A New Year For the Mount Vernon Cultural District

February, 2014

Dear Reader,

It’s easy to see why Mount Vernon is considered to be the cultural heart of Baltimore. The riches of our Mount Vernon Cultural District are scattered throughout one of the most beautiful urban areas in the nation. The sheer abundance of world-class attractions within the boundaries of our neighborhood makes it a must-see place for any resident or tourist.

Since the founding of the Peabody Institute in 1857, Mount Vernon has enjoyed a continuing association with the arts. Whether you’re new to the area, or you’ve lived here your whole life, make sure you take time to see what’s going on at our Mount Vernon Cultural District member institutions – you’re in for a treat!

I would like to introduce you to our 2014 Mount Vernon Cultural District members:

Our 2014 Members


Baltimore Basilica
409 Cathedral Street | Phone: 410-727-3565 | Website


Baltimore Basilica
Courtesy Baltimore Basilica

Also known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Baltimore Basilica was built from 1806-1821, making it the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in America.

Closed from April 2004 until November 2006, the Basilica underwent a major restoration to return the church to its original design, as envisioned by America’s first bishop, John Carroll, and as planned by renowned architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Within the first year of reopening, over 200,000 visitors were welcomed from all over the world, to walk through history, participate in faith, and admire the Basilica’s stunning architecture.

The Basilica offers educational tours daily as well as hosts uplifting concerts and informative lectures. Its Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden is one of the treasured few green spaces in downtown Baltimore.


Center Stage
700 North Calvert Street | Phone: 410-332-0033 | Website


Center Stage
Courtesy Center Stage

Under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), Center Stage is an artistically driven institution committed to engaging, entertaining, and enriching audiences of today and tomorrow through joyous and bold performance. The professional, nonprofit theater company is dedicated to the creation and presentation of a dynamic and diverse array of new and classic work, and each year hosts an audience of more than 100,000 in its historic home in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. With its signature focus on civic and community engagement, Center Stage, The State Theater of Maryland, enters its second 50 years with a commitment to exploring how art and entertainment communicate in the 21st century, and to igniting conversation in Baltimore and beyond.


Enoch Pratt Free Library
400 Cathedral Street | Phone: 410-396-5430 | Website


Enoch Pratt

The Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest free public library systems in the United States. In January of 1882, Mr. Enoch Pratt offered a gift to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore of a Central library, four branch libraries, and an endowment of $833,333.33. “My library,” said Mr. Pratt, “shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color, who, when properly accredited, can take out the books if they will handle them carefully and return them.” This central library, which opened in 1886, was located on Mulberry Street. The Cathedral Street building opened in 1933. The Pratt’s Mission: To provide equal access to information and services that support, empower, and enrich all who pursue knowledge, education, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning.


The Garrett Jacobs Mansion
and Engineers’ Club
11 West Mt. Vernon Place | Phone: 410-539-6914 | Website


Garrett Jacobs
Courtesy Garrett Jacobs Mansion

Located on West Mt. Vernon Place, the Mansion is a jewel in the crown of Baltimore’s most distinctive historic homes.

A unique example of a building that combines the work of two of America’s most distinguished and influential architects: Stanford White and John Russell Pope, the mansion epitomizes nineteenth century Golden Age elegance and grandeur.

The Mansion’s owner, Mrs. Henry Barton Jacobs, was the social arbiter of Baltimore for many years and entertained in a truly regal manner, said to have been unequalled by any Baltimore hostess. Following her death in 1936, the Mansion was willed to Dr. Jacobs for life. After his death in 1939, the Mansion had several owners until 1961, when The Engineer’s Club leased the building from the city, which had planned to destroy the building as part of an urban renewal and expansion project. In 1962, the Club began a dedicated effort to preserve and maintain the historic structure. In 1992, a charitable 501(c)(3) foundation was established to ensure the future of this unique landmark.


Maryland Historical Society
201 W. Monument Street | Phone 410-685-3750 | Website



The Maryland Historical Society is your starting place for exploring the people, places and events that shaped Maryland’s past. Founded in 1844, its mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner.


The Maryland Humanities Council
108 West Centre Street | Phone: 410-685-0095 | Website


Maryland Humanities Council

The Maryland Humanities Council is a non-profit educational organization that stimulates and promotes informed dialogue and civic engagement on issues critical to Marylanders. The Council encourages public dialogue that interprets the human experience, promotes cross-cultural understanding, explores human values, strengthens our community, and connects us to the wider world. The public humanities programs, both staff-initiated and grant-supported, help provide a bridge between the academic community and the general public.


