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CONTENTS 6 | Winter 2017

Volume 4




Issue 4

Awash in History By Julia Gibb




Evolution of a Musician


Slow Down and See with Fresh Eyes


By Desiree Smith-Daughety

SNAP By Desiree Smith-Daughety



Those Who Create That World By Leigh Glenn





Layers of Art By Brenda Wintrode




Painting in the Modern Era

Elephant Pregnancy, late stage by Greg Harlin. Watercolor on paper, 17"x13". For a panel in the new Elephant Lands habitat at the Oregon Zoo.

By Katherine Matuszak



Vistiors turn a wheel to see stages of fetal development.

From the Classroom to the Stage By Emmy Nicklin




Treks Through History By Leigh Glenn




School House Rock


Recovering Connection

By Zoë Nardo

HOOD Scholar-Warrior-Teacher By Leigh Glenn

By Brenda Wintrode



The I.W.S.A.(Inner West Street Association) & the Annapolis Arts District Calendar

Editor’s Inkwell

Publisher’s Mote


s I sit here nestled between my two pooches, Rosie and Sgt. White Pepper, on this crisp early morning, I realize that the trajectory of this editorial has taken a sharp left turn. I was going to write about New Year’s resolutions and expectations. Ah, but this is not happening, and so I will follow my arc.

When I haven’t been behind the computer screen, working on Up.St.ART Annapolis, I’ve spent much of my time meditating and asking myself, “What makes me tick?” As a result, I’m now spending more time writing poetry, painting, and singing. I credit Up.St.ART for inspiring me to deepen my relationship with creative expression. Interviewing, writing, and reading stories about the people who color Annapolis, and our world, in a brilliant shade of passion has lit the fire beneath me!

So, my next question is, what makes you tick? Are you a singer? Actor? Speaker? Writer? Sculptor? Painter? Carpenter? Rock climber? Underwater basket weaver? Whatever you do that fills you up, we’d love to know. We invite you to make a two-minute video, sharing your passion with us. You need not be a videographer to play with us. There are no rules, other than be creative and have fun. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to introduce yourself. We’ll post one video that tickles us on our website and include a screen shot of the video in the next issue of the magazine. We’ll also share many of the submissions on our social sites.

Jimi Davies

Submit your videos to by January 15, 2018. Please include your name, address, email, and phone number in the email. Happy Winter! | 7



Publisher & Creative Director Jimi Davies Editorial Director Andrea Stuart Copy Editor Leah Weiss Associate Editors Michele Callaghan Jenny Igoe MacDuff Perkins Contributing Editors Julia Gibb Leigh Glenn Katherine Matuszak Zoë Nardo Emmy Nicklin Desiree Smith-Daughety Brenda Wintrode

Art Director Cory Deere Contributing Photographers Alison Harbaugh Mary Ella Jourdak Joanna Tillman Allison Zaucha Advertising Jimi Davies Kim O’Brien Melissa Lauren

SUBMISSIONS: For article submissions, email proposal to Up.St.Art Annapolis Magazine is published quarterly. Subscription rate: $40, payable in advance. Single copies $10. Back issues, if available, $15 (includes shipping and handling). For subscriptions and all other inquires send an email to or call 410-212-4242. Entire contents © 2017 by Up.St.Art Annapolis MagazineTM unless otherwise noted on specific articles. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is strictly prohibited without Publisher permission.

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Leigh Glenn

Julia Gibb

Emmy Nicklin

ZoĂŤ Nardo

Desiree Smith-Daughety

Katherine Matuszak

Brenda Wintrode


Joanna Tillman

Mary Ella Jourdak

Allison Zaucha

Alison Harbaugh | 11


Chesapeake Bay Watershed (detail). Watercolor on paper, 32�x11�. Showing the diversity of the Bay, highlighting particular species and habitats used to measure its health.

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reg Harlin leans down until his face is within inches of his drafting table. “When I first started working at a design firm . . . I was really selfconscious about my work, so I’d work like this, and no one could see it.” His studio is a small, cubeshaped room with one window on the second floor of his Cape St. Claire home. At the center of his drafting table is an intricately detailed watercolor depicting a colonial American scene. The walls are a bricolage composed of drawings, comics, poems, and small objects both natural and manmade, every piece having

captured his imagination in some way. “We are all unconsciously writing our autobiographies in what we accumulate,” he says of the collection. The mix of items has a synergy that sparks unexpected ideas, color combinations, and compositions. Its presence is inspiration, not distraction, as he leans in to focus on the tiny details of his illustrations. “I still work like this a lot,” he laughs as he stands back up. Born on the Fourth of July, Harlin likes to say that his birthdate foretold his career as an illustrator of historical and prehistorical subject matter. | 13

Though he wasn’t particularly interested in the subject in school, today he enjoys learning the history behind the scenes that he paints, almost exclusively in watercolor. He researches his subjects with the help of historians, the Internet, and occasionally travel. Harlin’s historic subjects are a natural fit for downtown Annapolis. His painting, John Paul Jones’ Ranger, commissioned by Annapolis’ Art in Public Places Commission, was reproduced onto a large panel that now adorns the wall near Gate

One to the U.S. Naval Academy. Katherine Burke features Harlin as one of six “Annapolis Masters” represented at her Annapolis Collection Gallery, located at 55 West Street. The gallery is part of a group of buildings known as “Gallery Row,” a hotbed of artistic activity and community in the Annapolis Arts District. Harlin’s original works, along with limited edition prints, are on exhibit and can be purchased there. Harlin, along with a fellow Annapolis Master, Roxie Munroe, will be featured in a show at Annapolis

“ The tricky thing for me with watercolor is that the big strokes set the mood of the scene . . .”

Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Watercolor and gouache on gessoed paper, 15”x12”. Cover for the book by Stephen Krensky.

Amesbury Archer. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 5”x8”. For “Mystery Man of Stonehenge," an article in Smithsonian Magazine on the discovery of a 4,300-year-old skeleton near the monument, and the intriguing questions it sparked.

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Collection Gallery called “Ants and Elephants.” The show opens in November 2017 and runs throughout December of this year. Harlin’s love for watercolor developed as he was working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Georgia. After graduating, he went immediately to work at a large illustration group in Atlanta, where he found himself working more with graphic design for advertisements rather than illustration. His nature makes him capable of being content in any

Origen’s Kiss. Watercolor on paper, 18”x13”. Origen, an early Christian theologian, comforting martyrs. Part of an illustrated book series on the history of Christianity.

situation, so when an opportunity opened up at a design studio then known as Stansbury Ronsaville Wood, Inc., it took a little nudge from his mother to convince him to take the job and relocate to Annapolis. Working with this studio opened up a world of illustration jobs to him, and he is now a key partner at the studio, which is currently known as Wood Ronsaville Harlin, Inc. While Harlin’s work is distinguished by its intricate and historically accurate details, he explains that this is the part he’s most comfortable with.

“The tricky thing for me with watercolor is that the big strokes set the mood of the scene,” he says. He describes how he allows the paint to move organically, knowing when to manipulate it, but more importantly, when to leave it alone. The process of creating these “big strokes” can make him nervous, but it allows him to create a contrast between a loose, organic background and tightly rendered figures, architecture, weapons, or ships. The medium has a vitality of its own, and that’s part of what breathes life into a painting of a scene that happened hundreds or

thousands of years ago. Harlin studied with the renowned local artist Lee Boynton, who passed away in the spring of 2016. Boynton also worked in an illustrative style, and the vigor of his style and color palette remains a major influence on Harlin’s work. A collection of pieces by other local artists whose art inspires him hangs on his kitchen and living room walls. Lee Boynton’s daughter, Margie Boynton, who trained extensively with her father, and artist M. Jordan Tierney feature in the | 15

Post Rider. Watercolor, gouache, and digital on paper, 15�x 12�. Linking the young nation through mail communication. A part of the story of Natchez Trace Parkway.

