How many sequins can Maryland Art Place (MAP) reasonably fit into one art gallery? The answer is: more than you’d expect. The Great Gatsby, the theme of their recent fall benefit hosted Saturday, November 9, 2019, inspired headdresses, vintage gowns, feathers, and a lot of fabulous jewelry. The 2nd Tri-Annual Maryland State Artist Registry Juried Exhibition was on the walls, and the night included food, drinks, live music, and fashion, as well as live performances by artists Stephanie Barber, Dominique Zeltzman, Shonita Johnson, Ceylon Mitchell, and Nicoletta de la Brown in the cabaret along with David Page’s performance piece in the main gallery.
The historic Baltimore arts organization was founded in 1981 by a group of artists in conjunction with the Maryland State Arts Council who wanted to create a platform for contemporary artists in the region through a dedicated venue and access to professional information. “The bigger institutions were not showing much interest in living artists at that time,” recalls MAP Executive Director Amy Cavanaugh, who has held the position for the past eight years. “And contemporary artists in the region were looking for professional opportunities.”
Founded as a nonprofit and incorporated in 1982, MAP mounted a series of exhibitions and programs in temporary locations, including a Critics’ Residency program, a public art program in conjunction with the Market Center Development Corporation, and Diverse Works, the first performance residency for interdisciplinary artists. The organization mounted five major exhibitions in 1984–85 in a variety of spaces while searching for a permanent home.
In January, 1988, MAP purchased the 20,000-square-foot Beaux Arts building it now occupies at 218 West Saratoga Street in the Bromo Arts District, taking a major step toward financial stability and cohesion in programming. Although MAP rented a gallery space in Power Plant Live from 2001–2014, the performance component of their programming, the 14 Karat Cabaret, continued to showcase an ongoing series of music, dance, film and video in the basement of MAP’s West Saratoga Street space.
The cabaret is being renovated and MAP plans to open the fully operational bar and music venue in the fall of 2020, but it will be partially open in the next six months while they continue to raise capital to finish the project. “MAP’s cabaret is actually a big part of Baltimore’s performance art subculture and has a rich history,” says Cavanaugh. “It was the home of Organic Soul and the 14 Karat Cabaret run by Laure Drogoul for over 20 years, which served many of Baltimore’s marginalized LGBTQI artists and performers. It was the first place that Annie Sprinkle performed, and at that time her work was not considered art by any standard.” Cavanaugh says that they have discovered a number of 1980s performance posters and is organizing an archive around them. “We want to preserve this cultural heritage and create a space open for bands and experimental performances,” says Cavanaugh, a cellist and performing artist herself.
For their fall benefit, MAP opened up almost every floor of the 5-story building including the cabaret, creating opportunities to interact with the creative individuals and organizations that now occupy the building. “At our events, we always want to raise funds and awareness about MAP,” says Cavanaugh. “But we also wanted our guests to realize how many different creative entities occupy our building so people could explore and learn more about us and our tenants.” Current occupants include the Lineup Room, a hip-hop event using the cabaret for Bmore BeatClub, co-produced by Eze Jackson; Terrault Gallery; fashion designer Bishme Cromartie; and a number of artist studios.
The nonprofit organization is heading into a capital campaign to update and maintain the entire building, including the roof, and the Fall Benefit, as well as their upcoming Under 500 holiday art sale on December 14, are opportunities to support MAP’s ongoing mission and to assist in their efforts to renovate this creative hub. “People don’t always realize we are much more than a first-floor gallery space,” says Cavanaugh. “Our building is huge and a highly diverse community in every possible way, but it requires a lot of maintenance.”
Cavanaugh says that she is proud that MAP has been able to host a thriving group of creatives, now and over the past 40 years, and is fulfilling their original mission better today than ever before, still running the MD State Artist Registry for over 20 years and serving between 500–600 artists each year. Their annual Under 500 is scheduled for December 14, and it’s one of Baltimore’s better art sales of the year. Cavanaugh says they have approximately 50 artists and 90 works of art selected, and will publish a finalized list on Tuesday.
Looking forward, MAP is planning a woman-centric exhibition in early 2020 called Merkin Dream, using humor and fashion to explore women’s private rituals, grooming, shaving, sexuality, and identity. They are planning a fashion show along with the exhibit, and a number of discussions around the merkin (for those who don’t know, this is a wig designed for the pubic area) and its use by sex workers from the 1450s, to its height of popularity in the 1700s. “We are curious to explore the reasons that this particular item exists and its uses,” says Cavanaugh, adding that they are looking forward to incorporating women’s voices around fashion, advocacy for gender parity, and advocacy for sex workers.
At MAP’s event on November 9, we didn’t spot any merkins—among the guests or performers—but we do look forward to photographing the upcoming exhibition and fashion show. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of guests at MAP’s Fall Benefit by E. Brady Robinson. (Cara Ober)
What They’re Wearing: A Photo Essay
Lisa Reed and Meg Horst. Lisa: Dress by Pretty Guide and Victoria’s Secret clutch (detail below)
and Meg: Goodfellow & Co Hat
Gina Caruso, Executive Director of Creative Alliance: Vintage dress, shawl from Hawaii, and Lauren Schott necklace; Lauren Schott: 22-kt diamond earrings and Keshi pearl and 18-kt gold necklace also made by Lauren Schott (detail below)
Fashion Designer Carlous Palmer wearing his own work
Michelle Herbst wearing vintage
Mariah Bonner, a cabaret performer and benefit committee member
It has pockets!!! MAP Executive Director Amy Cavanaugh wearing BCBG Next Generation Romper
Caitlin Gill wearing ASOS dress and great-grandmother’s necklace
Steven Viterelli and Benjamin Dame
Carly Bales wearing vintage
Exhibiting Artist Billy Michels in black tuxedo and red bowtie
Exhibiting artist Virginia Sperry, wearing wool bow cloche hat from North Style, shawl, black lace tea dress from Pyramid Collection, and shoes from the Walking Store in the Columbia Mall, photographed with her work, “Life Forms,” made of steel masonry nails and yarn.
Bambi Galore wearing vintage and grandmother’s necklace
Mary Ann Mears wearing vintage dress dug out of her attic
Kathy O’Dell wearing “Sequin Sparkle Cardigan Open Front Coat Dress” by VJJ Aidear, worn over a basic black J. Jill dress, “Oprah glasses” (available in lots of different colors on a number of different websites for about $20, and Kath has her prescription lenses put in them). “I can’t remember where I got the clutch, but it was inexpensive,” she admits. “The shoes came from Payless. I’m vegan, so I buy at all-non-leather stores like that.”
Cara Ober wearing vintage dress from Bottle of Bread and vintage YSL heels from Hunting Ground, Réne Treviño wearing Hugo Boss suit and extra bling sourced from personal collection, Amy Boone-McCreesh wearing vintage jacket
Jewelry artist Lauren Schott and sculptor and clothing designer David Page