In the vibrant cultural social scene that grounds Baltimore’s arts community the Creative Alliance can always be relied upon to bring the party. One of the best soirees each year is the Residents’ Open House, an event that celebrates the artists living and working in the Creative Alliance Residency Program. Several of the current residents have almost completed their three year term, which meant that this Open House was the last opportunity to see their work in-studio. Artistic Director Jed Dodds notes that at least three studios will be vacant for the upcoming residency term and given the level of visibility and artistic support the program provides, not to mention a damn cool living space, any artist needing just the right place to bring their game to Baltimore should hurry up and apply. The deadline for applications is March 26.


As an avid art collector, the primary item on my own personal agenda was to get in those studios and see the works in progress. The Creative Alliance Residents did not disappoint. Here are some highlights from the evening.

Pamela Sunstrum is near the end of her residency and leaves with an impressive body of work to show for it. Her visual artwork conveys a sense of construction and texture coupled with overtones of mythology. Gold leaf combined with charcoal and paint invokes antiquity and otherworldliness. This contrasted with the stark modernity of her video installations on display, the most fascinating and shocking being an animation of the artist herself regurgitating and then eating a large mass of braided hair extensions. See for yourself.

Lauren Boilini will also be bidding farewell to the Creative Alliance. Her charcoal on canvas sketches have a Rorschach feel that was compelling and incorporated a blend of elements I hadn’t seen before. She also wins my award for community involvement while in residency; not only did she teach community art classes at the Patterson she also served as bartender in the main gallery. Community involvement indeed.

Francisco “Paco” Loza holds down the eye-popping, trippy fantasticalness position required by most reputable artist residency programs these days. His medium is Arte en Estambre, influenced by Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people people. Yarn and beads combined in colorful sculpted patterns covered the studio walls, and if admiring that wasn’t enough, one could then don 3D glasses and witness aspects of the art leap from their canvases. Judging from the crowds passing through the studio I wasn’t the only one gazing in fascination here.

Former resident artist Shodekeh and Ian Hesford pose in front of the images created for them by resident artist Erica Hansen for last year’s Embody: A Festival of the Vocal Arts. This work highlights the collaborative spirit that reaches across mediums for which Baltimore is known. In case you were wondering, and how could you not, the lungs pictured are actually Shodekeh’s though I don’t seem to recognize any of Ian’s organs in the images.

Relatively new resident, video and installation artist Brinson Renda, created the perfect studio for hosting a late night dance party after the show. The room was awash in an installation that invoked a 1980’s dreamscape. I can see her work blowing up in the current multimedia scene.

Newest resident, clocking in at a mere two months, Michael Owen was not present for the studio open house. You may recognize Owen’s work with the Baltimore Love Project or the mural on the Eastern Avenue underpass between Highlandtown and Greektown. His work was detailed but accessible, blending graphic precision with soft tones. I loved it. I would be happy to find space for this work on my walls.

The Residents’ Gallery at the Creative Alliance.

The Main Gallery at the Creative Alliance.

After meandering through the studios upstairs, it was on to the main gallery where artwork by resident Marty Weishaar and Philadelphia-based printmaker Serena Perrone provided the perfect backdrop to an acoustic first set by Future Islands. This was my first time checking out what, judging by the masses, is one of Baltimore’s most celebrated bands as of late.

I only have one word to describe Future Islands: Fantasticlectropopasplendiferousness. I’m not sure how else to describe a musical phenomenon that brings you back in time and forward in time simultaneously. Listening to this music, I could close my eyes and imagine Joy Division if Ian Curtis had not only lived but gotten on an antidepressant. The standing room only second set in the theater pulled me back to the eighties while kicking its ass mercilessly. During one anthemic moment during the electronic set, every grey hair left my head and I was once again Molly Ringwald. I wasn’t the only time traveler, either; I am fairly certain that there were at least 4 generations bobbing in unison to the high energy set. My only complaint is that I desperately wanted to purchase a CD and there was no one at the merch table. Fear not; I am 100% certain I will be joining the masses for another show soon, and if you have your head on straight you’ll join me.

Future Islands

Future Islands