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collection. He points to a piece on his wall by Tierney, explaining that the dark, deep blue that dominates the canvas invokes a sense of forlornness, yet subtly painted birds near the top seem to move in an upward curve, suggesting hope. Harlin places a book he illustrated—Hanukkah at Valley Forge, by Stephen Krensky—on his kitchen table and opens it to a winter scene rendered in cold, blue monotone.

escort him to his destiny. On the right, an angry mob appears to be ready to overwhelm the small group, figures blurred with motion, facial features distorted with bloodlust. The distinct parts of the piece create tension and balance at the same time. “One couldn’t stand without the other,” says Harlin. Sketchbooks serve Harlin as a format in which he explores personal

watercolors that Harlin is working on for the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The pieces have been scanned and will be reproduced as large murals. He lays a painting on the kitchen table, where the late afternoon sun streams through a nearby window. It is a colonial Philadelphia street scene. In addition to exquisitely rendered clothing and figures of white colonial Americans,

A colonial American soldier walks in the foreground, bracing himself against the snowy weather, head down against the wind. In a cabin on the left side of the composition, warm, orange light fills the narrow space of a slightly open doorway, hinting at respite and comfort inside. “You just make the painting as miserable as you can,” he says of the piece, “but that little bit of something bright just makes it okay.” In the illustration Origen’s Kiss, one piece of a series created for the multivolume book, The Christians, Harlin creates dynamism by contrasting stillness and motion. In the piece, Origen, an early Christian theologian, stands with a student of his who is about to be martyred, comforting him with a “kiss of peace.” Guards flank the martyr, ready to

experience and processes moments from his life that leave an indelible impression on his psyche: a painted sketch of his father resting in an armchair, looking imposing and formidable; a favorite workplace he had as a child; a small cubicle in the basement of the family home where he used to sit in the warm lamplight at his desk. He turns to an illustration he did for Lynne Cheney’s book, We the People: The Story of Our Constitution. There is James Madison at work at his desk, looking much like Harlin’s memory of his own hours spent working in his cubicle. “Your own experiences find a way in. It might not matter to anyone else, but it makes you feel like you’re there.” Down the hallway, the doorbell rings. A colleague is dropping off

an African American, and several Native Americans, the architecture is rendered in mind-boggling detail. Every brick on several of the buildings is painted individually and to scale. “People make fun of me,” he says of his obsessive nature, “but I didn’t know how [else] to do these!” He explains how he added touches of paint later with a natural sponge to give the bricks a more organic feel. Harlin says that his girlfriend, Kim Eshleman—whom many Annapolitans may recognize from the local art supply store Art Things as well as from her guitar playing and vocals in the band Johnny Monet and the Impressionists—gave him an apt insight. “She said it’s like knitting”— minutiae as meditation. █


Soldiers Gave Chase 27”x7” watercolor on paper. Paul Revere suddenly aware of pursuers. From Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, by Stephen Krensky. | 17


Winter Member Show

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Small Wonders Dec 1 - Dec 23 Reception: Dec 7 Jan 5 - Jan 21 Reception: Jan 14 Focal Point Jan 25 - Feb 24 Reception: Feb 11

IN THE BAG! A Mystery Art Sale March 17 WWW.MDFEDART.ORG 18 State Circle, Annapolis MD 21401 | 410.268.4566 

Bay Ridge Shopping Center,

107 Hillsmere Dr, Annapolis, MD 21403 | 410-571-5073


20 | Winter 2017


MUSICIAN Bryan Ewald with his sons, Julia n and Aiden.



here’s something about an artist at his or her apex: a casual confidence that creates an impression that the most audacious swagger can’t pull off. Bryan Ewald appears quite comfortable with where he fits in the music industry. He practices his craft for the pure love of music—and it doesn’t hurt that it’s also his full-time job. Ewald started playing guitar at age nine. “I was just obsessed with it,” Ewald says as he recalls sitting around, figuring out songs. This was pre-YouTube tutorial options, when you had to start and pause tapes and record albums until you got down that tricky riff, stringing one line to the next until you could play a whole song. By his sophomore year of high school, he’d gotten a job with Masters Musicians (a now-defunct store located on West Street in Annapolis) teaching others how to play.

Ewald credits that job with providing those all-important breaks, nudging open and firmly wedging his foot in the gig-getting door. “Established musicians hung out and taught there. I got calls to do pick-up jobs. The work has always been there since.” Ewald built his résumé, honed his collaborative capabilities, and cemented his reputation as a dependable musician. He readily acknowledges that the hardest thing for a musician is getting that first break and building from there, and that to earn a living requires having the ability to diversify and remain flexible. “It would be extremely difficult to have one band and play in one town enough to earn a living. You’ll burn out and wear out your welcome.” In addition to being hired by over 120 bands and artists for live or studio work over the years, he has been a member of about 30 other bands, playing cover songs and originals. Bands in which he’s | 21

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currently a member include the Jarflys, Mend the Hollow, Meg & Bryan, and Non-Fiction/Majesty Twelve. He regularly works with artists such as Shane Gamble, Higher Hands, Dan Haas Band, and Bens Bones, among others, and has been hired for live or studio work for a slew of artists, including Rachael Yamagata, the Temptations, the Kelly Bell Band, the Supremes, and David Cassidy. Collaboration is a big part of Ewald’s identity. He and one of his bands, Starbelly, have a new record coming out in the next few months (their last full-length album, Everyday and Then Some, was released in 2002). Ewald became so busy that writing music slipped for a while—and writing his own music had long been part of what he did. But once he became a parent, he needed to juggle his time and went with what paid the bills. A good slice of Ewald’s world is time spent in his studio. The Internet has made collaboration with people you’ve never met just a day-in-the-life occurrence. Audio files are sent over, and Ewald puts down his parts and sends them back. Gone are the days of packing up guitars and equipment and traveling to a studio booked for a 10-hour block to sit and wait his turn to do his segments of the songs. This time-saver carves out room on Ewald’s plate to juggle more work, such as touring. Ewald is a brand ambassador and primary demonstrator for PRS Guitars, traveling internationally

Paul Reed Smith bass workshop at Sweetwater with Lil' John Roberts (Janet Jackson), Rhonda Smith (Jeff Beck, Prince), and Bryan Ewald. Photo Courtesy of Sweetwater.

Starbelly plays at Rams Head on Stage, Annapolis. Opening for Fastball. Members: Bryan Ewald, Dennis Schocket, Greg Schroeder, and Cliff Hillis. | 23

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to perform at trade shows and clinics. He worked there for a year after high school in the finish hall and buffing room, but his music was taking off and he needed to catch that train. About 10 years ago, PRS Guitars started giving him guitars to road test, and it morphed into a gig that took up half of his schedule. While Ewald’s goal isn’t necessarily to be famous, his appearances in demonstration videos and at trade shows have led to his being asked for autograph requests from Kansas City to Kyoto. Ewald’s two children, Aidan (15) and Julian (12), have inherited the musical obsession from both sides of the family—Ewald met his wife, who is a singer, in Annapolis. Both boys, primarily drummers and singers, attend Priddy Music Academy and have performed with their bands through the Academy as well as with their dad regularly at places like The Point Crab House & Grill in Arnold and at the past few Annapolis Musicians Fund for Musicians shows at Rams Head On Stage. Ewald can see the seeds of the next musical generation—he grew up playing guitar with Priddy Music Academy’s owner, Lee Priddy, and now their children play music together. His favorite memories have less to do with a band’s or venue’s notoriety or the number of attendees, and more with the synergy of the people he’s playing music with on stage. Especially poignant are some of the gigs with his children, during which he has found himself looking at them and then having a moment of pure self-realization: “Wow, you’re a musician.” “Even at its worst, it’s a great job,” says Ewald. █ | 25

RISE TO NEW HEIGHTS with the Visual Arts department at Anne Arundel Community College

 Courses range from the traditional fine arts to digital design and time-based media.  Curriculum emphasizes the technical and conceptual aspects of visual inspiration.  Newest course additions include Screen Printing and Metal Art Fabrication.