Peabody Institute and
George Peabody Library
1 East Mt. Vernon Place | Phone: 410-659-8100 | Website


Peabody Library

Image by Matthew Petroff

The Peabody Institute was America’s first music academy, and founded in 1857 by George Peabody, who is considered by many to be America’s first philanthropist. As part of one of the nation’s leading universities, Johns Hopkins, the Peabody Institute trains musicians and dancers of every level, from small children to seasoned professionals. Each year, Peabody stages more than 150 major concerts and performances, ranging from classical to contemporary to jazz, many of them free. The George Peabody Library is a remarkable research library housed in an outstanding building that is a showcase of 19th Century architecture. Dating from the founding of the Peabody Institute, over 300,000 volumes are housed, largely from the 18th and 19th centuries.


Spotlighters Theatre
817 St. Paul Street | Phone: 410-752-1225 | Website


Maryland Humanities Council

The Audrey Herman SPOTLIGHTERS has been a part of the Baltimore Theatre Community since 1962. The theatre flourished under the leadership and artistic vision of Audrey Herman; her program of presenting a new show every month allowed for a wide variety of productions and many opportunities for directors, designers and actors to experience SPOTLIGHTERS’ intimate setting.

Following Audrey’s death in 1999, the theatre began its transition into a Maryland Public Charity, a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Today, SPOTLIGHTERS Theatre seeks to continue Audrey’s vision of providing a variety of quality theatre and many opportunities for new artists to develop and refine their skills. SPOTLIGHTERS also continues to offer opportunities to new directors, designers and actors to test their skills in our intimate space.


The Walters Art Museum
600 North Charles Street | Phone: 410-547-9000 | Website


Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum is internationally renowned for its collection of art, which was amassed substantially by two men, William and Henry Walters, and eventually bequeathed to the City of Baltimore. The collection presents an overview of world art from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe, and counts among its many treasures Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi; medieval ivories and Old Master paintings; Art Deco jewelry and 19th-century European and American masterpieces.

We’re proud of all of our 2014 Members, and we encourage all of the arts and cultural organizations in the area to join our Mount Vernon Cultural District today!

What’s Included In Your Mount Vernon Cultural District Membership?

As a member of our Mount Vernon Cultural District, you have the opportunity to reach thousands of area residents, employees and tourists through promotion in our monthly Mount Vernon Newsletter
You’ll also be able to send out discounts and special offers to our readers.
And, for the very first time, our members are uniting together to create a multi-channel marketing campaign for our Mount Vernon neighborhood. Imagine seeing your name in ads in The Baltimore Sun, City Paper, on television and radio – with the cost offset by generous contributions from area corporate sponsors!
We’re also working hard with city officials to offer our members special perks that will allow them to participate in landmark events like Flowermart, the Baltimore Book Festival and the Monument Lighting, at reduced rates.
So what are you waiting for? Schedule a membership appointment with me today!



A Special Note for Our
Restaurants & Small Businesses


Free Design File

If you are a small business or restaurant in the Mount Vernon area – stay tuned!

We invite your participation in our Mount Vernon Cultural District, and we’re looking forward to unveiling a special tier of membership just for you in 2014.

I will be in touch with you with all of the fabulous details in the spring.


‘Round The Neighborhood: The Washington Monument Restoration Begins


Washington Monument
Courtesy Wikipedia

The restoration of the monument has begun! As soon as the holiday lights were taken down, scaffolding went up around the Washington Monument. The $5.5 million project will entail masonry conservation and restoration of the monument’s original cast iron fence, mechanical systems, and interior finishes.

The Washington Monument was designed by architect Robert Mills and built between 1815-1829. Over one hundred and seventy-five feet tall, repairs were made to fix the basement, and clean and repoint the George Washington statue in 1982. The monument also underwent renovations for lead abatement in 1992.

Lewis Contractors, based in Owings Mills, MD, was selected to lead the current restoration. The company was responsible for restoring over a dozen landmarks in Baltimore, including the Baltimore Basilica and the Everyman Theatre.

Detail of Washington Monument
A detailed view of marble on the exterior of the Washington Monument that has started to deteriorate. – The Baltimore Sun

According to Lance Humphries, chairman of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy restoration committee, it should take 13-16 months for the Washington Monument restoration to be completed. The Mount Vernon Place Conservancy hopes that the Monument will be open to the public around the time of its bicentennial in July, 2015.

You can read Humphries’ complete interview with the Maryland Historical Society, which includes fascinating historical images of the monument, on the Historical Society’s Underbelly blog by clicking here.

The Baltimore Sun has also been reporting on the restoration project, and in October, it published a fascinating slideshow featuring Humphries as he brought readers on a rarely seen tour inside the monument.

You can view the slideshow here.

What does the restoration project mean for Mount Vernon?

We learned from our friends at WTMD Radio that the scale of the project has caused them to move the 2014 First Thursdays concert series. WTMD is looking at the waterfront in Canton as an alternative venue. After meeting with WTMD, we have learned that they are hoping to return to Mount Vernon for the 2015 season.

