Baltimore Art News: National Aquarium Celebrates Drag, Kehinde Wiley at the Walters, Maryland Lyric Opera Closes

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This week’s news includes:  Voyages 4 at the National Aquarium celebrates drag, Kehende Wiley’s Saint Amelie at the Walters, the Maryland Lyric Opera is closing, Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious death, Little Donna’s overwhelmed by the NYT, graffiti artist Chris Stain, BROS “Gold Night” review, Bruce Willen’s new Ghost Rivers public art installation, Locally Grown Festival at Baltimore Center Stage, Buns and Roses bakery, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: Ghost Rivers visualization, Wyman Park Dell (artist Bruce Willen)



Studio Session with Voyages Chapter 4 artist Devon Vaow | September 6, 2023

Voyages: Chapter 4 on 11/16 at the National Aquarium celebrates the artistry of drag
Press Release :: October 5

Tickets are on sale now for the fourth installation of Voyages, the National Aquarium’s after-hours event series for adults. On November 16, voyagers will experience an immersive blend of adaptation and environmentalism at Voyages: Chapter 4 with featured artist Devon Vaow, also known as Evon Dior Michelle. As a drag artist, Vaow’s art will use drag techniques to illustrate different adaptations and to highlight drag’s artistry.

When approached to embark on this Voyages chapter, Vaow knew he wanted to focus on adaptations, drawing parallels between nature’s transformations and the resilience of the Baltimore queer community.

As part of his research, Vaow toured the exhibits at the National Aquarium, including the Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit. This exhibit highlights how animals have changed their behaviors, appearances and more to adapt to their surroundings in the natural world.

When asked about his inspiration, Vaow explained, “Every organism on the planet has to adapt. Everyone can relate to adaptation in some way. When bringing this project about drag to such a large forefront, it’s important to find something that everyone could relate to.”

Vaow also collaborated with Aquarium experts and other scientists and consultants to deepen his understanding of adaptations, including drag performer and environmentalist Wyn Wiley (Pattie Gonia), queer scientist advocate Dr. Lauren Esposito and evolutionary biologist Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton. These conversations influenced Vaow’s art, highlighting the importance of adaptation in nature and within the LGBTQIA+ community.

“There is so much queerness in nature that isn’t talked about in the science world,” Vaow explained. “I think challenging the mindset can change the thesis about how we think animals adapt or perceive situations. Before having these conversations with the experts, I would not have known that people in influential spaces were asking these questions today.”

Vaow’s art for Voyages is rooted in the concept of “cerebral drag,” a form of drag that prompts contemplation and questions. He will be joined by local drag queens Sapphire Starr DupreeTiara Missou-SidoraVirya Shavasana, and Stealya-Manz Blue, who will showcase physical, behavioral, and physiological adaptations in nature through their performances.

Above all, Vaow hopes the performances resonate with guests and show them that adaptations are beautiful.

“Most people come to a drag show, and we come out on stage already done,” Vaow explained. “So, to kind of deconstruct that and show that step-by-step process will hopefully create more of an appreciation for drag and allow people to leave feeling more comfortable with themselves. Changing and adapting can be a scary thing, but it can also be a great thing.”

The immersive event will feature projections, music, lights, and interactive elements, followed by a killer after-party drag floor show emceed by Evon Dior Michelle and DJ Rosie Hicks, with performers Stealya-Manz Blue, Sapphire Starr Dupree, Virya Shavasana, Tiara Missou-Sidora and, special guest, Pattie Gonia. Local food and drink vendors include Empanada LadyOur Time Kitchen and Sistahs’ Sweets with a bar menu curated by Pamela Bang, creative cocktail coordinator from the Golden West Café.

“Voyages: Chapter 4 is your passport to a world where art meets evolution. As our featured artist this year, Devon Vaow, takes the stage, we are invited to witness the magic of adaptation through the vibrant art of drag” shares National Aquarium’s Community Engagement Manager Sarah Doccolo. “His collaboration with the National Aquarium is an inspiring testament to the power of embracing change. We hope you’ll join us for a night where drag, nature, and the Baltimore queer community unite, encouraging us all to find beauty in adaptation.”

Voyages: Chapter 4 takes place on November 16, 2023, from 6 to 11 pm. Guests should plan to arrive promptly at 6 to walk the red carpet for some exciting photo opportunities. Tickets are on sale now. Learn more and purchase tickets at



Kehinde Wiley’s stained glass piece, “Saint Amelie” (2014), is now on display at the Walters Art Museum. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Saint Amelie’ combines the divine and the everyday
by Leslie Gray Streeter
Published October 5 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: The young man is, literally and figuratively, a work of art.

His shining brown head reflects the glow of a golden halo set behind his white hoodie and leather-accented puffer vest, confident in casually-tied Converse. His hands are clasped in front of him and his bright face is set in a look of … tranquility? Wisdom? Pride? Maybe all three. He could be an older version of my kid, or the kids who pass our stoop on their way to the high school down the street.