AACC teaches courses in: • Art History. • Ceramics. • Graphic Design. • Painting and Drawing. • Photography. • Printmaking. • Sculpture. • Video Game Design. • Video and Media Production. • Web Design.

If you love art and want to see what AACC can offer visit 26 you, | Winter and select Liberal Arts.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Mitchell

Nancy Hammond Editions

Nancy Hammond Editions features original art, prints and custom designed gifts by Nancy Hammond 192 West Street, Annapolis MD 21401 410-295-6612 • Open Daily




low down. Look carefully at what’s around you. Kirsten Elstner, founder and executive director of VisionWorkshops, says that is the point of her youth photography workshops—to show issues through photography and writing. “Working with young people is where my heart is because they’re the future of our world.” Elstner is a photographer who worked primarily for the New York Times, as well as with the International Red Cross, and as a photography assistant at National Geographic. She and some fellow photographers wanted to put cameras into the hands of the people they were trying to document and let them tell their own stories. In 2001, Elstner launched the organization, backed by a board of directors and with the help of instructors to run the various workshops. The last part of their mission statement illustrates part of the draw for those involved:

“We are catalysts of hope, inspiration, and expression for youth who need encouragement. We see the results of our efforts contributing to a more peaceful and tolerant world.” Slow down, look carefully. Observe the following web of connections. VisionWorkshops runs programs in partnership with various local, regional, and international partners, from Anne Arundel County Public Schools to the Refugee Youth Project in Baltimore, to collaborations around the world through National Geographic Photo Camp, places from Kenya to Jordan to U.S. locations including Native American reservations and innercity neighborhoods. The nonprofit organization has been a community partner of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts since around its inception and reaches out to its target audience of at-risk children and underserved communities. The Carol M. Jacobsohn Foundation supports the local and regional workshops, and

VisionWorkshops students walk back with Deonte Ward after the first day of camp on August 14, 2017. Photo by Allison Zaucha.

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VisionWorkshops' photo camp for teens at Newtowne 20 in Annapolis, August 2017. Photo by Alison Harbaugh.

Allison Zaucha helps with a portrait shot off West Street in downtown Annapolis. Photo by Alison Harbough.

other local grants help with up to 10 week-long or semester-long workshops per year. Its Crossing Borders program has an ongoing partnership with Laura Brino of Jóvenes Artistas, a nonprofit organization that provides arts experiences for youth facing adversity, such as Spanishspeaking students in Bates and Annapolis high schools. A recent workshop that has cross connections stitched through it, was coming up, spearheaded by local 30 | Winter 2017

“ . . . and with my photography, I can be a vehicle to help people and promote positive change.”

Photo by Von Franklin.

photographer Allison Zaucha and organized by Deonte Ward, a local community leader and advocate. Zaucha learned of VisionWorkshops through photographer Alison Harbaugh, and met Elstner while shooting a feature on Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts for this magazine. “I thought the organization would be a perfect fit [for me],” says Zaucha, “as I’m passionate about social issues, working in communities, and mentoring youth.”

She came to know Ward through a project she was working on in Newtowne 20, a public housing neighborhood located in Annapolis, and through Downtown Hope, a local church. “He’s an inspiration for everyone in the neighborhood,” says Zaucha.“When nonprofits come into neighborhoods, it’s important to partner with people in the communities—that’s what [VisionWorks] does.” Zaucha knew immediately that she wanted to work with Ward, and

Photo by Deonte Ward.

approached him and Elstner about working together. Moreover, Elstner already knew Ward; he was a former student of hers who had participated in a VisionWorkshops program at Maryland Hall, so she was thrilled to see things come full circle. In addition to his job as an electrician, Ward is an entrepreneur who runs a few nonprofit programs geared toward teenagers and youth, including B.L.A.C.K. (Becoming Leaders Acquiring Critical Knowledge),

which helps young black males develop a success pathway. Remembering his own experience with the VisionWorkshops program, Ward says, “I thought it was pretty cool, doing the program from seventh grade to eighth grade. I liked the whole vision behind doing one in the community, finding good themes with people and lifestyles, not the images typically given of young black men in the community. Through pictures, they could show

the lifestyle they live and what they do as a day-in-the-life versus what’s put out in the news.” Ward notes that photography is not something normally done in his neighborhood as a hobby. And at first, there was some mild resistance. “Typically, a group of teenaged boys are more focused on what’s cool. They looked at it as exposing people’s lives. We had to help them understand this was not to expose, but rather, to shed light.”

Demonstrating why it’s important to partner with people in these communities, Ward provides a thoughtful analysis. “We don’t have as many opportunities in our community. When I was coming up, we had programs—my mom made sure I was in some kind of program all the time. A lot of funding has been taken away from those, so being able to bring programs directly to the community has an | 31

Photo by Wesley Tydings.

impact, rather than just having a select few who get to go. For me, it was deep to be able to bring this to my community. Super humbling.” Ward kept a full schedule as a youth (just as he continues to do), participating in afterschool programs, the VisionWorkshops photography program, and science and math clubs that would lead into summer programs and camps, as well as playing sports.

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Ward points out that that there are no longer playgrounds or basketball courts in his community. Sports can be expensive. “People complain about kids, but what is offered to keep their minds occupied? No rec centers to do homework, and if the parents aren’t there, it may not get done. A chain of events with a ripple effect: one thing goes wrong, everything does, all because we

relied on the first thing to keep the ball from rolling downhill.” This only underscores the need for and impact of programs such as VisionWorkshops. The Coming Up workshop provided an opportunity for a group of youths, ages 11 to 18, to work on different assignments for five days after first getting prepared by professional

Photo by Von Franklin.

VisionWorkshops photo camp for teens at Newtowne 20 in Annapolis. Photo by Ka'von Stansberry.

“It’s not about me, in the truest sense,” she says, “it’s about the people in the pictures . . .”

Photo by Camerin Stevens.

photographers on camera use. Participants were encouraged to focus on a niche, based on what they liked—for example, cars or people—and then were given instruction on different things to look for when taking pictures. Ward sees the resulting photographs as a means for bringing together different communities, because people tell their stories through

these pictures, in turn creating understanding. “You see a picture of 10 black men, you automatically might think, ‘young thugs.’ But when they tell the story behind their picture, I think it will give a different mind-set as to how people judge us.” █


Photo by Deontae Simms.

For more information about VisionWorkshops, visit | 33



About Prints: The Legacy of Stanley William Hayter

January 11 – February 25, 2018

Robert Indiana: Love and Hope

March 8 – April 22, 2018

For information about all exhibition-related events including tours, lectures, and book club,

visit or call 410-626-2556.

Expect the Unexpected St. John’s College | 60 College Avenue | Annapolis, MD 21401 Fred Becker, Insect-Beast, 1953, Detail, Color etching, engraving and roulette on wove paper. Syracuse University Art Collection.

34 | Winter 2017

Robert Indiana, Love, 1995. Fabricated metal, powder coat, and silkscreen in colors. Courtesy of Michael McKenzie/American Image Art.


36 | Winter 2017







he upstairs rooms at 53 West Street that house Haymaker Media are like a chrysalis just before the butterfly emerges. Despite the noise and dust from renovations, co-owner and director JR Mitchell, coowner and producer Kevin Joy, and producer/host Conor Todd work with freelance audio designer Seth Donaldson and freelance photographer Conor Mitchell, adjusting lights and cameras in a small room graced with wall-sized paintings of Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald by local artist Jeff Huntington. Soon the renovators will break, and the guys will record and shoot Jordan Sokel of Pressing Strings performing an original song, “Fold.” The shoot will be part of the 53

West music performance series that debuts in January 2018. With four cameras, a blend of interviews, and performances that include one cover song and three originals, the series and how they’ll handle the visual aspects reflects Mitchell’s penchant for perfection and is a way to connect with and support local musicians. Haymaker, which launched in mid-2016, is the newest evolutionary turn in the careers of Mitchell, who traded Hollywood for Annapolis nearly two years ago, and Joy, a DC-area native and grandson of the founder of the DC-based underground construction firm The B. Frank Joy Company. The two are attracting a mix of commercial and cyber-training clients while exploring ways to use and apply

Mitchell and Joy finding the colors of Innsbruck, Austria. Photo by Antonia Semmler. | 37

Mitchell setting up Haymaker's VR camera by the fountain at Karlsplatz, Munich, Germany. Photo by Kevin Joy.

