Sep 21 2012


“It is the craving for beauty that is such a vital function of the human soul…”
– Dr. Claribel Cone

It’s amazing how a little beauty injected into your day can lift your mood, calm your mind, and change your perspective. I saw the quote at the beginning of this post on a plaque a few weeks ago at the Baltimore Museum of Art in the space that showcases the Cone Collection. It’s clear from the collecting habits of the Cone sisters–they filled their Baltimore apartments with more than 3,000 pieces of art, including works by Picasso, Matisse, C├ęzanne, and van Gogh–that they gave into their craving for beauty on a regular basis, and I’m grateful they chose to share it with the world. An afternoon spent wandering the exhibits at any city museum is, of course, a great way to infuse your week with beauty, but art can also be found in unexpected places, as I learned today when I visited the Towson Arts Collective.

Within walking distance from my house and just a couple of blocks away from my favorite bagel shop, this little art space offers a gallery for art exhibits, drawing and painting classes, and studio space that can be rented by independent artists. I decided to stop in, and I was in luck, because it was the last day of the exhibit Drawing Today, which showcases drawings from twenty local artists.

Each artist had a different style, a different expression of feeling, and I found myself smiling as I wandered through the space, forgetting the stress of my work week. Whenever I go to a small gallery like this, or to a reading or open mic event, I marvel that there are so many talented people in my community, people who probably all have day jobs doing something entirely ordinary and practical. Yet they still take the time to use their creativity to put some beauty into the world.

Those who do the creating may see it as filling their own needs, and, as a writer, I know how therapeutic the creative process can be. At times, it feels completely self-indulgent. But when the result is put out into the world–even in a small way–it becomes a gift for others to enjoy.

So, while I know large museums are essential to the cultural landscape of any community, I’m also thankful for the smaller arts organizations, like the Towson Arts Collective, that bring beauty a bit closer to home.

The next exhibit at Towson Arts Collective, Things that Glow in the Dark, opens with a reception on October 5 and runs through October 27.

Sep 1 2012

Pursuing Poe in Baltimore

High on the list of things I love about Baltimore: the city’s connection to Edgar Allan Poe.

I developed an affection for Poe’s writing as a teenager, when I competed in the poetry category on my high school’s speech and debate team with a collection of his poems: “Annabel Lee,” “A Dream Within a Dream,” and “The Raven.” I was drawn to the dark themes in his work, and I found the rhythm of his words spellbinding, particularly when read aloud.

Poe lived in Baltimore for a time and is believed to have written several works here. Although he moved to Richmond in 1835, he later returned and died at the Washington University Hospital of Baltimore, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, in 1849. While the Poe-Baltimore connection is most readily seen in the name and mascots of The Ravens, there are other tributes to the writer throughout the city.


The Poe House & Museum

You can have a fun, Poe-themed afternoon by starting with a visit to The Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum, Poe’s home in the early 1830s. This modest brick row home on Amity Street holds artifacts from Poe’s life, newspaper clippings and photographs related to Poe, and a set of framed illustrations of “The Raven” by Gustave Dore. The house has only five rooms, and peering into the tiny attic bedroom, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for a man with such a great imagination to inhabit such a cramped space. Visitors can take a self-guided tour, and the staff asks for a small donation upon entering.

After visiting the house where Poe lived, take a short drive to Westminster Burying Grounds to see Poe’s grave. The large, marble grave marker is just inside the iron gates, and, on the ordinary Saturday was there, I was touched to see it decorated with red roses and coins left by other visitors. The cemetery also has a marker at Poe’s original burial site, so be sure to wander through the tombstones until you find it.

Poe's grave at Westminster Burying Grounds

The perfect ending to this Poe-themed pilgrimage is a trip to Annabel Lee Tavern in the Canton neighborhood. This cozy restaurant and bar is a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, from the quotes and raven silhouettes on the white brick exterior to the portrait above the fireplace inside.

Inside Annabel Lee Tavern

Rumor has it The Poe House will be undergoing some changes in the near future, so plan your visit soon. And next month, on the anniversary of Poe’s death, October 7, The Poe House and the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore will hold a series of events to commemorate the writer, including a tribute ceremony and eulogies at his grave in Westminster Burying Grounds, the 90th Commemorative Edgar Allan Poe Lecture at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and a performance at Annabel Lee Tavern.