Campy Keepers of the Flame
Fluid Movement Adds Spark to Baltimore's Performance Scene
By Jonathan Padget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2004; Page C05
Fire-twirling performers? Check.
Old prom dresses to be transformed into flamenco costumes? Check.
Huge Slip 'N Slide? Check.
Glitter -- lots of glitter? Big check.
It's three weeks until opening night, and Fluid Movement, Baltimore's community performance art group, is hard at work on its newest extravaganza. What will it do to top the likes of "Go-Go Pirate Show," its "Treasure Island" adaptation staged last year aboard the 19th-centuryUSS Constellation, or "1001 Freudian Nights: A Biography in Bellydance," or the roller-skating "Nessie on Wheels: The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster"?
The answer is "Earth, Wind and the Baltimore Fire," marking the centennial of one of Charm City's defining historical events. Yes, even civic disaster is ripe for Fluid Movement's brand of campy storytelling. Dozens of volunteer performers have been assembled to weave the facts of the 1904 conflagration into a movement-filled outdoor pageant -- think triumph of the citizenry against overwhelming odds -- replete with dazzling, over-the-top costumes, another Fluid Movement signature.
"People really love these shows," says director Sherri Chambers, stopping by to check on costumers toiling away at the organization's ramshackle studio in Southeast Baltimore near Patterson Park, the site of next month's performances. "And they really strengthen the community fabric."
Founding member Valarie Perez-Schere, barely pausing at her sewing machine, agrees: "It's neighborhood marketing in a way that nothing else is."
She adds that Fluid Movement, formed in 1998, has also been a catalyst for shoring up Baltimore's artistic fringe.
Chambers, who majored in performance art in college, says she was on the verge of relocating to New York before finding out about Fluid Movement and auditioning for "Go-Go Pirate Show." Working with the group, she says, helped her decide to put down long-term roots in Baltimore.
Nora Lockshin, a flamenco dancer and costumer for the latest show who commutes to a museum job in Washington, says she, too, has become more involved in Baltimore as a result of volunteering with Fluid Movement.
"It's completely fun," she says. "It's just no-holds-barred creativity."
Another flamenco dancer and costumer, Jane Shock Osborn, says Fluid Movement has proven to be the perfect antidote to the creative confines of her federal government career.
"When I work on these shows, I'm alive," she says. "Every neuron in my body is firing. There's hidden glitter in all of us."
Art on Call Unveiling
The first of the city's old fire and police sidewalk call boxes that have been converted into public art as part of the Art on Call initiative will be unveiled Saturday at a ceremony in Mount Pleasant, where neighborhood artist Michael K. Ross has installed his sculptures in nine refurbished boxes. His small-scale works convey scenes from Mount Pleasant history.
According to Cultural Tourism DC, which coordinates Art on Call, there are more than 35 neighborhood organizations working on art installations in 600 salvaged call boxes, used from the 1860s to the 1970s, until the city converted to a 911 emergency system.
Art Competition Winner
An exhibition of work by 20 semifinalists in the Fraser Gallery's eighth annual Georgetown International Fine Arts Competition opened Friday. Juror Kristen Hileman, an assistant curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, announced her selections for $950 in prize money at the opening reception.
Hileman, who evaluated more than 1,000 submissions by 184 artists, named Andrew Devlin of Fairfax best in show. In addition to receiving a $500 award, he'll be featured in a Fraser solo exhibition. Six runners-up and honorable mentions, including local artists Benjamin Ferry, Matthew Klos and Dan Randall, will have group exhibition opportunities with the gallery.
Earth, Wind and the Baltimore Fire, at Patterson Park, East Lombard Street and South Patterson Park Avenue, Baltimore. Aug. 5-7 at 8 p.m. $6. Call 443-742-4942 or visit www.fluidmovement.org.
Mount Pleasant Art on Call Ceremony, at Hobart and Mount Pleasant streets NW. Saturday at 11 a.m. Followed by walking tours starting at noon and an artist open house at 3163 18th St. NW, noon-6 p.m. Free. Call 202-661-7581 or visit www.culturaltourismdc.org.
Georgetown International Fine Arts Competition, at the Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW, through Aug. 18. Open Tuesday-Friday noon-3 p.m. and Saturday noon-6 p.m. Free. Call 202-298-6450 or visit www.thefrasergallery.com.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company