FOR A period of two years, writer Howard Norman, a highly regarded local novelist, several of whose books have themes related to the visual arts ("The Bird Artist," "The Museum Guard" and "The Haunting of L."), visited painter Madalyn Marcus's studio over a period of two years, documenting her art, which he calls "intellectual and sensuous" and full of "unmitigated melancholy."

"He basically kept her journal for her," says art dealer Sally Troyer, whose gallery will be exhibiting Marcus's work through Dec. 21. At the Thursday evening opening reception, Norman will give a gallery talk about his friend's creative process at Troyer Gallery, 1710 Connecticut Ave, NW (Metro: Dupont Circle). The reception is from 6 to 8. Norman speaks at 7. Call 202-328-7189.

SIDESHOW ART

Higher education was never this fun. One of the last remaining circus sideshows can be seen for a few more days at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Billing itself as "The World Famous Insanitarium!," the sideshow includes a sword swallower, comic juggler and a man who eats light bulbs.

The -- ahem -- academic research facility, located in Pearlstone Park at Cathedral and Preston streets, is open to the public Friday from 3 to 11 and Saturday and Sunday from noon to midnight. MICA students who have completed art projects in conjunction with the sideshow will also exhibit their work throughout the run. Admission is $2, with all ticket sales benefiting the American Dime Museum, which jointly organized the show. For information, contact MICA at 410-225-2300 or www.mica.edu or the American Dime Museum at 410-230-0263 or www.dimemuseum.com.

WIN AN EXHIBITION

On Sunday at 6:30, the DC Arts Center will raffle off a six-week exhibition to some lucky artist with $100 to burn (or a ten-spot if you pool your resources with nine of your friends). Tickets may be purchased Friday and Saturday from 2 to 10. After the drawing at 7:30, DCAC's free monthly art salon, Muse, will feature conversation about how to craft a career as an artist, with painter Jason Gubbiotti and George Hemphill, owner of Hemphill Fine Art in Georgetown. Call 202-462-7833.

-- Michael O'Sullivan