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!

 

 

 

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The Color of Transformation

Posted on May 18th, 2017 by

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

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

Last month, Marvin and I attended that national conference of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in New Orleans. JMM is working on an original, national, traveling exhibition about the Scrap industry. Entitled Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, the exhibit is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, and we hope to send it on the road to four or more venues. (Regular readers of the JMM blog may remember reading about it here.)  Marvin and I were in New Orleans, along with our contract curator, Jill Vexler, working on collecting stories, canvassing for artifacts, and soliciting financial support.

As a total novice to the industry—I’m not even working directly on the exhibit, but was filling in for a colleague at the conference—I was fascinated by what I found on the exhibit floor at ISRI—but maybe not why you expect.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

I have been seeing images from scrap yards around the JMM office for months now. Most notably from the stunning photography of Board Member Jeff Katz, who provided images for our fundraising and marketing materials for the exhibition. Jeff’s photos are textural and gritty. They are also, at least as we ended up using them, black and white.

The exhibit hall at the ISRI conference in the New Orleans Convention Center was in living color.

An array of sunny equipment.

An array of sunny equipment.

As I wandered the floor, looking for swag to bring back to my 5-year-old daughter, I started to notice how brightly colored many of the pieces of sample equipment were.  There were a number of bright yellow items, which is to be expected, I suppose (my childhood toy crane was also a sunny yellow), but there were also bright orange machines and several blue sorters (that were so cool to see demonstrated).

And then I saw the pink one.

And then I saw the pink one.

And from there I started really paying attention. What goes into the manufacturers’ minds as they consider what color to make their equipment for the scrap yard? Some take a very utilitarian approach with dark gray equipment. That seems straightforward and expected. Tools of all sizes, even super huge ones, tend to be gray or silver or black. Why the bright colors? Why pink? I figured it was so that they were easily seen amidst the mountains of trash-colored scrap.

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

As I met more and more folks on the exhibit hall floor (we were something of an anomaly in an exhibit hall full of shredders and sorters and welders and other must-have technology for the modern scrap or recycling yard), and I told them the story of the exhibit again and again, something sunk in. The scrap industry and now the recycling industry is fundamentally a story of transformation. It is the story of transforming trash into raw materials even as it transformed unemployable immigrants into business-men and entrepreneurs.

I met several men and women who were in a third or fourth generation in the scrap business. They told me great stories of their grandfathers who built a livelihood out of what others considered trash.

And as I wandered the floor on the final day of the conference with these stories and the idea of transformation on my mind, I suddenly really appreciated the bright, look-at-me colors on the floor. These machines are not just tools. They are magical. They turn trash into raw material. That’s a remarkable thing.

Maybe the bright colors are practical—to make the super-expensive equipment highly visible. But to me, it’s more than that. Magical tools deserve magical colors. Colors that nature creates to showcase its beauty and the power are completely appropriate for machines that perform the transformation of matter.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood

Posted on May 12th, 2017 by

Have you seen our sign?

Have you seen our sign?

I admit that when I first applied to work for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I had no idea where “Jonestown” was. I wasn’t alone. Regular fans of JMM may remember the articles we saw in surrounding the unveiling of the Jonestown vision plan. Through the creation of that plan, we and our partners learned that many residents and business-owners in Jonestown didn’t know where Jonestown was. Not anymore.

Today, Jonestown (JMM’s neighborhood, bounded to the north by Orleans Street, the east by Central Ave, the west by Fallsway and the south by Pratt Street) is on the brink of a true renaissance.  This “Performance Counts” newsletter often regales you with numbers and metrics. This month, I am only thinking about one number: seven. It’s a number important in Jewish culture, and it happens to be the number, by my count, of significant improvements and developments—recent or forthcoming—in our changing neighborhood.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

1. I recently had the privilege to attend the official groundbreaking for the new Ronald McDonald House, which will have an Aisquith address, but will fill the much of the block between Fayette and Baltimore Streets a stone’s throw to our northeast. The groundbreaking was educational and emotional for me, as I learned with some heartache about the hope and care that RMHC provides for children suffering from serious illness and their families.

Check out that snazzy entrance!

Check out that snazzy entrance!

2. Just west of the soon-to-be RMHC on Fayette, you’ll find a huge brick structure, painted with jaunty gray diagonal color blocks. This facility, the newly-opened UA House of Living Classrooms, provides support, smiles, activities and an inviting and safe place before and after school for neighborhood children and youth.

3. Also on Fayette, the National Aquarium is working on renovating a 50,000 sq foot property that will serve as an animal care and rescue facility. We understand from our colleagues at the Aquarium that the new space will allow them to properly quarantine and care for animals, and that they do have plans to make it available to visitors on a limited basis.

Hendler Creamery Corporation

Hendler Creamery Corporation

4. A little closer to the Museum, on Baltimore Street, the long-vacant and historic Hendler Ice Cream factory is soon to be converted into both retail and luxury apartments. The developer’s plans include nearly 300 apartments, two floors of parking, and 20,000 square feet of retail. (We have heard through the grapevine that the developers are hoping to incorporate several café-style restaurants in the retail portion. Needless to say, JMM staff is excited!)

The McKim Center

The McKim Center

5. The McKim Center, the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s older sister, will soon be situated right between the new Hendler Creamery development and the new Ronald McDonald House. Its new neighbors, recognizing the historic, cultural and emotional impact of this community anchor, are each planning to help improve the center’s immediate surrounds, with RMHC creating a new park and playground as a part of its plans and the Hendler project adding a façade clean-up and repair of the 184-year-old building.

The JEA

The JEA

6. Speaking of old buildings with Jewish history, the Helping Up Mission recently acquired the former home of the Jewish Educational Alliance (the precursor of the JCC) at 1216 E. Baltimore Street. (My colleagues blogged about their recent visit there.) Helping Up Mission has big plans for the site, which they plan to use to expand their residential work therapy services so that they can help women as well as men.

Helping Up Mission

Helping Up Mission

7. Helping Up Mission, in addition to being our neighbor, is also our tenant. In the middle of last year, they rented 5 Lloyd Street from the JMM. Per our agreement, they’ve done considerable work on the property as a part of their rent. They have been such good tenants at 5 Lloyd Street, that when they expressed interest in the property we own on Lombard Street, formerly Lenny’s Deli, we were eager to listen. As of this month, and until the end of November, Helping Up is renting the Lenny’s property. They’re doing a lot of work on it this month, getting it ready for their needs—to serve as their cafeteria for the residents of the mission while their own kitchen facilities are completely renovated. We are currently reviewing our options for the use of the site past November.

So what about the Jewish Museum of Maryland amid these seven key changes in Jonestown? Fear not, dear reader, we have plans that will make you proud! We are refining a vision for our future that will create a Center for Discourse and Discovery at JMM – with a special focus on Holocaust/genocide education in the 21st century, reposition the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue as a landmark of religious liberty, and add improved program and exhibit space to our main museum building.

These are exciting times! I hope to see you around the Museum and in the neighborhood soon!

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

Jonestown: Proudly we hail.

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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