Although the restoration will affect the First Thursday concerts, as of now, none of the other festivals in Mount Vernon appear to be affected. According to The Baltimore Sun, the annual Monument Lighting should continue through the renovations.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress from our friends at the Mt Vernon Conservancy, and we can’t wait to see the results!


What’s Happening Around Mount Vernon

For this month’s installment of the fun events at our Member organizations, check out our website.


Trivia Time!

Alright, you trivia buffs. This month’s question is a doozy: What was the original color of the fence surrounding the Washington Monument?

The answer can be found within one of the links of this month’s newsletter.

Email me your answer, and you could win a prize!


Laura Rodini
Executive Director, The Mount Vernon Cultural District

The Mount Vernon Cultural District Is Proud Partner of Visit Baltimore

Tis The Season

December, 2013                                                                                    Volume 1, Issue 3

Dear Reader, 

The holiday season is always a special time in Mount Vernon. The days are crisp, the nights are long, and there’s a certain something magical in the air.

It could be all of the fantastic things we have happening in December, from the Monument Lighting to our many cultural events. Make sure you have your calendars handy – here is a short list of some of the very best:

Celebrate ‘A Civil War Christmas’ at Center Stage!


From November 19-December 22, check out A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration at Center Stage. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel spins a musical tale of hope and forgiveness. It’s a bitterly cold Christmas Eve in 1864 and all along the Potomac, from the White House to the battlefields, friends and foes alike find their lives strangely and poetically intertwined. Weaving together traditional carols and period folk songs, this “beautifully stitched tapestry of American lives” (The New York Times) is sure to become a new holiday classic for the entire family. Performances run Tuesday through Sunday, and tickets start at $19.For tickets and more info, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org.

Center Stage is located at 700 N. Calvert Street in Baltimore, MD.

Dine, Dish & Discover With The Maryland Humanities Council!


The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) invites you to DINE, DISH & DISCOVER! This special evening of history and home cooking features food writer and critic Richard Gorelick and Chef Irene Smith on December 3, 2013 from 6:00-8:30pm at The Woman’s Industrial Kitchen at the Women’s Exchange, located at 333 North Charles Street in Baltimore.

Guests will sample and savor 13 different Maryland dishes – one for each decade that the Exchange has been changing lives in their historic Charles Street home – including Eastern Shore chicken, Senator Barbara Mikulski’s crab cakes, and their legendary tomato aspic. Event goers will also learn about the Exchange’s storied history and the pivotal role the dining room played in it from Chef Irene Smith.

Smith, who is also the owner of popular Souper Freaks food truck, reopened the restaurant as Woman’s Industrial Kitchen in fall 2011, with support raised via the crowd-sourcing site, Kickstarter.

“There is history and tradition imbued in the dishes we prepare for our meals. Food nourishes us physically, but also emotionally and spiritually,” says Smith. “I love sharing the history of the Exchange through my cooking and storytelling. And I’m excited to see what recipes passed down through the generations will be brought.” Attendees are encouraged to bring one family recipe with them; they will be gathered then sent to guests in time for holiday cooking.

MHC Board Members Heather Sarkissian and Yolanda Vazquez will co-host the event. Sarkissian co-founded BmoreSmart, Betascape, Tech Crawl East, and FOOD = ART, while Vazquez is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist with Maryland Public Television. Complimentary beer will be provided by Union Craft Brewing. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at (410) 685-4183 or http://tinyurl.com/pq6gtn7.

“Sometimes people are a little fuzzy on what the humanities are or how they play a role in our daily lives. Dine, Dish & Discover is a great opportunity for the Maryland Humanities Council to demonstrate how central they are – informing even the most basic of acts – while enjoying a wonderful communal meal,” notes Sarkissian. “We think this intersection of food and history is a rich one. We are excited to bring a new circle of people together for this special event.”

For complete event details, and a sneak peek at their tasty menu, click here.

The Maryland Humanities Council is located at 108 W Centre St in Baltimore. Phone: 410-685-0095.

Celebrate The Monument Lighting in Mount Vernon!

Monument Lighting 
Darkroom @ The Baltimore Sun

On Thursday, December 5, the 42nd Annual Monument Lighting takes place from 5:30 pm-8 pm.

It’s the official kick-off to the holiday season in Baltimore, and we have extra reason to party this year. Engineers have been checking out every nook and cranny of our famous monument in preparation for its restoration in January.

And soon, the monument – which has been closed since 2010 – will once again be open to visitors.

So we have a lot to celebrate!  Enjoy holiday entertainment from Morgan State’s Choir and Baltimore School for the Arts, a visit from Santa Claus, and 30 food and community vendors in Mount Vernon’s West Park. At 7:45pm the fireworks finale will light up all of Downtown.

Our friends at Downtown Partnership are hosting this spectacular event, and they’re also featuring a ‘Shop and Stroll’ on Charles Street before and after the Lighting. You’ll be able to enjoy discounts and special extended shopping hours. Check out Downtown Partnership’s website for a complete list of participating retailers.  

And just as Mount Vernon celebrates the holiday season by illuminating the Washington Monument in festive lights, The Walters Art Museum and The Maryland Historical Society decorate their lobbies with festive ornaments and feature hot chocolate, cookies and free museum admission all evening long! So come in from the cold and enjoy all that Mount Vernon has to offer.

Celebrate Lady Baltimore’s Debut at The Maryland Historical Society!

Lady Baltimore 
Courtesy Caitlin Newman,
Baltimore Sun

Also on December 5, The Maryland Historical Society is celebrating the official debut of Lady Baltimore, the original Carrara marble statue that watched over Baltimore from atop The Battle Monument for 190 years.

In early October, 2013, the eight-foot Lady Baltimore statue was placed into a cage and carefully lowered from atop The Battle Monument. A concrete reproduction was moved into its place.  Lady Baltimore was transported to the Maryland Historical Society, where, just as carefully, the statue was transported upstairs to the second floor gallery to its new, eco-friendly home.

This marks the first time visitors will be able to see Lady Baltimore ‘up close,’ and evidence of the environmental toll that Time has taken is apparent. Almost two centuries of wind, rain and pollution have taken a toll on its features and storms had blown off both of its arms (they were later restored). The statue underwent years of restoration efforts administered by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, CHAP.

Beginning at 4 pm on December 5 at The Maryland Historical Society, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will speak about the history of Lady Baltimore, who is known as the ‘iconic symbol of Baltimore.’

Throughout the evening, visitors will receive free museum admission and refreshments. You can enjoy music from The Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps, see 1812 Living History characters, and even a performance by the Notre Dame Institute and Choir.

In addition, the recreated Star-Spangled Banner flag, which last summer was stitched completely by hand by volunteers from Maryland and around the world, will be on view for one night only in France Hall.  It’s an evening of fun the whole family can enjoy!

The Maryland Historical Society is located at 201 W Monument Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-685-3750. Website: www.mdhs.org.

‘Tis The Season at The Walters Art Museum!


On Sunday, December 15, from 1-4pm, take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and join The Walters Art Museum for a festive afternoon filled with holiday goodies and all-around merriment!

From 1-2pm, enjoy The Christmas Story in Art, a free, docent-led tour examining religious art that celebrates the story of Christmas. The tour will feature Renaissance and Baroque paintings depicting the birth of Christ. No reservations are required; simply walk in and enjoy!

From 1-2pm, The Walters will host Joyous Voices, an a capella caroling ensemble, dressed in Dickens-era costumes, who sing an impressive repertoire of traditional Christmas melodies ranging from Medieval and Victorian to popular favorites.

The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Phone 410-547-9000. Website: http://thewalters.org.

Trivia Time!

Congrats to everyone who correctly answered our last question!

The first umbrellas were manufactured in Baltimore in the 1870s by Francis Beehler, but the umbrella company with the fantastic slogan ‘Born In Baltimore, Raised Everywhere,’ was Gans Brothers.

If you sent me an answer naming either company, I gave you a prize. What can I say, I’m in the holiday spirit!

This month: I want you to take the Baltimore Sun Holiday Trivia Quiz!

Tell me what your favorite holiday tradition in Baltimore is, and Season’s Greetings! 

Until next month,


Laura Rodini
Executive Director, The Mount Vernon Cultural District

A Mysterious 2,000 Year-Old Book

November, 2013                                                                                    Volume 1, Issue 2

Dear Reader,

On view at The Walters Art Museum is a very special — and mysterious — book.  It’s entitled The Book of the Faiyum, a 20-foot scroll made from delicate brown papyrus. No one really knows why the book was written, or who it was written for. But seeing it up close will take your breath away.

The Book of the Faiyum (detail), Egyptian, Roman Period, ca. late 1st century BCE -2nd century CE, ink on papyrus, Walters Art Museum

Nearly every inch of the scroll is filled with elaborate drawings of Egyptian gods, animals, and plants. It also contains a geographic outline of a lake called Moeris. “It’s a map-like diagram of Egypt’s Faiyum region and its religious life,” says Dr. Marden Nichols, Curator of Ancient Art.

The Book of the Faiyum was a popular book — at least 30 copies have survived through the ages, and passages can even be found on the walls of a temple in Kom Ombo, Egypt, hundreds of miles to the south of the Faiyum.

But what does it mean?

Stepping Into An Oasis

The shores of Birket Qarûn (Lake Moeris) in the Faiyum (Photograph courtesy of R. Neil Hewison)

If you remember from history class, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in the fourth century BCE. After some political intrigue (both sons in line to the throne were murdered), one of Alexander’s generals, Ptolemy, took over, establishing 3 centuries of Greek rule in Egypt.

Greek soldiers were given land grants and immigrated to the fertile Faiyum region west of the Nile around Lake Moeris. Recognizing the importance of farmable land in the arid desert, the Greeks built a dam to make the lake smaller. “As the lake shrunk, the amount of land for agricultural settlements tripled in size,” Dr. Nichols continued, “They created an oasis.” Wheat and grapes flourished. The land of the Faiyum became known as Egypt’s bread basket, and it thrived with prosperity.

PL1_32.5_TR_T02VI 001
Female Mummy Portrait Mask, Egyptian, Roman Period, ca. 110 CE, encaustic (wax pigments) on wood, Walters Art Museum

As with many civilizations, artists and writers immigrated to the center of wealth and began documenting its stories. But the really unique part about the Faiyum region was the way in which Greek and Egyptian cultures blended together.

For instance, on display in the exhibit are wooden funerary masks painted in a classical style reminiscent of the art of ancient Greece and Rome. These masks were buried along with a mummified body — an Egyptian practice.

“The arid climate allowed for the preservation of wood,” Dr. Nichols added.

The Meaning of the ‘Crocodile King’

Dr. Nichols designed the exhibit so that the Book of the Faiyum is displayed in its central gallery. Emanating from each side are galleries containing objects that are represented on the papyrus. “It’s as though we’re walking through the papyrus and meeting the gods portrayed,” she says.

The central figure in the Book of the Faiyum is the crocodile god, Sobek. Crocodiles were abundant in the region, and many temples had sacred lakes inhabited by the reptile — some of which could grow as large as 20 feet long!

Glass Crocodile Inlay, Egyptian, Late Period (30th Dynasty) – Ptolemaic Period, ca. 380-30 BCE, dark blue glass, Walters Art Museum

“Egyptian gods were shape-shifting in form,” Dr. Nichols continued. “Egyptian artists often depicted their gods with both human and animal features. A god could have the head of a ram, the body of a lion, and the tail of a crocodile, for example. They drew upon what they could see in nature in an attempt to express the qualities of an unseen god.”

Sobek embodies both the greatness and violence of the crocodile (after all, they were known to feast on humans).  So, Sobek was both revered and feared by its people.

In the first scroll of the Book of the Faiyum, there are many different gods depicted around the lake, with Sobek at the center.

But at the beginning of the second scroll, all of the gods take the shape of a crocodile — in honor of Sobek. This could suggest that as the Faiyum region continued to grow in wealth and prominence, all of Egypt came to honor that region, and its elevated status.

Smart marketing.

A Truly Sensory Experience

Dr Marden Nichols
Dr. Nichols demonstrates

What’s really special about this exhibit is that it’s the first time in 150 years that the two scrolls have been united.

There are actually four scrolls that comprise The Book of the Faiyum, with the other two at the Cairo Museum.

But you can see a digital interface of the Cairo sections using one of the Walters’ computer terminals.>You can also unroll a scroll, practice writing like a scribe, hear different interpretations of the Book of the Faiyum at interactive listing stations, and even smell the spicy fragrance of frankincense and myrrh, which would have been burned in Sobek’s temples.

Oh, and there’s one more thing. “What ancient Egyptian exhibition could be complete without a mummy?” Dr. Nichols asks.

You won’t want to miss this — on display is a 2,400 year old baby crocodile mummified in a white linen cloth. Next to him is a tiny gilded mask. It’s an awesome sight.

Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum will be on view at The Walters through January 5, 2014. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 students, and free for children under 17. Special exhibition-related events include a free concert providing a musical interpretation of the Book of the Faiyum on Sunday, November 24 at 2pm, and an Egyptomania Film Festival, including a one-time screening of the Al Momia, a rare film that was restored by The World Cinema Foundation, on Saturday, December 7 at 1pm. For complete details, click here.

The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Phone 410-547-9000. Website: http://thewalters.org

And now, for a few more things to do in Mount Vernon this month…

Upcoming Book Discussions at the Enoch Pratt Central Library:


On Wednesday, November 6 at 6:30pm, Carla Kaplan talks about her new book, Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance.

The 1920s in New York City was a time of freedom, experimentation, and passion — with Harlem at the epicenter. White men could go uptown to see jazz and modern dance, but women who embraced black culture too enthusiastically could be ostracized.

In Miss Anne of Harlem, Carla Kaplan focuses on these white women, collectively called “Miss Anne,” who became Harlem Renaissance insiders. She profiles six of the unconventional, free-thinking women, some from Manhattan high society, many Jewish, who crossed race lines and defied social conventions to become a part of the culture and heartbeat of Harlem.

Carla Kaplan is an award-winning professor and writer who holds the Stanton W. and Elisabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professorship in American Literature at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Erotics of Talk and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. A recipient of a Guggenheim and many other fellowships, Kaplan has been a fellow in residence at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Enoch Pratt Free Library, visit www.prattlibrary.org.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library is located at 400 Cathedral Street in Baltimore. Phone: 410-396-5430.

Watch Center Stage on PBS!

Last Friday, the PBS Fall Arts Festival aired a one hour special filmed right here in Baltimore. “A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage” explores the history and legacy of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 drama through the staging of two contemporary plays it inspired: Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park and Beneatha’s Place by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Center Stage Artistic Director.

Center Stage mounted both plays in repertory as The Raisin Cycle last spring. Filmmakers captured the drama and cultural significance of simultaneously running these two issue-driven plays. With two Opening Nights looming — rehearsals, meetings, and costume fittings are paired with footage of Center Stage’s performances, the 1961 film, and insights from theater critics and historians.

The full documentary can now be viewed online at:

Now Playing At Center Stage


In dance of the holy ghosts, Oscar Clifton is a Blues man living through his memories of the past. That is, until his estranged grandson Marcus pays a visit. Together, they confront a history of loves, regrets, and missed opportunities. This acclaimed play by Marcus Gardley is a poetic family drama set in the key of Blues — a memory-scape skipping seamlessly across the decades.

The New York Times says “The richness of [Gardley’s] language brings to mind the work of August Wilson.”

Performances run through November 17. For more information, click here.

Center Stage is located at 700 N. Calvert Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-332-0033. Website: www.centerstage.org.

Madame Bonaparte’s Tea

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, François Josephe Kinsoen, circa 1817, MdHs, x.5.72

Known as ‘the most beautiful woman in 1812 America,’ Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was renowned for her sharp wit and celebrated bosom. She wore the latest European fashions — gowns considered risqué by American standards. Personal letters salaciously described her as ‘an almost naked woman.’ But just how true were these accounts?

On Sunday, November 10 at 2pm, Maryland Historical Society Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch will debunk myths about this fashion legend by offering a rare glimpse at three never-before-seen items from the Maryland Historical Society’s priceless garment collection.

For the first (and only) time, you can see two fragile surviving dresses from Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte’s extensive wardrobe.

Curator Deutsch will then take visitors on a personal through the exhibition, Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy, to discuss the remarkable life and legacy of the woman who wore a wedding gown so small it was said to “fit in a pocket.”

For more details, click here.

The Maryland Historical Society is located at 201 W Monument Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-685-3750. Website: www.mdhs.org

Open Archives Saturdays

Paul Robeson and Dr. John E.T. Camper protesting Ford’s Theatre Jim Crow admission policy, Circa March 1948, MdHS, HEN.00.A2-178

Each year, middle and high school students throughout the state of Maryland are invited to participate in a history competition called History Day, sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council.

On Saturday, November 16 at 10 am, students and their parents are invited to participate in a workshop on historical research methods that will help them get started on their History Day research by using the resources at The Maryland Historical Society.

The session is limited to 12 students and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, contact David Armenti at darmenti@mdhs.org or 410-685-3750 x 324

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Maryland Humanities Council, visit www.mdhc.org.

The Maryland Humanities Council is located at 108 W Centre St in Baltimore. Phone: 410-685-0095.

Trivia Time

Congrats to everyone who correctly answered our last trivia question! High atop the Washington Monument, President George Washington is in the midst of resigning from office.

Everyone who answered that correctly got a prize.

Speaking of The Washington Monument, The Baltimore Sun featured this great photo essay on the restoration of the monument, which is scheduled to begin in early 2014.

Ready for this month’s trivia question?

Question: The world’s first umbrella factory was started here in Baltimore in the 1820s. By the 1870s, one Baltimore company made as many as 3,000 umbrellas a day, and they narrowly missed being consumed by the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

They had a very unique slogan: “Born in Baltimore — Raised Everywhere.”

Tell me the name of this Baltimore umbrella company, and you, too can win a prize.

Until next month,


Laura Rodini
Executive Director, The Mount Vernon Cultural District

Backstage at Center Stage

Connecting With Community

September 25, 2013

Dear Reader,

Center Stage, Maryland’s largest regional theater, will soon be in the national spotlight thanks to an hour-long documentary on PBS.

The documentary, called A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: ‘The Raisin Cycle’ at Center Stage, will air in late October as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival.

Under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), Center Stage has gained critical acclaim for The Raisin Cycle, a two-play series inspired by the 1959 classic, A Raisin In the Sun, that illustrates very different views on race relations in America.

The 60-minute documentary on PBS showcases excerpts from film and television productions of A Raisin in the Sun, newsreel footage, and a fascinating behind-the scenes look at ‘The Raisin Cycle,’ which was performed at Center Stage in the summer of 2013.  You can click here to watch a preview.

About ‘The Raisin Cycle’

Jessica Frances Dukes and Kim James Bay
Jessica Frances Dukes and Kim James Bay in Beneatha’s Place, Courtesy Center Stage

Written in 1959 by Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun details race relations in 1950s America – what happens, in particular, when the Youngers, an African American family, try to move into a white neighborhood of Chicago’s Clybourne Park.

In 2010, Texas playwright Bruce Norris wrote Clybourne Park in response to A Raisin in the Sun. The play, a comedy, describes what happens in the 50 years since the Youngers moved in. The gentrifying neighborhood is now African American, and a white couple wants to live there.

A very different angle of the story is explored in the third play of the installment, Beneatha’s Place, written in 2013 by Center Stage’s Kwame Kwei-Armah. Itexplores identity, leadership, and legacy through the eyes of Beneatha Younger, from her home in Nigeria to her career at a California university.

“Our production of ‘The Raisin Cycle’ is starting a dialogue that America seems to want to listen to,” Kwei-Armah tells The Baltimore Sun, “I don’t see it as a duel. It’s more of a conversation.”

Center Stage’s Community Focus

press photos

Now in its 51st year, Center Stage is an artistically driven institution committed to engaging, entertaining, and enriching audiences. Its mission is to explore how art and entertainment communicate in the 21st century, and its interpretation of new and classic works are meant to ignite conversations.

“When I first came to Center Stage, one of my goals was to expand the role of this theatre in civic discussions, not just locally but nationally,” Kwei-Armah says. “’A Raisin in the Sun Revisited’ is the perfect opportunity to both explore the social impact of great art and to contribute to the ongoing dialogue around race and class in our nation.”

‘A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: ‘The Raisin Cycle’ at Center Stage” will air as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival on Friday, October 25 at 9 pm. It’s expected to reach more than 20 million viewers!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Center Stage

Backstage @ Center Stage

Not only can you watch Center Stage on national TV; if you’ve ever dreamed of a behind-the-scenes tour of this acclaimed theater company, you’ll want to check out Backstage @ Center Stage, happening this Saturday, September 28th.

From 10 am-2 pm, Center Stage is opening its doors to families of all ages to experience everything it has to offer. From tours to workshops, demonstrations, and performances from local theater groups, the building will be bustling with fun.

Backstage @ Center Stage

“Everyone at Center Stage comes together to make this day possible. It’s such a fun way to experience all the wonderful work and talent that goes into making theater,” says Marketing Manager Madeline Long.

On the behind-the-curtains-tour, you can take part in a demonstration from the Scene Shop (we hear it involves a rubber chicken), and see the beautiful fabrics that become dresses in the Costumes Department.

“Baltimore area theater groups be on hand to tell visitors about their upcoming programming,” says Kristina Szilagyi, Community Program and Education Fellow, “We’re really bringing the community together.”

Other fun things for the family to enjoy include face painting by scenic artists, and a special chance to take part in a light and sound demonstration for Center Stage’s current production of the Groucho Marx play, Animal Crackers.

“We’ll demonstrate the light and sound effects just as a stage manager would call them during a play,” Kristina continues, “‘Light Cue 51 Standby; Light Cue 51 Go… It’s really a lot of fun!”

At 1:30 pm, Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah will lead a special, live rehearsal of Center Stage’s upcoming production of Dance of the Holy Ghosts, which will open on October 9th.  A few, very lucky visitors will get an up close look at the actors and set designers in action.

Unlike watching TV and the movies, live theater is a positively magical experience. Anything can happen, and the audience literally adds to the chemistry of the performances.

For the complete schedule of Backstage @ Center Stage’s activities, click here. And for a list of Center Stage’s 2013-2014 season, click here.

Center Stage is located at 700 N. Calvert Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-332-0033. www.centerstage.org.

And now, for a few more things to do in Mount Vernon this month…

Mount Vernon’s First-Ever Food Truck Gathering!

Image Courtesy The Gathering

Mount Vernon, Baltimore, is known as a neighborhood of firsts: it’s home to the country’s first free public library (The Enoch Pratt Central Library), the world’s first monument to George Washington (you know the one), and America’s first cathedral (The Baltimore Basilica).

Now here’s another Mount Vernon first for the record books: On Thursday, September 26 from 5:00-10:00 PM, The Gathering will host its first-ever Food Truck night in Mount Vernon — and they’re doing it right here at The Maryland Historical Society!

gathering FB
Image Courtesy The Gathering

If you haven’t heard of The Gathering, you may have seen food trucks before on the Food Network on TV. These mobile food vendors come fully equipped to whip up your favorite barbecue, Mediterranean, sushi and dessert treats. It’s quite an amazing sight.

In addition to the great food, we’ll feature live music from DJ Ro and free admission to a selection of MdHS galleries. Sounds like the perfect fall evening!

Admission to the food truck gathering is completely free, and you can skip the lines and purchase your unlimited drink wristband right here.

The Maryland Historical Society is located at 201 W Monument Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-685-3750. Website: www.mdhs.org

Meet King Peggy at the Baltimore Book Festival!

Maryland Humanities Council
Image Courtesy Maryland Humanities Council

The Maryland Humanities Council’s One Maryland One Book author will be speaking at the Baltimore Book Festival! Meet King Peggy in the Literary Salon on Saturday, September 28 at 1 pm.

Peggielene Bartels— “King Peggy” — was born in Ghana in 1953 and moved to Washington, D.C. in her mid-twenties to work at Ghana’s embassy. She became an American citizen in 1997. In 2008, she was chosen to be king of Otuam, a Ghanaian village of seven thousand souls on the west coast of Africa. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, still works at the embassy, and spends several weeks each year in Ghana.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Maryland Humanities Council, visit www.mdhc.org.

The Maryland Humanities Council is located at 108 W Centre St in Baltimore. Phone: 410-685-0095.

Upcoming Book Discussions at the Enoch Pratt Central Library:

Enoch Pratt
Image Courtesy Enoch Pratt Library

On Wednesday, October 2 at 6:30 pm, David Nasaw talks about his book, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. Joseph Patrick Kennedy, patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty, is widely remembered as an indomitable, elusive, fatally flawed figure.

In The Patriarch, historian David Nasaw reveals a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Drawing on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents, Nasaw examines those parts of Joseph Kennedy’s life that have long been shrouded in rumor and prejudice. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange wizard, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain.

A loving and attentive father, he raised his nine children to devote their lives to service and to be as confident and stubborn as he was.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Enoch Pratt Free Library, visit www.prattlibrary.org.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library is located at 400 Cathedral Street in Baltimore. Phone: 410-396-5430.

A New Exhibition At The Walters Art Museum

Image Courtesy Walters Art Museum

Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, opens on Sunday, October 6!

The Book of the Faiyum is an exquisitely illustrated ancient Egyptian papyrus. Major sections of the manuscript—reunited for the first time in 150 years—are displayed alongside Egyptian statues, reliefs, jewelry, and ritual objects to illuminate the religious context that gave rise to the enigmatic tale of Sobek, the crocodile god who brings sun to the Faiyum.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Walters, visit www.thewalters.org.

The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street. Phone: 410-547-9000.

Fall Concerts at Peabody

Image Courtesy Peabody

The Peabody Conservatory stages nearly 100 major concerts and performances each year, ranging from classical to contemporary to jazz, many of them free—a testament to the vision of George Peabody.

This month includes:

  • The Peabody Symphony Orchestra play Zhangyi’s Rain Tree (Macht Orchestral Composition Competition Winning Work), Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E-flat major, Op. 109, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. on Saturday, September 28 from 8 pm-10 pm
  • The Peabody Wind Ensemble performs as part of “Free Fall Baltimore” on Wednesday, October 9 from 7:30 pm-9:30 pm

For a full calendar of events, visit www.peabody.jhu.edu/events.

The Peabody Institute is located at 1 E Mt Vernon Place in Baltimore. Phone: 410-234-4800.

Mount Vernon Trivia


Correctly answer this month’s trivia question, and you could win a prize!

Question:  What is George Washington doing on top of the Washington Monument?

(Hint: He’s not just ‘standing’ there; what milestone is the statue is celebrating?)

Email us your answer, and best of luck!

One Final Note

I hope you like our new look!

We have created this monthly, e-newsletter as part of the new Mount Vernon Cultural District.

Founded in 1996, the Mount Vernon Cultural District showcases world-class attractions and serves to promote the unique charm of our beautiful Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Our new eletter is written in partnership with all of our Mount Vernon arts and cultural organizations. Each month, we will highlight one of our member institutions as well as detail a few of the many great happenings within our neighborhood.

Our new website can be found at www.mountvernonbaltimore.org

Let us know what you think; we’d be delighted to hear from you.

It is our hope that you will take part in all that we have to offer!

Until next month,


Laura Rodini
Executive Director, The Mount Vernon Cultural District

Our Mission

Welcome to the official website of the Mount Vernon Cultural District! We are a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the cultural institutions in the Mount Vernon Neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.