Shooting Virtual Reality 360 Video around the world can get interesting. Photo by JR Mitchell.

“I was the only kid that didn't necessarily want to be [Back to the Future's] Marty McFly.”

virtual reality (VR). In time, says Mitchell, they will add feature-length regular, 2-D films to their trade.

Who Wants to be Marty McFly?

At about age 11, Mitchell, who grew up between Los Angeles and Seattle, was so inspired by the film Back to the Future that he started making camcorder movies with neighborhood friends the very next day and began steeping himself in movies. At 12, he saw The Exorcist—“I didn’t sleep for a while after, but the impact of some of those moments were what got me writing, early on,” he says. Mitchell knew he wanted to work in film. “I was the only kid that didn’t necessarily want to be [Back to the Future’s] Marty McFly,” he says. “I wanted to be the person that created that world.” At 15, Mitchell interned at Seattle’s Prime Sports Northwest (now ROOT Sports), doing everything from shooting to assistant editing. He and Joy met in the film program at Southern Methodist University Joy capturing VR of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Photo by JR Mitchell.

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From 2-D to VR

Today, Mitchell and Joy make commercials, training videos, and other projects, including some in VR. Unlike the 1980s, when enthusiasm for VR outpaced the technology, today the technology is there but people are skeptical. That doesn’t stop Mitchell, Joy, and Todd, who are keen to explore what’s visually possible. “We see [VR] as a new frontier that connects


in Dallas. They became friends, roommates, and collaborators. “And then we tried to be [Akira] Kurosawa and made a record-breakingly long, 23-minute, silent student film,” says Joy. The exercise pushed students to capture visual references and mood without resorting to dialogue, and their film, about a broken romance and subsequent reflection, was supposed to be 16 minutes long. “It was very confusing,” says Joy, explaining how he and Mitchell learned how hard it can be to translate ideas onto film. After college, Joy followed his father and grandfather into the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the family business, while Mitchell moved to Los Angeles to work on the first season of Big Brother before expanding into film and advertising. “Los Angeles is an intense place that you need a break from, and strange, in that people are most often not who they want to be yet, so there’s this stagnancy,” says Mitchell. As Mitchell directed more, he realized he could work anywhere. He had just produced and edited a feature documentary, Satan and Adam, about Mississippi blues legend Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee and his harmonica player Adam Gussow, and wanted to broaden his experience. Joy, then stepping into a leadership role, saw that something was lacking. “I missed my creative roots,” he says. “I wasn’t even painting as much, anymore, so I had a few whiskeys and called JR.”

to what we love on a personal and creative level,” says Joy. “It’s turned into a bit of a gold rush, with a lot of big entities wanting to use the technology, but not knowing exactly how.” The how presents a learning curve for people accustomed to working in 2-D. Tyler Vaillant, guitarist for local band Mountainwolf, approached Haymaker with a vision for the band’s song “Lord Reekis” to be set in a forest with dappled purple light. That meant that everything normally out of the cameras’ view in 2-D had to be concealed, and everyone on set Producer/Host Conor Todd had to hide behind trees while all at Haymaker Offices on the lenses—picture a cube-shaped West Street. Photo by Tony J Photography. camera with lenses on every side— picked up the action. Haymaker premiered the video at Rams Head On Stage. “The fans lost their minds,” says Joy. Mitchell, Joy, and Todd hope to take VR users where they might never go: Munich during Oktoberfest, an underwater encounter with a blue whale, even experiences that elicit greater empathy. Earlier this year, Todd watched the VR film Across the Director/Co-Owner JR Mitchell at Haymaker Offices on West Street. Photo by Tony J Photography. Line, which puts viewers in the position of through his actions. “He’s thrilled someone seeking services at Planned right now,” says Joy of his father. “I Parenthood and encountering don’t think he expected the level of protesters, including real verbal work we’re doing.” comments. “To have that experience “His dad also inspires me,” says become so intimate and personal, it Mitchell. “I think it’s his world-class left me in tears,” he says. “I couldn’t mustache,” he adds, no hint of jest. have known before how that might He looks up to his own father, Jim, feel, but VR opened the door to the emotions in that situational context.” who took risks and succeeded. “My dad has always been supportive, Mitchell and Joy share a but talks to me about practicality,” pioneering spirit. Their fathers are says Mitchell. “It’s why I’ve always entrepreneurs. Joy says he’s always wanted to be, like his father, Ken, the thought about business as well.” █ kind of person who inspires others | 39



169 WEST ST, ANNAPOLIS, MD 21401 | 410-280-5160



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Circle Gallery En trance. Photo by Wil Scott.



f one were trying to hide in plain sight, like a hobbit carving a home inside the cozy hollow of a tree, the building at 18 State Circle would provide such a service. A sign hangs on the iron gate for the Maryland Federation of the Arts’ (MFA’s) Circle Gallery, pointing out the path that leads to its entrance. It feels private, and I am unsure whether or not I should knock. The familiar earthy smell of brick and mortar greets me as I walk through the door. Once inside, I set eyes upon the unassuming display space, feeling that I have just discovered a hidden treasure. My introduction to this alcove of artistry is blissful, and I start planning my next visit. Less is more, there. Simple half-faux walls and track lighting through the middle of the main gallery and along the walls modernize the space just enough to highlight the room’s focal point: MFA members’ artwork. Exposed

brick walls, less perfect than they perhaps once were, enclose the room and provide a neutral backdrop for various expressions of the current show’s theme, American Landscapes. Farm buildings and silos, grasses, and birds grace the canvas through oil paint applied by artist David Diaz. Kathleen Bennet Dove entered a humorous, perhaps ironic photograph of a pod of pelicans sitting on a dock above a sign that says, “Keep Off Dock.” A mixed media work by Eloa Jane Pereira titled “The Solitary Tree in Arkansas Bluff ” uses recycled, rolled paper, and acrylic paint to create a textured landscape. I linger in front of each composition and still frame. More than art is on display in the MFA’s space. The interior, the bones of the building itself, reveals a builder’s artistry from over 170 years ago and its natural, inevitable decay. It has withstood time, restoration, and decades of | 43

Main Gallery Panorama—Midsummer Madness, Summer MFA Member Show. Photo by Martha Campbell.

In 2018, the MFA

will have occupied the upstairs area

for 50 years.

repurposing, to great effect. Original square-head iron nails fasten six-inch trim boards around the room’s six double-hung windows. Wood grains the color of tar streak the ashen graybrown original wood floors. I expected them to creak under my weight. Wide beam rafters stripe the ceiling, adding even more character. The building’s first owner, Thomas Franklin, was a former cashier at Farmer’s National Bank and used the building as a general store. A pulley system hung from the attic rafters and transferred goods between the second 44 | Winter 2017

MFA and State House. Photo by Wil Scott.

and first floors; the hole between the levels has since been covered. Franklin bequeathed the property to family members until 1902, when it was purchased by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. The State of Maryland has owned it since 1961, and rents out the top and bottom floors. In 2018, the MFA will have occupied the upstairs area for 50 years. If the state’s primary interest in owning the property were for historical preservation, it would likely have made a sound investment. According to a Maryland Historical Trust building survey document published in 1964 by Harley J. McKee and recorded by William D. Morgan of Columbia University, the property is a “superb building and a real architectural gem. One of the most consciously Greek buildings in Annapolis.” Greek Revival temple style was popular in the mid to 1800s. Those elements are best viewed from the exterior facade at 206 Main Street, where the first floor currently

houses The Alpaca Store, where two Doric-style pilasters lie at the outer edges of the building’s Main Street facade. The southern facade defines one wall of the landmark Chancery Row, a famous vantage point for a great picture of the Maryland State House dome. Small Wonders is the next juried show presented by the MFA at Circle Gallery and will be on display through December 23. Each entry must be no larger than eleven inches in height, width, and depth. The number of pieces on display in the gallery will double for the annual show, from the typical 80 works to 160. In the 600-square-foot gallery space, the curators will ensure that each entry is placed in the best light. Small wonder, indeed. █


Circle Gallery Office—Thomas James, MFA Exhibition Manager, and Kristen McCurdy, MFA Communications Manager. Photo by Wil Scott.

