SEE AMERICA: The Lloyd Street Synagogue

Posted on June 16th, 2017 by

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Marvin sometimes describes the Lloyd Street Synagogue as the Museum’s single most important “artifact.” It is the reason the Museum exists, since saving the building was the impetus for the founding of the Jewish Historical Society, the precursor to JMM. It is the reason we have a Lloyd Street address. It is one of the oldest physical anchors of the Jewish community in Maryland.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue before its exterior facelift to its present, historically accurate shade of pink!

The Lloyd Street Synagogue before its exterior facelift to its present, historically accurate shade of pink!

About a year ago now, my colleagues and I decided that we wanted our members, visitors and friends to better appreciate our architectural gem. We appointed a champion for the synagogue, a staff member advocate tasked with encouraging the rest of us to think about ways to incorporate the building into our day-to-day operations and conversations.

In the fall, we decided to give the old girl a little bit of a makeover, investing in new carpeting for the aisle, deep cleaning for the pew cushions, and a fresh coat of paint on the bima.

In February, with all of this as a backdrop, I had a lightbulb moment. I was in New York City, walking the floor of the Jacob Javitz convention center for the annual wholesale gift show, when I came to the booth of a vendor who specializes in creating merchandise for Museum Stores. Among their offerings that day, they had reproductions of the National Park Service’s iconic travel posters of the 1930s and 40s. I smiled as I flipped through the images, thinking of my own poster of Glacier National Park, purchased on a visit to Montana in the 1990s.

The inspiration that hangs as a part of my ofice decor.

The inspiration!

And then the lightbulb: what if I developed a poster of the Lloyd Street Synagogue in the style of those old silkscreens?

The wheels were turning overtime. I envisioned the pinks and blues of the graphic image, and some accompanying language that would express the importance of the building as a symbol of religious freedom in Maryland and in America.

Back in Baltimore, Joanna helped me scour the collections for the right photographs to use as models, and then I reached out to the vendor I’d met to get their help developing the art.

They would be happy to help me develop the artwork, for a small fee.

I hesitated. Who would own the intellectual property rights? How much would it cost? Was it worth it?

I picked up the phone. I called Esha Jannsens-Sannon, Creative Director at the Associated. She does (or oversees) the graphic design on all of the marketing work that comes out of the JMM. I explained my idea to her and asked if it was something she thought she could do and whether she’d want to.

Boy did she.

Later that day I got a call from Esha, “Darn you,” she said, “I’m so excited about this project, I can’t work on anything else!”

The first version of our design.

The first version of our design.

For the next several weeks and into months, she and I iterated this idea through version after version. My JMM colleagues watched the growing pile of versions with amusement at my wild ideas.

At some point I had a second lightbulb, and realized that the headline should mimic some of the Park Service’s posters, and invite the viewer to “See America,” after all, part of the point that I wanted to make about the LSS is its historical significance.

I wrote a brief explanation of how the synagogue serves as a symbol, working and re-working it with my colleagues’ input:

The Baltimore Jewish community built its first synagogue in 1845. Made possible by the 1826 Maryland Jew Bill, the building stands as a reminder that the thread of religious freedom is woven into the fabric of the city, the state, and the United States.

Esha patiently pulled the whole thing together through each of my new ideas and tweaks, at one point adjusting color and text placement as I stood behind her at the computer.

As Esha and I discussed how large I should have the poster printed, Esha said “you know what I would love to see? Let’s do a silkscreen.” I was instantly sold. The posters we’d modeled were silkscreens. It’s an old and a beautiful printing process, and so appropriate for our image, and so we started seeking a partner to print it.

A happy staff with our beautiful new banner!

A happy staff with our beautiful new banner!

Once we had a final draft that we were both happy with, my colleagues were no longer tolerating my wild ideas. They were excited about what we’d created. Really excited. As a team, we decided that the image was a powerful one, and one we wanted to promote. We had a banner made based upon the imager for use at the JCC block party and other community events. We used the image on the cover of our program for the Annual Meeting, and we’ll be using it on the cover of our forthcoming Annual Report.

The Limited Edition Silk Screen Poster

The Limited Edition Silk Screen Poster

Ready to be the first on your block to own this meaningful and beautiful poster? After a slightly disappointing false start, the 18” x 24” silkscreen posters will be available at Esther’s Place the week of June 19!

 

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Peek Inside Hutzler’s

Posted on May 19th, 2017 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Hutzler Brothers Palace, 2001.  JMM 2001.68.8

Hutzler Brothers Palace, 2001. JMM 2001.68.8

In my nearly 17 years working at the JMM, one of the most beloved exhibits I can recall is Enterprising Emporiums: Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore.

Enterprising Emporiums

Enterprising Emporiums

During its run, we saw record-breaking crowds of Jewish and non-Jewish visitors who fondly recalled their treasured memories of getting dressed up and taking the streetcar downtown for a day of shopping, eating and socializing with friends. As part of the programming for the exhibit, we developed a walking tour of Howard and Lexington Streets where the grand stores – Hutlzer’s, Hochschild Kohn’s and Hecht’s – once stood, led by a costumed living history character portraying Ella Gutman Hutzler, wife and daughter of department store royalty. But until a few weeks ago, I never had the opportunity to go inside to see what remained of these fabled stores.

