|Paul Moscatt in his studio, via website|
What do a bunch of artists holed up in an old, bottle-cap factory have to do with librarians holed up in the Special Collections Dept. of Langsdale?
More than you might think.
Let’s start by defining some of the players. First off: artists. We all have some idea of who and what they are, or believe we do. But chances are that unless you have a few artist friends, or are one yourself, there’s a pretty fair chance that the image you’ll picture is a variation on the mad characterture we have all been fed as Vincent van Gogh–maybe not as insane as he, not quite as famous, and maybe with a particular body part still attached. He is, for better or worse, the archetype for which no living artist emulates (the person, that is, not his work). And I can prove it, but give me a second.
To the second player: Special Collections. This rarefied land in Langsdale is a place for which most people have little awareness. Not even a cliche or stereotype comes to mind (am I right?). It may even be safe to assume that some, after having read the initial sentence, opened up a new tab in their browser and Googled ‘special collections?’ to see what exactly I’m talking about. I can tell you, that when I first began working at Langsdale as a student back in the sepia-tinted times of 2009, I didn’t even recognize most of the people who worked in SC, just a few floors above me, as working for the library. I thought that they were just people that were here a lot.
But that just as well could have been my own failing, and nothing to do with the department or those who worked in it. The truth is, our Special Collections Dept. does vital work, not just as a service to the university and its educational mission (though, it does that too), but to the Baltimore community as a whole, which is something in which they take a good deal of pride.
It would take me way too long to go through all the examples that make that latter statement true. So let me just give an example that will also neatly double back to the question that opened the article.
Over the past year (or so), Aiden Faust, archivist for digital collections, has been conducting interviews with the artists and activists living in the Cork Factory in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. From the project website:
Interviews cover a range of topics, including history of the Cork Factory building, development of the state’s first arts and entertainment district, the process of redevelopment and neighborhood change, as well as personal histories from artists and activists involved with the project.
This site includes portraits of interviewees and interview excerpts in both streaming audio and text. To date, the interviews have focused on the Cork Factory warehouse within the Station North district.
As a service to the community, and a historical record of what hopefully is a long experiment in the revitalization of a neglected section of Baltimore through the arts and the arts community, this collection of stories told by those individuals who live and work in that area, and who have seen the transition(s) (numerous as they are) will be invaluable to anyone interested in their local arts community, and for those looking to see the positive influence the arts can bring to Baltimore.
These artists and teachers and activists work hard at their craft and at improving the city in which they live and love. Even the shortest listen to their interview will prove at least that much. A far cry from the man in the yellow house who cut off his ear.