He is both ordinary and extraordinary, everyday and divine. And that is the point.



MDLO Closing Announcement
Newsletter :: October 9

Dear MDLO family,

I am writing to let you know that I have made the difficult decision to end the operations of Maryland Lyric Opera, effective immediately. I will always be enormously proud of all that we have achieved together in bringing more opera to the region.

Since I founded MDLO in 2014, we have presented many memorable performances of opera — from the three fully staged productions at The Clarice in College Park to the four operas in our thrilling 2022-23 Season of Verdi at Strathmore — in addition to many concerts in venues all across the region. Plus, we have introduced thousands of local students to our beloved art form through our programs in local schools, and nurtured the careers of emerging artists with the MDLO Institute. I am especially proud of the fine work of our Orchestra and Chorus throughout our seasons together, and that we were able to attract so many star soloists and gifted designers to our stages.

I am grateful to the work of our dedicated staff and generous donor family who have helped to make all of our pursuits possible. In addition, I am thankful for the audiences who came to our events and supported our mission. It has been a tremendous joy to share my passion for opera with so many other music lovers.

Thank you for going on this journey with me, and I look forward to seeing you in the future.

So appreciated,

Brad Clark
Founder and Artistic Director
Maryland Lyric Opera



Engraved portrait of author Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1830. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)

How did Edgar Allan Poe die? Film probes mystery of his death
by Jasmine Vaughn-Hall
Published October 5 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: The whole “till death do us part” spiel doesn’t apply to those married to the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe’s demise.

His death created a dedicated following of people ready to put on their best detective hats to sift through fact and conspiracy theories — a fitting reaction, since Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is thought to be one of the first modern detective stories.

So how did he die? Too much alcohol? Was he attacked? Did he have a disease? It’s been 174 years and people still want to know. An upcoming film screening is about to stir the Poe pot even more.



The Midwestern-style clam pizza at Little Donna’s in Baltimore. (Christina Tkacik)

The Dish: Why the owner of Little Donna’s almost told The New York Times not to come
by Christina Tkacik
Published October 11 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: A few weeks ago, Robbie Tutlewski went to The New York Times’ website. He clicked on a feature titled “The Restaurant List 2023: The 50 places in the United States that we’re most excited about right now.”<

Among them was his own intimate Fells Point spot, Little Donna’s, which he opened last year and named for his grandmother.

“We’re screwed,” he thought.

More and more, Baltimore’s funky, quirky, one-in-a-million bars and restaurants are getting national attention, whether from big-name awards like the James Beard Foundation or from publications such as Esquire magazine or The New York Times. For small-business owners like Tutlewski, such acclaim can come with baggage.



Photography by Martha Cooper

Artist Chris Stain is Documenting the History of Graffiti in Baltimore
by Ron Cassie
Published in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: “The first tag I did was with a marker on the side door of John’s Quality Bakery at Fairmont and Kenwood. I had a red El Marko, and just wrote my name and it wasn’t big and I was nervous and scribbled it on real quick,” recalls Chris Stain. “But then I felt all kinds of things at once and a rush of adrenaline. The first thing I did with spray paint was up the block from where I lived. I had one of those old Testors cans that you use for painting model cars, and I wrote my name on the corner house. In a very juvenile sense, I felt immortal, and this great sense of purpose like I’d arrived at something.”

All of 11 years old, Stain had arrived at his life’s work. In high school, he learned printmaking before shifting his technique toward stenciling. Self-taught, he also moved toward paperwork and public murals, which he’s done all over the world. His efforts have been shouted out in publications from Graffiti World to The New York Times and shown in galleries from Baltimore and New York to Berlin, London, and Amsterdam.

Now 50, with two children, he’s a member of the United Scenic Artists Local 829 in New York. With down time due to the actors’ and writers’ strikes (he’d been making sets for an HBO revival of Pretty Little Liars), he’s currently working on a commissioned proposal for CFG Bank Arena.



From left: Kay Black, Renee Gibson, Angela Whittaker (as Klondike Kate), Nate Daley, Reema Sood, KS Garner, and Emma Podietz. Photo by Heather Keating.

Theater Review: ‘The Gold Night’ at Baltimore Rock Opera Society
by Emily Hofstaedter
Published October 4 in Maryland Theater Guide

Excerpt: I’m trying not to make any gold references here but I’m failing. This play is so delightfully rough-hewn and glittery, a true visual and aural masterpiece, carefully carved into existence by some of the most creative minds in Baltimore. This was my first Baltimore Rock Opera Society production and the company’s reputation precedes them by a lot, so my expectations were high. “The Gold Night,” created by Jessica Keyes and written by John Bennett, largely did not disappoint. The music, also by Keyes with Abby Becker, is phenomenal. The set, costume, and prop work are stunning. Perhaps one of the biggest rounds of applause came from a clever scene transition from Yukon mountain into a western saloon. They’ve even created moving trains and mining equipment.