As part of its mission to commission site-specific work within unusual places, Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum recently opened an exhibit inside Hutzler’s.  For this project, the museum commissioned artist Michael Jones McKean who created The Ground, a huge installation that takes up much of the former department store’s ground level just inside its Howard Street entrance.

The Ground

The Ground

The exhibit takes inspiration from Hutzler’s history through tableaux that mimic department store displays with unusual twists.

heads

heads

All in white

All in white

Today, the building houses a vast internet network and McKean’s work also takes the building’s current use into account through environmental displays that connect past, present and future.

the cave

the cave

Sadly, with the exception of columns that reached from floor to ceiling, it was difficult to imagine Hutzler’s heyday from the vast open space but The Contemporary’s exhibit provides a welcome opportunity for visitors to reconnect with our city’s rich heritage.

The JMM even got a shout out in the credit panel!

The JMM even got a shout out in the credit panel!

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Matisse, Diebenkorn, Church, and Kassman

Posted on January 12th, 2017 by

Enjoy our jaunty shot of the exhibit title!

Enjoy our jaunty shot of the exhibit title!

Last week, thanks to tickets through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Rachel and Joanna visited the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibit “Matisse/Diebenkorn,” which brings together the work of these two artists, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn, for the first time.  As always when museum professionals visit other museums’ exhibits, we had Thoughts.

Alas, no photographs allowed in the exhibition.

Alas, no photographs allowed in the exhibition.

Joanna:

I’m not an art historian by any means, but I did take a few classes in college – just enough knowledge to make me dangerous.  For one thing, I thought I knew Diebenkorn’s work, but the first gallery showing his early abstract work confused me; thus my very first Thought was, ‘Oops, I was picturing someone else.’ Pro-tip: look at the exhibit website before visiting, instead of just thinking you know what’s going on.  The BMA’s helpful list of things to know includes “[Diebenkorn] moved between abstraction and figuration,” which would been useful if I’d read it ahead of time.  Thankfully for my ego, the third gallery included works that were more familiar.

I used to have a print of this painting hanging in my kitchen. I know art exhibits should not always be about familiarity and recognition, but it is still a pleasant feeling. Cityscape #1 (1963) via SFMOMA.

Rachel:

Having no background in art history, I tend to find the labels at art exhibitions a little too concise, containing little more than title, date, artist, and who owns the piece now. I was thrilled to find that BMA Senior Curator of European Paintings & Sculpture Katy Rothkopf, who curated the Baltimore-occurrence of this show chose to use meaty labels, often including contextual details about the techniques used, the artists’ lives during the period of the piece’s creation, and particularly helpful explanations of how one piece could have been inspired by another.

A perfect example – Joanna and I loved the label for Matisse’s Reclining nude with arm behind head (1937) which included a reference to a “stumping” and was immediately followed by an explanation of the technique and what it does for the piece!

Thank goodness for the internet - and wikiArt! Here's Chabot Valley (1955) and Corsican Landscape (1898), two of the images paired in the exhibit.

Thank goodness for the internet – and wikiArt! Here’s Chabot Valley (1955) and Corsican Landscape (1898), two of the images paired in the exhibit.

 

Joanna:

I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of books from Diebenkorn’s own library, all focused on Matisse’s work. Not only did this help strengthen the exhibit’s argument – that Matisse was a heavy influence on Diebenkorn – but it also showed a willingness to break out of the traditional “art, and art only” style of exhibition and include supporting artifacts and documents, a willingness which I think many art museums have recently embraced.

Rachel:

I agree with Joanna! Including material beyond the artworks themselves really rounds out the experience for me. I would urge all art curators to go even further if possible – I love when there are multiple photos of the artist at work, images of the artist’s workspaces, even cases with their tools.

 

Joanna:

The BMA offered audio guides, which (at least when we were there) nearly every guest accepted.  I am not personally a fan, though I know many people very much enjoy them, and they can be a useful tool for conveying additional information without overloading the walls with text.  But one reason I don’t like them is that they discourage conversation. This type of exhibit, with labels asking visitors to actively look at each image and compare them to others in the gallery, seems particularly well-suited to dialogue… but everyone is just listening to their headsets.  Rachel and I did not have headsets so we felt free to discuss (quietly, don’t worry), and I think that enhanced our experience. I did see at least one other pair of women braving the isolation of the headphones to talk about what they saw, which made me happy – especially because one of the women said to the other, as if continuing an earlier “Hmm, I’m not so into these” conversation, “Well, I would take a Diebenkorn if someone gave it to me.”  Me too!

Rachel:

I will say that having everyone else in the gallery wearing headphones made me much more comfortable voicing all my thoughts and opinions to Joanna! I’m often worried about disturbing other visitors or making anyone feel judged (we don’t have to like the same art, after all), so on a (very) personal level the popularity of the audio tour worked out great for me. But I also know I would have enjoyed the experience much less without the ability to turn to Joanna and discuss.

If you’re hoping to see the exhibit yourself, make plans to go soon – the show closes on January 29th!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »