on art parties

CH: And we had parties. We have had wonderful, wonderful art parties in our building. I don’t know if you have heard about those from other people. We’ve done three monumental parties. And I call them “art parties” because they involve more than just a party.

Like, one party was the high school party, and it came about because I never got to be prom queen. Of course, in high school, I was far from ever being the prom queen. But I always sort of wanted to be the prom queen. So I decided, why couldn’t we just have a high school party? Because there are other people probably who wanted to be the star quarterback of the football team or whatever, or the head of the yearbook or something. “Why don’t we have a high school party and then we can all live out our aspirations?” So everybody—well, Kate [Thomas] and Bob [Levine], in particular—were our cohorts, and sometimes Nancy and Lou [Linden]. And they said, “Yeah, yeah! It sounds like a good idea.”

So then we got other people in. But then the party just kind of morphs into a really big, big party. Because we began to think about how real we wanted it to be. We got somebody to be a nun, for those of our friends who went to Catholic school. And we installed a nun in there. And then we rig up a PA system so that we can talk to people and make announcements. We began thinking about the things from high school that we remembered. The surly cafeteria lady that used to slop your peas! So we bought these big things of canned peas, and my sister-in-law was the surly cafeteria woman. And then we made people go through the cafeteria line, and we literally sloped stuff on their [plates]. And the part that was amazing was that our friends actually ate it!

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on teaching art locally

CH: Dennis and I are political activists, too. We have both have been activists all our lives. So we wanted to get very involved in our neighborhood. And the first thing we did was we went over… There was school across the way from us—now a Montessori public school—but it had been called Mildred Monroe [School #32, Mildred D. Monroe Elementary School]. It was a public school. It was named after a janitor. One of the few, if not only, schools in Maryland, and maybe the country, I don’t know, named after a janitor.

We found out that they didn’t have an art teacher at the school. And we were horrified. We couldn’t imagine, either one of us, having gotten through school without art. So we decided to volunteer our time and to become the art teacher for Mildred Monroe on Fridays. We could only… You know, we had to do some real work, to make ends meet. So we picked Friday, and we became the art teachers for the kids at Mildred Monroe. And that was a wonderful entry into the community, because we’d meet all the kids, and then you’d meet their families and stuff.

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on a new era in the cork

AZ: After Sal moved out, and Sal had taken me to Italy five times during the years that I worked here in the Cork Factory as his assistant. I mean, my God, the time that he was burning tires in here and we were pushing black smoke out into the atmosphere, and the fire department showed up and they were really furious with Sal. At times he would mix all kinds of strange chemicals. Incredible stories about some of those things. He was a maniac; larger than life. Something almost mythical and very gregarious, outspoken and just an amazing human being. He was my primary mentor and a huge influence on generations of artists that came through MICA. So when he was here, this was quite the place. After he moved out and up to Pennsylvania to the place he had there, and into New York, back again. He’d been in New York, but he returned to New York. He kept a duality of places.

I had the extraordinary opportunity with the other artists in the building to buy the building from Weant Press. It was a whole new era.

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on joining the cork factory

NL: My first exposure here was probably coming to a party. Logan Hicks used to have the whole floor above us, and he would have enormous parties and art shows. At some point, I came to one, and it was dark and dramatic out on the street. It was this lighted place on this really dark street. In the old days, the street was a bit hazardous. And then I had a friend who had a studio on the 5th floor, and I’d to go to his parties occasionally. And a bunch of us… Well, I don’t know how lengthy you want to get into all of this.

In 1998, I guess, when Maryland Art Place was just moving out of their old space on Saratoga [Street], a friend and I were stuffing envelopes to help out, I’m not even sure what. But Peter Bruin, who was then on the board of MAP, was working with us and saying, “By the way, there is one show left and they are looking for somebody to just do something in their building before they leave it.” Janet and I said, “Well, we can do something.” So we got a hold of a bunch of other friends and it kind of evolved. There were nine of us. And it was this big installation thing that we all did. We’d get together and talk and talk and talk. And then we’d each go home and make plans and come back together again and talk and talk and talk. It was quite exciting, really. And then we installed it there.

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on the baltimore bike party

DH: Last night I was in here, and one of the trains whistled as it was leaving the station down here. That is so lovely. I mean, that’s right there, and  Penn Station’s out the window, and the activity!

I stuck my head out here the other night. I was watching a movie on the computer. All of a sudden, I heard this commotion out on the streets, which isn’t unusual, because there’s noise out here sometimes. But it’s like these people shouting real loud and boisterously. So I went to the window, and coming up Guilford Avenue, filling Guilford Avenue on both sides, are bicycles. There was evidently this bicycle fete [Baltimore Bike Party] that happened at night, because it was 9:30, quarter-to-ten.

The whole avenue was filled with bicycles going north. That flood of bikes continued for about twenty-five minutes. I stuck my head out the window and just watched.

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