The plot and pacing of the writing aren’t great and by the end of the first act and I still wasn’t really sure where the play was going or what it was about. The first act spends just a little too much time on character introduction. That said, these actors deftly handle roles that could have been two-dimensional parodies and breathe real life into them. The writing relies on some tropes that are as well-worn as a good pair of cowboy boots but they work well here. There’s a business-savvy, morally-gray saloon woman, a jaded doctor and hero, and the outlaws running from their past.

Check out BmoreArt’s photos from The Gold Night.



New neighborhood-spanning public art installation
Project Summary :: October 10

Ghost Rivers is a neighborhood-spanning, multi-site public art installation and walking tour by artist Bruce Willen that visualizes a lost stream buried below the streets of Baltimore. Through a series of installations, wayfinding markers, and writings Ghost Rivers reveals the hidden path of the creek Sumwalt Run, bringing its lost landscapes and histories to the surface. Along the way the project draws connections between Baltimore’s watershed, its social history, and the evolving relationships between natural and human environments.

When Baltimore built a new sewer system in the early 1900s, Sumwalt Run was turned into a buried storm sewer, vanishing from the landscape and disappearing from memory. The stream now flows hidden and mostly forgotten through storm sewers beneath the Remington and Charles Village neighborhoods. You can catch echoes of its waters whispering from certain storm drains.

Before Sumwalt Run’s ignoble turn as concrete culvert, it witnessed eras of Baltimore’s urban history. Its frozen waters appeared in ice boxes across the city, cut from the city’s first commercial ice pond and a later artificial ice factory. Trolley tracks crossed its ravine, bringing workers home from downtown factories. The Olmsted Company attempted to preserve part of the stream as a greenway, but real estate developers filled its valley (using debris from the Great Baltimore Fire of 1905, according to local lore). Ghost Rivers bring these hidden histories back to the surface, offering a glimpse into past and future city landscapes.

There will be an official community opening party next Thursday October 19th from 5–7PM at B.Willow. We’ll be doing a ribbon cutting around 5:45 (with a special guest appearance from the Underground Water Goddess).



Baltimore Center Stage Announces First Ever LOCALLY GROWN FESTIVAL
Press Release :: October 6

Baltimore Center Stage (BCS) is pleased to announce the first ever Locally Grown Festival, a celebration of Charm City’s performers, artists, and makers. This inaugural event, a celebration of Baltimore’s brilliant, eccentric, and thriving arts ecology, will take place at BCS October 21-22, 2023.

“The Locally Grown Festival delivers on BCS’s mission in so many ways,” noted Annalisa Dias, Director of Artistic Partnerships & Innovation. “The festival is truly inspired by our home city, Baltimore, and will catalyze compelling conversations through multidisciplinary workshops, makers’ fairs, performances, and opportunities for fellowship. Guests will be able to enjoy theater in all its forms, including dance, puppets, drag, comedy, music, visual art, play readings, spoken word, burlesque, and more. There is truly something for everyone.”

Over 150 artists from the region will take part in the two-day festival, representing a variety of disciplines, ages, backgrounds, media, and more. BCS audiences will recognize many of the programs, as a variety of partner organizations and artists familiar to the company will participate. A series of Anchor Events highlights the deep-rooted connection that BCS has in the community, and features projects by Inky Cap Artist Co-Op, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, String Theory Theater, Black Arts District, Blaq Equity, BLK ASS FLEA MKT, Bakari Jones, Maya Camille, Darius Christian, and The Baltimore Slam Team

For one low price–$25 per day, or $40 for the weekend–patrons will be able to access dozens of events throughout the BCS space; all events are general admission and seated on a first come, first served basis. Guests can purchase passes by visiting Center Stage Baltimore.



With the opening of her business Buns and Roses Chimney Cakes, Adeirdra Campbell has made her childhood passion of baking into a full-time Baltimore business that’s gaining steam in both the online and Baltimore community. (Courtesy Photo)

Buns and Roses’ Chimney Cakes spark demand in Baltimore
by Shaela Foster
Published October 10 in The AFRO

Excerpt: From baking seven up cakes with her grandmother to discovering the intricate cuisine of chimney cakes, Adeirdra Campbell, owner of Buns and Roses Chimney Cakes, has transformed Baltimore’s baking scene.

Buns and Roses Chimney Cakes opened in the summer of 2023 in the Federal Hill, downtown Baltimore area and it’s been a hot commodity for lots of residents.

Baking has been Campbell’s passion since she was eight years old when she first started baking with her grandmother. The first cake she made was a seven up cake, her grandmother’s favorite. From there, it turned into something she did for herself periodically sharing it with friends and family. She says it was finally time for her to turn her passion into her purpose.



Header Image: Ghost Rivers visualization, Wyman Park Dell (artist Bruce Willen)

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