Art Outside at Druid Hill Reservoir: Interview with Artist Diana L. Spencer by Cara Ober

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On the eve of Druid Hill Park’s 150th anniversary, a local artist decided to bring back a historical tradition: outdoor art festivals. In the 1950’s and 60’s the park hosted outdoor art sales, a relatively unheard of undertaking at the time. Local artists hung their works on the fence surrounding the reservoir, a festival ensued, and it provided an opportunity for artists to interact with the public and sell their work.

Fast forward to 2013: when local artist Barbara Shapiro learned about the reservoir’s anniversary, it reminded her of the arts festivals she enjoyed as a child and she began planning the event, with numerous local organizations involved. Art Outside is the product of her efforts and it creates a new opportunity to show local artists in a juried format, to commemorate the anniversary of Druid Hill Park, and will combine other outdoor activities and attractions for visitors, including a delectable selection of local food trucks. The event is scheduled for Sunday, May 19 from 11 am – 4:30 pm.

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Diana L. Spencer is one of the artists chosen to participate in the event. She is a lifelong Baltimorean and a professional writer, and she creates mixed media wall sculptures from fibers and other found materials. Diana sent me an evite to the event, and I began asking questions about it, and the conversation that resulted is below.

Cara Ober: How you got involved with the Art Outside exhibit?

Diana Spencer: I first heard about Art Outside from the artist opportunities section of the Maryland Art Place website. As a still fairly new artist, I am always looking for not-too-expensive ways to get my art seen by more people. Putting your art online is one part of it, but as an artist, it is great, in a relaxed atmosphere, to be able to talk about your work with people and see what they respond to. I am often inspired by these interactions to try new things with my work. This opportunity was especially exciting to me because it connects to my childhood memories of visiting Druid Hill Park as a child with my family. It is like coming full circle to this time be one of the artists there.

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CO: What you are planning to exhibit?

DS: I will be exhibiting my wall sculptures. They begin with cardboard tubes that were headed for recycling. I wrap them, mostly with yarn and other fibers, and connect them to each other to form new shapes, express ideas, emotions. I think of it kind of like quilting, taking little bits and pieces and connecting them together. Texture and rhythm are very important to me, and my art is very much an exploration of that. The pieces I will be showing on Sunday are very new — many are not even up on my website yet, and they more moderate in size than a lot of the “sofa-sized” pieces I was making.

CO: How many artists are involved? What should visitors expect?

DS: My understanding is that about 50 artists are participating, including some folks who were part of the Sunday shows from decades ago. It is going to be so much more than it was in the past — with food trucks, entertainment, kids activities…It is going to be great fun!

CO: What are your memories from the sixties, visiting the outdoor art shows at Druid Hill Park and Reservoir?

DS: My parents were great about taking advantage of every free cultural opportunity in Baltimore City. When I was little, we were on the go so much, we saw so many shows, went to so many exhibits, that I thought we were rich. Walking around the lake on Sunday mornings was just one of many cultural activities we did on a regular basis. I remember loving it. I loved being in the park, being with my family. It was very casual and low key. I didn’t have the sense that anyone really organized it. It appeared that artists just showed up, hung their artwork on the fence or leaned it against the fence, and then sat in folding chairs waiting for you to wander by. I remember that even when I wasn’t interested particularly in their art, I was interested in the artists as people and in their different styles.


More information is available about the Art Outside festival here.

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