Circle Gallery Visitors—Sharon Arsenault, Exhibition Committee Chair, and David Diaz, MFA Board President. Photo by Wil Scott. | 45




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48 | Winter 2017

PAINTING in the Modern Era



hen Stephanie Claire Baker was in art school, her professors stressed the importance of a cohesive portfolio. Unification in your body of work ensured that it would be recognizable and therefore marketable. Now nearly 10 years out of art school and working as an artist fulltime, Baker admits she’s always struggled with that particular advice. “I like so many different things,” she says. “I’d never be able to be sworn to just one.” In a high-speed world where digital media is consumed at a faster rate than ever, traditional art forms struggle

to maintain relevance. When Baker first began freelancing after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008, she learned those difficulties firsthand. “It’s hard to self-motivate and keep on pursuing,” she says. “As a freelance artist, you are your own business, and I don’t know how well that’s stressed to students.” Luckily, she’s always loved a challenge. Maintaining an open mind while expanding her portfolio meant finding work on a variety of projects beyond painting canvases. Among many other wonderfully unusual experiences, Baker worked at a woodshop, cut and assembled glass pieces for a lengthy mosaic project, and worked

with a small construction team, changing the plumbing system of a government building from steel to copper. She later used her copper cutting and polishing skills in personal art projects—one of many ways these seemingly unrelated jobs foster skills she eventually uses in her artwork. “One thing I’ve come to have a strong understanding of, as a painter in the modern era, is to be highly adaptable and very willing to do a variety of work under the broadest spectrum of arts, and [to be] working with my hands,” Baker explains. She currently paints furniture, doing custom paint jobs and restorations. She also works on more traditional paintings, exploring whatever subjects

Artist Stephanie Claire Baker with her exploding strawberry acrylic painting titled Absolutely None of It. | 49

Avocado. Acrylic on canvas, 30"x24".

resonate with her life experiences. Sometimes this involves detailed paintings of exploding strawberries and pears, while other days she focuses on her most challenging ongoing project—her water series. In this effort, Baker creates vivid portrayals of her earliest visual memory, what she calls her original visual influence. “Seeing the way clear water looks . . . in a sink, a bathtub, or a pool, I just remember being entranced by it.


50 | Winter 2017

As I’ve gotten older, I feel I have to dissect it, but that dissection can be tedious and tough,” she says. “Crisply portraying the caustic network, the water’s refractions, really nailing down the chaos . . . that’s my go-to challenge.” Baker’s love of ambitious art projects began at an early age. She spent two years, from ages 10 to 12, building a massive magazine collage that she still has, citing it as an important

learning experience. She collected her grandfather’s subscription copies of Time and Life magazines, dutifully read the articles, and then cut them up and carefully arranged the cuttings. Each time she ran out of room, she taped more paper to the piece to expand it further. The project was considered finished when it became so large she couldn’t jump over it anymore. When she was 15 years old, an art teacher took Baker and her class on

In It. Oil on canvas, 36"x70".

The core concept of the museum is that no one can be a trained visual artist.” Baker’s love for the museum exudes as she reminisces on that trip. In 2013, she volunteered to make a sidewalk mural for AVAM commemorating the writing of the national anthem. The project led to her working there for several years. Baker finds joy in the challenges her art creates, especially when she sees its effect on others. She recalls a time she hung paintings in Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge, which opens its space up to visual artists. The day she planned to pull a particular painting, she got a call from a woman who was interested in buying it. When they met, the woman told Baker she was so excited about the piece that she’d been having dreams about it. “That’s what I want to hear forever and ever,” Baker says with a smile in her voice. She is currently working on new pieces in her water project that explore fear and are inspired by a story her father told her about his time in the merchant marines. She hopes to examine the way fear can paralyze us and prevent us from doing even the simplest things. She also recognizes the fear involved in pursuing her career. “It’s scary, but . . . what’s to be scared of ?” she asks. Baker mentions a documentary on people who fish at the end of Victoria Falls, a massive waterfall teeming with crocodiles. “Even if I had to do that, I’d rise to the occasion, somehow. I try to cultivate fearlessness, which is its own art. I can always adapt into something else. I’m trying to stamp out fear completely.” █


a field trip to the American Visionary Arts Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore, the largest folk art museum in the United States. Having lived in a rural hometown without an abundance of art or cultural experiences, Baker says that trip opened her eyes to what being an artist could really mean. “The gift shop alone blew my mind,” she says, referencing the museum’s focus on outsider art. “I saw a cabinet adorned with bottle caps, corks, things that could be kind of kitschy, and that’s the point. I just thought, ‘You can glue pounds of baubles to things, and it’s glorious-looking.’

Falling Apart Looks Really Good. Acrylic on canvas, 20"x24". | 51

52 | Winter 2017 | 53


54 | Winter 2017

From the

Classroom  Stage

to the



photography by JOANNA TILLMAN

eaving is a must, staying is a should.” That’s one of Jess Hofmann’s lyrics, encapsulating how she felt about a recent shift she made in her life, from full-time first grade teacher at Folger McKinsey Elementary School in Severna Park to full-time singer/ songwriter. Though devoted to the six- and seven-year-olds she taught, describing them as “a group of people that couldn’t be more honest and genuine,” Hofmann was fearful that life was becoming a little too robotic. Moreover, her passion for writing and singing songs was taking too much of a back seat to her teaching. She was playing nighttime gigs only when she could, and writing songs when she wasn’t too exhausted from the school day. So, after three years of dealing with tears and shoelaces and noses, 26-yearold Hofmann was ready to make the

leap. “I want[ed] to take the time to see what I could do while I still could,” she says of the difficult decision she made roughly a year and a half ago to quit her teaching job to play music. A remarkable thing, considering the self-described introvert suffers from extreme stage fright, at times breaking down and leaving the stage when she first started performing. “I just love it so much, though, that I’ve forced myself to do it. I think I just wanted to share the music, and that’s what kept me going,” she says. Ever since the Crownsville native was a teenager she’s been drawn to live music, whether it be by sneaking into music venues or by forcing herself to play open mic nights despite her nerves. “I love everything about it. It just makes me feel so much. There’s this feeling in my chest . . . full of emotion, and nothing else can give me that.” When her father gave her older sister a | 55

Jessie and her band, Jason Kearse on drums and Johnnie Kearse III on bass, playing a show at Great Frogs Winery in Annapolis.

guitar, when Hofmann was in the eighth grade, it was Hofmann who picked it up and started to play, accompanying herself as she sang. She has since expanded her musical talents. In addition to being a solo artist under the name of Jess Marie, she formed a band, Amber North, with Jason Kearse on drums and piano and his brother Johnnie Kearse III on bass. Self-described as having a “soulgrass” sound, the band plays a unique combination of indie, folk, and soul—fitting for Hofmann, who claims she has “music ADD.” Amber North was born out of a spontaneous jam session on New Year’s Day 2016, after the members met through mutual Baltimore-based friends. When not practicing or writing songs, 56 | Winter 2017

they perform three to four gigs a week. “Playing music is just what I feel like I was supposed to do,” she says. Still, Hofmann has not strayed far from teaching, continuing to sub a few days a week or as needed at Folger McKinsey and other Anne Arundel County schools. She maintains close ties with her former colleagues, one of whom rents a room to Hofmann out of her house. Hofmann credits Rachel McWilliams and her husband, Mark, for much of her success. “None of this would have been possible without them.” They provide Hofmann with not only an affordable place to live but also abundant support and encouragement for her burgeoning career as an artist.


