painter, Sculpture  Eric Roberge | Oyster & Crab Shell Painter  Michelle Jones of Lillie Pad Studios | Glass Works  Haha | Painter, Guitar Picksilations  Chris Pagent | Painter, Sculpture  Jah-Haha Collaborative art | Collaborative paintings by Jeff Huntington and Haha

FINART GALLERY ARTISTS:

Mark Peria's work space at Studio 11.

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Up.St.Art Annapolis Summer 2017 Side B  

+ Art + Cultre + Life

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