Yesterday was the annual Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival. This is a great one-day event in the heart of the Highlandtown neighborhood, usually in mid-June but it was a little early this year. Part of it is out on the street and part inside the historic Patterson Theater which is now an arts center.
Well, anyhow, in the afternoon my good friend and colleague Elaine Eff and a young and enthusiastic representative from the Highlandtown Business Association (Amanda, I never caught your last name, sorry) led a tour of the painted screens of the neighborhood. What, you never heard of a painted screen? Well, luckily, Elaine has written the definitive book on the subject, so you are in luck. But, for more immediate gratification than waiting for your amazon.com order to show up, you can check out some information on the Painted Screen Society’s website. You can even learn how to create your own painted screen at one of their workshops.
I love the idea of being able to look out of the front window of your Baltimore row house, which is virtually right above the sidewalk, and being able to see out while no one walking by can see in. It is like reverse voyeurism. The screens traditionally depicted a bucolic scene complete with mountains, a lake, a swan or two, and a rural mill or cabin. In other words, like nothing you would ever see on the landscape of Baltimore. Nowadays, nouveau screens are being painted with actual Baltimore scenes as well as abstract art and whatever else the painter and/or patron wishes. A great tradition finding new life.
Here are a few we saw on our tour.