Staying connected to the teaching world while pursuing music will always be important to Hofmann. She was originally drawn to the classroom after finding a certain solace in it during elementary school, when her parents were going through a difficult divorce. “School became my only escape . . . where I could turn it all off for a while and pretend everything was good. I wanted to create that escape for someone else, or I guess lots of little someones,” she says. Not only did Hofmann create that safe, nurturing place for her students, but she also got something equally meaningful in return: “There’s something about the relationships that form when you’re in a room with the same group of children all day, every day,” she says. “I feel like you become a family.” Not so unlike the family that she’s formed with her fellow bandmates. On a recent Friday night at Fado Irish Pub, one of Amber North’s occasional gigging spots, the place is packed. In the middle of the bar, Hofmann sits crosslegged on a stool, her guitar gracefully balanced on one knee as she breaks through the sloppy bar clatter with a voice that is at once delicate and powerful. The band’s harmonies are pitch-perfect and chilling, and the bass, drums, and piano together create a sound that is natural and organic— even while fighting off colds—as they play everything from Johnny Cash to Alanis Morrisette to Vance Joy.

When not playing covers, Amber North creates and performs original work, hoping to start recording its first album this winter. When asked where Hofmann’s songs come from, she is her characteristically modest self: “I wish I was one of those cool songwriters that was a storyteller about other people’s lives. But it’s basically my diary . . . of course, some stuff is exaggerated . . . but it’s pretty much my experiences.” Those experiences range from quitting her job to traveling to Thailand to challenging stereotypes about being a woman. Originally at conflict with each other, Hofmann’s two passions, music and teaching, have now seemed to reach a satisfying balance. “They’re two very different parts of me,” she says. “I want teaching to stay a part of my life, but I think where music goes will determine how much of my life it can have. I think I still have a long way to go with both.” We look forward to the journey. █ | 57





n the mid-1960s, filmmaker Mark Hildebrand’s family moved to Annapolis’ Wild Rose Shores neighborhood, across from then-Londontowne, which fed his imagination. He grew up in music—first piano, then trumpet, from elementary school through college. But after three years of music education at the University of Maryland, he switched to business but never finished. After waiting tables and tending bar, he went into automobile and then health insurance. That led to his running a trade association benefits program and enabled him to buy a house. The work failed to nourish his creative energy, so he turned to community theatre, and then film with Starship Farragut, a group of DC–area Star Trek fans, and later served as a

60 | Winter 2017

photography by ALISON HARBAUGH

film festival screener. In 2009, Hildebrand launched the nonprofit Make Your Mark Media to support his films. Today, he works parttime for the City of Annapolis television station, City TV, which includes filming city council meetings and preparing for a film about the legacy of Queen Anne. He is best known for Anthem: The Story Behind the Star-Spangled Banner, which has been viewed by millions of people on Maryland Public Television, PBS, and now Amazon Prime, and Brookeville: Capital for a Day. Here, he shares how that work came to be. Up.St.ART Annapolis: Tell us about where you grew up and your earliest influences. Mark Hildebrand: Wild Rose Shores is on a peninsula, so no through traffic, a paradise for a kid.

Luckily, there were a dozen or so kids within a few years on either side of me, and we had the run of the neighborhood, jumping into the creek and the South River. What we did usually involved the water—fishing, crabbing. We’d play army and “stranded on a desert island,” football, softball, tag, and flashlight tag after dark. A lot of fantasy play—Dungeons & Dragons. The idea of sitting around and creating a world, describing things to people, putting yourself in a different frame of mind—that appealed to me. In school, Alice Harper was the band teacher at Annapolis Junior High, seventh to ninth grade. She taught us integrity, poise, and helped develop some amazing musicians. UA: It’s obvious from your f ilms that you have an abiding interest in history.

MH: In the 1970s, I was helping my mom at an outdoor event at Londontowne [today’s Historic London Town and Gardens]. We both dressed in early American outfits. While there, a reenactment group was shorthanded. I asked if I could help, and they had me carry the cartridge to the front of the cannon. I got heavily involved in reenacting during the bicentennial, including the Battle of Yorktown. I always found history I couldn’t relate to incredibly boring. But with early American history, I could close my eyes. I could understand how Alexander Hamilton felt as he charged the redoubt at Yorktown. UA: What drew you into f ilmmaking? MH: Filmmaking didn’t come until a little more than 10 years ago. I sold my | 61

house right before the housing bubble burst, in 2004, and paid off all the debt I’d been carrying. I had a little money set aside and I was turning 40. I said, “This is going to be the decade when I’m going to be creative and I’m going to be artistic.” I got much more involved at Colonial Players and Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. I’ve been a Star Trek fan my whole life and heard about Starship Farragut. I got to play their Klingon and then wrote, directed, and edited an episode where the captain meets George Washington, whom I also portrayed. Later, after screening hundreds of films for the Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, all the fear began to disappear for me. I could make something as good as that. Why not? UA: What was the genesis for Anthem? MH: I asked myself, “Why don’t I follow my brother and sister in-law [David and Ginger, who specialize in colonial music] and listen to a couple of their lectures and put together a companion DVD for their music CDs?” It was 2010. There was a lot of buzz around the 200th anniversary of “The StarSpangled Banner.” Why not tell the story of where the melody came from? The more I learned, the more I thought, “This is a stand-alone film.” UA: And Brookeville? MH: Brookeville happened because of Anthem. The town of Brookeville, Maryland, had gotten a grant to make a documentary: “Would you make it for us?” But

62 | Winter 2017

a major challenge was taking their idea of what they wanted and turning it into something that would tell a story—not a travelogue, but the story of [President James] Madison’s three nights on the run from the British. UA: The f igure of Francis Scott Key, like others in the MidAtlantic and the South, has drawn greater attention lately as more people see past inequities through the lens of the present. MH: Several years ago, a lead pastor at a megachurch in California made a patriotic YouTube video, with music from the movie Patton,

about Key, telling a story about how, during colonial days, Key rescued 100 prisoners on a boat in Baltimore. He massacred the facts. But look at the video comments: one person noted that the incident with Key happened in 1814. A comment to that was, “Why do you hate freedom?” That’s the debate we’re faced with today—misinformation, instantaneous assumptions, and judgments without caring about the facts. I have no problem with monuments being taken down that were erected in the Jim Crow era with the intention of keeping African Americans in their place. The Key monument was erected at the time to honor a man for writing that anthem. He had slaves. He has a complicated history like Thomas Jefferson has a complicated history. When it comes to film, if you can watch something and say, “I want to know more about this person, I want to find out more about what was going on at that particular time,” that’s great. That’s what Star Trek did for me—educated me on a bunch of issues. You walk away with a moral lesson you didn’t know you got, and what better medium than film to deliver that? █


“ This is going to be the decade when I'm going to be creative and I'm going to be artistic.” | 63

64 | Winter 2017


neil harpe

For over three decades my art work centered on realistically rendered images; lithographs, etchings watercolors and occasionally acrylic paintings depicting maritime subjects, landscapes, vintage automobiles, musical instruments and portraits of musicians. In 2011 I attended an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery, “Washington Color and Light.” That show presented works by some of the artists who came to be known as the “Washington Color School”. Among the works shown were the works by Tom Downing and Ed McGowin - both had been my teachers at the Corcoran. Attending that exhibition brought back many fond memories and an urge to experiment in a new direction. For the past few years I’ve done a series of Color School inspired hard-edge acrylic paintings. I enjoy the freedom of being unrestricted by the choice of subject matter, instead simply dealing with composition and color. Neil Harpe 2015


Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County is a proud supporter of the Annapolis Arts District and it’s creative verve. Create your moment in the cultural hub of the Annapolis Arts District, where creatives and small businesses are serving artistic flavor. | 65


