Blades of grass tickled the bare-feet of a couple sipping cold beer and reading paperback books as they lazily swung a porch-swing with their toes. It looked like a quintessential American summer evening, except that it was in the middle of Artscape.
At Woodstock, the cosmic clown Wavy Gravy provided the calm space where those affected by the notorious brown acid could chill out. Nineties festivals all had their own “chill-out” tents. These were made for people having bad times. But every festival should have such a space– a shelter from prescribed festivity– for people who are having good times. At two of our most recent festivals– Transmodern and this weekend’s Artscape– Marian April Glebes has played a big role in creating such spaces. At Transmodern, she, Fred Scharman, and C. Ryan Patterson created the spectacular “campcamp” space in the lot behind a building at the edge of the festival. There were food trucks and beer, a couple campfires, some performance art, a teepee, and an eight-foot tall picnic table. But the great thing about it was the lack of predetermined stuff going on. You didn’t have to focus on a performance. You could converse, relax, or do pretty much whatever else you wanted to do. All of the seriousness went into the construction of the space. Scharman, an architect, recalls “I looked at that project in the same way I would look at building a house. It was that kind of commitment.” But once the festival started the performance was done: it was all about the happy accident.
Glebes, who works for the D Center and Open City brought the same spirit to Artscape where she enlisted Scharman to help her create the “PS none” sodscape, a yard-like installation that includes a lawn that stretched from inside the garage across from the Charles Theater and out onto the sidewalk and the closed down street, with various sun-boxes, cold frames, plants, and sod-covered platforms.
“Most people just stop by to chill,” Glebes said. “But because everybody is selling something at Artscape, people keep asking us if we’re selling grass,” she said and laughed, shaking the wild tangle of hair piled atop her head. “I wanted to make something that was part of Artscape that was an interaction and not a spectacle.”
In graduate school at UMBC’s Glebes began to think about semi-public private spaces, specifically the front yard, in particular. At the 2008 Artscape she did her first public art project. “It liberated me from a process that was more studio based. It liberated me from what was more process-formed, and brought it into a network.” She has continued to push those ideas through her various projects and though she still sees “PS none” as a formal piece—”it’s about surface and texture,” she insists—it is also all about that public network.
Jessica Lewis, Anica Maggard, and Katie Duda
Inside the garage, the Free Store and the Free School (both associated with Red Emma’s) were both set up in the garage. The Free School hosted a variety of lectures and held a spectacular fundraiser Friday night with the brass band Vevertise. The band started up out on the street right after the fireworks. Immediately, the police showed up. Tiffany DeFoe, of the Free School, was quick to inform the uniforms that the band was about to march inside. When they did, a normally prosaic and lifeless structure intended for the temporary storage of automobiles thrummed with life. People circled around the band and started dancing. It was the young and hip people you might expect, mixed in with random festival-goers, and station north locals, all swooning in the echo of thumping and wailing horns enclosed in concrete. “That was the most beautiful moment of the weekend for me,” said Glebes. “My installation really served the party instead of getting in the way. People could stand up on the platforms and watch the band. It was great.”
Vevertise Brass Band
It was a highlight moment, but there were amazing things going on much of the time. In the front corner of the garage was a specially constructed arm-wrasslin’ table. In the back was a Ping-Pong table and an informational van for the Baltimore Hostel and Hosteling International; Grant Whipple, one of the most impressive painters in town (see my previous article about him here) was showing two new paintings. Dane Nestor was cooking up lamb-burgers, tomato caprese salads, and, best of all, North Carolina style pulled pork like you can rarely find this far north. “The pig came from Truck Patch farms not far at all away,” explained Nestor, who normally teaches art at Towson. “I love doing this. I’m not cut out to be a cook. But it’s been building up over the last couple years.” Of his work at the garage, Nestor said that he saw it as a kind of art. “It’s part catering gig, part-restaurant, and part food cart. I used to be really into the idea of food carts occupying the public street as a political idea. But now it has no political force because there are so many food trucks.”
And so, even the food—or the concept behind it—fit in perfectly as a part of Glebes gleeful commentary of the boundaries between the public and the private. “You don’t build a clubhouse to exclude people,” Glebes said. “But so other people will come play with you.”