66 | Winter 2017

Scholar-Warrior-Teacher by LEIGH GLENN photography by MARY ELLA JOURDAK


ou might have seen Billy Greer and his students— children, parents, and elders—demonstrating the Chinese martial art of Taiji (tai chi) at the William Paca House or Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. If you watched them long enough, you might have felt tension easing out of your body, for even watching Taiji has that effect. But what you won’t have seen is the years-long exploration of movement, the constant “preparation posture” that is Greer’s life. Gongfu (kung fu), literally hard work and time, characterize Greer, age 59, who has moved steadily to where he is today, heading up Jing Ying Institute in Severna Park, where he teaches Gongfu and Taiji and enjoys hosting Chinese martial arts teachers. It’s also where he and his wife, Nancy, spearhead outreach for a variety of community-based fundraisers that

have yielded more than $60,000 for local and global needs since the 2005 Asian tsunami. A “Navy brat” from Trinidad, Greer was small for his age, had poor sight, a speech impediment, and was nonathletic. He related better to books than people until a junior-high wrestling class, during which he was matched against students his size, his vision wasn’t a disadvantage, and he focused on strategy. He embraced the sport and wrestled for Bayside High School in Virginia Beach. Hard work and time led him to join the gymnastics and cross-country teams to enhance strength and flexibility and improve endurance. By senior year, he captained all three teams. He continued running and wrestling while in college at Hampden-Sidney, Hampden Sydney, Virginia, where he majored in biology and premed and earned various sports awards.

Billy Greer leads a warm-up during a Taiji class. | 67

In 2001, the Greers began In the 1970s, Bruce Lee studying at Jing Ying in Severna and the Kung Fu TV series Park, run by instructor Mary popularized martial arts. But Martin. It sprang from East despite reading about martial arts, West Martial Arts, an Annapolis watching martial arts films, and school that had closed. Its 6,000 constantly talking about martial square feet and high ceilings arts, Greer didn’t take the plunge were ideal for traditional Chinese then—Nancy did. In college, she martial arts. After three years, gave him a set of nunchucks, a says Greer, Martin asked if the traditional Okinawan martial arts Greers had ever thought of weapon, and he taught himself running a school. By August how to use them. They married 2004, she told them if she in 1982, and five years later, couldn’t find a buyer, she would she gave him a one-month trial have to close the next month. membership to a karate school in “Nancy and I had our previous Glen Burnie. Not quite what he Gongfu school close on us, and wanted, it spurred him to examine we didn’t want to go through that other schools. At the next school, again,” Greer says. they studied Tian “Plus, our kids Shan Pai Gongfu The Greers had gotten really with Tayari Casel. Casel, an African followed their involved at the and it had American hearts and took school, become a big part Gongfu over the school. of their lives.” practitioner, had Without studied with But like any financial data or Dennis Brown, infant, the school the vacationing the most senior needed full-time landlord to disciple of the parents. confirm the man who brought lease, the Greers Tian Shan Pai followed their Gongfu to the hearts and took United States, over the school. But like any Grandmaster Willy Lin. infant, the school needed Greer did what he always full-time parents. Greer, whose does when he’s serious about work had shifted from running something: he got a book—in a lab to IT and who had kept this case, an out-of-print book a consulting business for labthat he photocopied—and began related work, quit both. Despite studying. The book’s author, the income hit, Nancy eventually Grandmaster Lin, had studied moved to the school full-time, Tian Shan Pai Gongfu with the too. Chinese teacher who brought it In 2005, Greer finally met the to Taiwan. According to the book, two men who influenced him the Lin had his own school in DC’s most and began training directly Chinatown. But the book was out with them—Grandmaster of date. Greer checked and found Lin and Grandmaster Chen Lin no longer taught, dashing ZhengLei, a descendant of Chen hopes of studying with him. 68 | Winter 2017

Billy and Nancy Greer.

Participants in a Taiji class.

Participants in a Taiji class utilizing movements with weapons. Billy Greer leads.

WangTing, who lived from 1580 to 1660, and reportedly combined his previous training with theories from early Qigong to create Taiji. Because Taiji was banned during the Cultural Revolution, Chen ZhengLei trained in a cemetery to avoid detection. “The flat area of dead grass from his training soon spawned stories of ghosts and evil spirits that helped ensure no one was likely to venture out and discover him training at night,” Greer says.

Greer went through traditional BaiShi ceremonies with Lin and Chen, which means he is a formal disciple of both—a third-generation inheritor of Tian Shan Pai Gongfu and a twelfth-generation inheritor of Chen Taiji. For 2018, Greer is organizing a trip to Taiwan for Lin, who turns 80, and to Chen Village in Henan Province, China for Chen, who turns 70. Both, says Greer, move like men half their age. “I don’t know how I got so lucky as to be accepted as a disciple of two people who epitomize the ideal of the ‘scholar warrior,’” he says.

During Taiji warm-up stretches, Greer often sways or bounces gently to engage his whole body. Focusing on breathing and slowness creates relaxation and enhances the ability to learn movements correctly and efficiently. It also helps develop a hyperawareness that integrates mind and body, especially as students build up “listening energy,” says Greer, which is paying attention to all the senses. Full classes—whether at 7 a.m. or 8 p.m.—highlight students’ interest in motion and well-being as well as Greer’s enthusiasm. He tells stories or imparts information from studies of Taiji’s benefits. “When I am passionate about something, I love to share it with others,” he says. “There is nothing I enjoy more than figuring out how to explain something to someone so the switch turns on and they get it.” █


Three generations of Greers. | 69


Charlie Drayton, James Cravens, Zacca Jackson, and Rowan Harriman, members of The Dark, The Red, The Hell (DRH), which was formed in April 2017.

72 | Winter 2017

School House Rock by ZOË NARDO photography by ALLISON ZAUCHA

“Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise, Playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday . . . ”


he lyrics from Freddie Mercury’s classic anthem, “We Will Rock You,” burst from the speakers in Studio A, where The Dark, The Red, The Hell (DRH) practice. The band is a foursome of hard-rocking guys who were friends before the fame. They have known each other well near half of their lives. The DRH is James Cravens on lead vocals and lead guitar, Charlie Drayton on rhythm guitar, Rowan Harriman on drums, and Zacca Jackson on bass and keyboard. They only

practice for one hour each week because, after all, they have to get up for fourth grade each weekday morning. At an early age, the rock gods blessed the DRH with talent, ambition, and Studio A right in Cravens’ basement. The band shares the space with Cravens’ parents’ band, Big Brother’s Band. There are no studio fees, the instruments are already broken in, and they can make as much noise as they want. Samara Firebaugh, Cravens’ multi-instrumentalist mother, has supported the DRH from | 73

the start. When the boys came to her with the idea to start a rock band, she looked them dead in the eyes and said, “We can do this.” Flashback to the monkey bars, Naval Academy Primary School, spring 2017. Although who came up the idea remains a point of contention, it was recess—the boys’ second-favorite subject, after lunch— when they decided to start a band. Harriman came up with the name, Cravens offered up the basement, and it was time to rock and roll. Firebaugh hopped on her laptop later that night and emailed the DRH’s future groupies (i.e., their parents) to see if they were in support. With their blessing, Drayton gave up soccer and Jackson assumed the daunting task of learning bass and keyboard on the fly. By the following Thursday, they were all holding instruments in Studio A, looking around at one another and wondering,

When the boys came to her with the idea to start a rock band, she looked them dead in the eyes and said, “We can do this.” “How do we rock like Zeppelin? How do we shred like Sabbath?” Enter Jake Posko, owner of Severn River Music, guitar teacher, and member of Big Brother’s Band. There was no one better to take the band to the big time, aka opening for an upcoming Big Brother’s Band house party in Studio A. Only two months from that fateful day on the monkey bars, the DRH was ready to take the stage

The band assembled every Thursday. Under Posko’s and his teaching partner Diane Riccobene’s tutelage, the band learned power chords, power slides, stage dives, and other rock band basics. Even though only half the group had any significant musical experience, the band progressed at the speed of sound. Within a matter of weeks, the band added Queen and The White Stripes to their repertoire. After their first show, the DRH was a hit on Meadow Gate Drive. Dreams danced in the boys’ head-bangin’ heads of playing at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge. Because they have good burgers, says the band Despite their meteoric rise, the band has remained humble and their tastes simple. Next on the the DHR tour schedule was Cravens’ backyard birthday bash in August. As the band began preparing for the gig,

The band practices in Cravens' basement. Cravens' parents are also musicians and have created a studio that the family and band can use.

74 | Winter 2017


something dawned on them: playing for their parents’ friends was one thing, but playing for their own friends was a much more serious proposition. It was time to tighten up. They recruited the savviest rock and roll manager in North Annapolis, Cravens’ 12-year-old sister, Margaret. She stepped into Studio A, took a look around, and said one word: merch. While Margaret got started on designing T-shirts, the band got to work perfecting their lineup. Their second show was a smash, and Margaret “sold” (well, gave away) every last stitch of merch. By the start of the school year, the DRH were the talk of the playground. But being back in school opened up a deep well of angst that had replaced pool water and sunshine all summer. It was a well that they mined for their first original song, “School Time in Hell.” The DRH have added a new member, Cravens’ puppy Pete, to whom they dedicated “School Time in Hell.” For the most part, though, practice is still the same—Jackson is down in Studio A, slappin’ the bass at ever-escalating tempos, Drayton is working out fingerknotting bridges, Harriman is punctuating every joke with a badum-ching, and Posko is erupting into spontaneous applause for his fledglings. And at the end of band practice, the parents all come to retrieve their rockers with smiles on their faces. It’s a funny thing—rock and roll started as a way for youth to rebel against their parents, but when done right, it brings families closer together. █ Jake Posko, owner of Severn River Music. | 75


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n 2015, Izelle Van Zuylen lost everything to her opioid addiction. Her car was seized by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. She was fired from her teaching job and lost her apartment. “After the felony charges happened, that’s when I realized I needed help,” she says. After a brief stay in an addiction treatment center, she remembers feeling exhausted and depressed. Living with her parents was a trial for everyone. Her life turned around when she found Serenity Sistas, an Annapolis-based housing program for recovering addicts. Van Zuylen, now over two years sober, sits on a soft leather couch at her new job and jokes about the first time a friend in recovery

recommended Sistas: “I thought, ‘I’m not going to live with 10 girls in recovery. That’s insane.’” She not only went through early recovery, living in one of the five houses, but also, since last spring, she has been working alongside Sistas’ founder and director, Angel Traynor, as the organization’s program manager. Van Zuylen’s perspective has, of course, changed. “It’s the best thing I ever did by far,” she says. Since its inception six years ago, Serenity Sistas has taken in approximately 500 referrals from various sources—Anne Arundel County’s Mobile Crisis Team, the courts, the detention center, and local rehab centers such as Pathways or Hope House. Sistas provides resources to reintegrate a

Founder of Serenity Sistas Angel Traynor takes pride in running the organization with Shaudi, Izelle, Alisa, and Kelli. Each woman is in long-term recovery and guides newer Sistas through the process of recovery. | 79

“Addiction does not

discriminate. A lot of

people think, ‘Not in my

family, not my sister,

my brother, my mother.’ That’s not true.”

recovering addict back into the community, providing a necessary and often missing link between the treatment center and resuming a productive life. It houses roughly 46 residents in its three all-female residences, one all-male residence, and one residence for mothers with young children. The current age range of most residents is between 19 and 26, while the oldest resident is 70. “Addiction does not discriminate. A lot of people think, ‘Not in my family, not my sister, my brother, my mother.’ That’s not true,” says Traynor. “It starts with a tooth extraction or a sports injury. They get a prescription of OxyContin or Percocet, and once they become physically addicted, they have lost their choice,” she explains. Traynor’s staff lovingly urge her to take a break from picking up her phone. It’s Friday afternoon, and they know their boss is drained after a long week of intakes. Traynor pulls back her blonde ponytail and settles her head back into a lounge

80 | Winter 2017

“One of the biggest blessings for me is to come from that lifestyle. I’m an Annapolitan, been here my whole life. To come from that lifestyle I used to live and to be able to walk into a police department and talk with the Chief of Police is huge. I’m so grateful that the police department gives us this space each month. At the end of the day, it’s all about the partnerships. How do we build that in the community? How do we break down that stigma? How do we break the perception of risk from youth? We listen to what they’re saying. We all just want to be heard just like we all want to be hugged. I’m just convinced that long ago there was a plan for me or maybe that was part of the path. I did the damage here and now I’m able to help repair it." - Founder Angel Traynor talking about her journey from addiction to forming Serenity Sistas, a thriving recovery community providing addicts with safe, healthy, and supportive houses throughout Annapolis.

chair. She doesn’t like shoes; her trademark bare feet barely graze the floor as she speaks plainly about her own recovery. “I don’t mind getting up in front of 100 people and saying, ‘I’ve not found it necessary to use heroin since September 6, 2007,’” she says. “I just want to do whatever I can do to help.” Ten years of sobriety and two college degrees later, Traynor runs the nonprofit with two employees, consults on the county’s Not My Child initiative, and knows the latest county overdose statistics as well as she knows her social security number. “When an addict gets out of rehab, they don’t have any money or anywhere to go," says Traynor. She emphasizes the importance of recovering addicts paying their own monthly rent and insists on them finding work and getting involved in the community. “We [addicts] have taken from our communities and our families for a long time,” she says. “I encourage everyone in my houses to give back to the community.” Residents must adhere to a curfew, attend 12-step meetings, and do chores. Van Zuylen attests to the challenges of early sobriety. “My first year was about learning how to deal with emotions without substances,” she says. “I found out I cry a lot. I never cried when I was using.” Bearing witness to the range of the human experience is an inevitable part of Traynor’s job. Heartbreak, disappointment, selfsabotage and sadness co-exist with the struggle for health, both physical and mental. Traynor

"You give off such a warm and welcoming presence," Traynor is told before the start of the Annapolis Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition meeting. Serenity Sistas helps the coalition work with the community, promoting public health, safety and wellness for families in Annapolis. The coalition celebrated its one-year anniversary on September 21, 2017.

Van Zuylen is grateful for the trials of the past few years. She now has a full-time job at Serenity Sistas and a car. “I appreciate the hard work it took to get it all back,” she says. Once you get a little bit of your selfworth back, you don’t want to lose it again.” Traynor and her staff celebrate the long-standing sobriety of many former residents as much as they celebrate the first days, the redemption of relationships, and the reconnection to community. Says Traynor, “I try to open as many doors for them as I can. Ultimately, it’s their choice whether or not they walk through it.” █


emphasizes the need for radical self-care while doing this work. She attends Al-Anon meetings and goes to hear live music whenever she can. Van Zuylen and Traynor have experienced a life with drugs and have worked at creating new lives for themselves after drug use. There is no magic wand waved in the space between the last high and the first day of sobriety. Both women feel that the common element in their sustained sobriety is a renewed sense of purpose and connection to others. “The thing that keeps me going is the connections I have with people and the love, and that’s not to say I was not loved as a kid, because I was,” says Traynor. | 81


Photo by Julie Gibb.





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A nn ap ol is, M ar yl an


E ne rg iz in g W es t St . Th ro ug h th e A rt s

CHOCOLATE BINGE FESTIVAL ........................................................ Dec 3 MIDNIGHT MADNESS . . .................................................... Dec 7,14, and 21 NEW YEARS EVE EVENT


Dec 31 3-5:30pm

MLK PARADE ........................................................................... Jan 15 Noon VALENTINE'S DAY ...........................................................................Feb 14 ANNAPOLIS RESTAURANT WEEK ................................ Feb 25 to March 3 Follow the Annapolis Arts District on Facebook to see even more West Street events. | 83

Upstart Annapolis Winter 2017  


Upstart Annapolis Winter 2017