I’ve been reminded, in a bout of sudden and unexpected attention (thanks, y’all!), that I’ve had a few projects on the back burner for so long that they’ve fallen behind the stove altogether, and are now adrift in the dark realm of crumb-covered kitchen dust bunnies, lost bottle caps, and the nylon chew bone my previous dog lost under there a decade ago.
There’s the mosaic project at AVAM, for one thing. It’s odd how quickly you can forget a giant art project you worked on for a solid year, on a diesel high lift in the Baltimore skyline in blazing summer heat and the wicked, biting winter wind that blows in from the bay without a pause.
I was just interviewing this dog for the 4th of July, and the very, very nice guy who does panoramablog took some neat pictures with this cool camera that’s like a little whirling ball on a stick. If you pan around (ignore the dork in overalls), you can get a nice view of the north face of the mosaic wall. Each of those panels is 32 x 50 inches, weighs about 90 pounds, and rode around the city strapped onto the roof of my Metro before coming back to be bolted in place from the wiggly platform of a lift. I think it’s pretty neat, but I’m hardly an impartial observer.
Working at AVAM, particularly on the Mosaic Project Phase II, a huge community art project designed by the artist/educator Mari Gardner, built by kids in drug treatment, homeless shelters, and juvenile justice programs, and engineered by yours truly, was just hard to describe—emotional, frustrating, complicated, joyous…just lots of things at once. It’s always great to go back and see my work there (in the last crunch to get stuff built, I got to do some design elements, too, and the inclusion of the constellation Ursa Major was my own little intrusion) when I do my street theater gigs there.
Had another great gig as part of the Baltimore Electronic Music Summerfest 2010, an annual 13 hour festival of electronic, DIY, and unclassifiable music at the Hexagon. Great company, great music, and lots of fun. Yes, I am dressed as a nun. When your particular musical style involves long stretches of near-motionless attention to a small black box full of gear, you need a hook, don’t you think? To hear the set, click the arrow on the player above.
It’s a little late this year, but I’ve got all the bees settling nicely into their hives. Once they’re really working, there’s nothing quite like the kind of calm you get, just sitting there, on a lawn chair in front of your beehive, just watching them coming and going, bringing nectar in, sending foragers out, a whole world of perfectly-choreographed activity laid plain.
[AVAM – Kinetic Sculpture Race 2010 – photo by Nick Prevas]
What a busy couple of months it’s been! I’ve been working hard at my no-longer-new job with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, where I am facility manager for two of Baltimore’s architectural and artistic treasures, the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower and the School 33 Art Center. After three years of planning, grant-writing, engineering, and other detail work (much of which was done expertly before my tenure at the Tower, thanks to Kristin Grey, the brilliant staff at BOPA, and Azola and Associates), we restored the South face of the tower clock to full operation last month! Click here to watch a brief film of the project via Youtube (and please forgive my unusual state of awkward tongue-tiedness, as I was working with a bad cold that day, had been up since 3am, and wasn’t expecting to be on camera).
I’m happy to have been able to have the rents reduced at the Tower, so that our working studio spaces for artists now start at $320 (compare with studio spaces throughout the region—you’ll be pleasantly surprised). It’s a great place to work, and an honor for me, being able to be a part of such a cornerstone of the city. I also formalized the small performance space we have on the 11th floor of the tower, with the gracious and tireless work of our own Barbara Bryan, and the Studio11 Theater is heading into its sixth month now, hosting our resident troupe, Unexpected Theater, as well as a wonderful bi-monthly reading series by the Upward Spiral group. It’s just a room, right now, seating thirty in the city skyline, but we’re working on adding lighting, blackout curtains, and a screen for films to make a real little theater on the West Side, so we can host musicians, poets, storytellers, actors, filmmakers, and other performance-based artists.
Outside of the working world, I’ve been getting back to my music, writing, and performances after a bit of a break. I debuted my new nitro-glycerine Nun character at the Kinetic Sculpture Race at my alma mater, the American Visionary Art Museum, on May 1st, 2010, kicking off the race with my usual inspirational message and disco-dancing celebration of the joys of being on the outside of everyday life. This was my 12th year as the spiritual advisor to the race, and it’s been such a great ride, writing these little hit-and-run routines over the years. Besides, dressing as a nun and riding a bicycle through the crowded city streets when you’re a husky fella with a mustache is just fun, and makes everyone smile. I could get used to this, but I don’t want to get in a rut, necessarily.
I’ll be performing a short set of spoken word/ambient electronic music from 6:30-7pm on Saturday, June 26th, 2010 at the Hexagon in Baltimore, as a part of the Baltimore Electronic Music Summerfest 2010 (admission $6 for the entire event). I’m working on some additional performances for the rest of the year and will post them here (and on a calendar page I’m building for this website). The manuscript for my essay collection, Scaggsville, is coming along nicely, after a stretch of frustrating inactivity, and I’m hoping to have a micropress edition available by the autumn.
Only three podcasts left in my ambient podcast, 12 Minute Travelogues, so sign up and enjoy! When I finish 12MT, I’m planning to create a remastered collection of the podcast, available on iTunes, Emusic, etc, and resume my older storytelling podcast.
Watch the skies, as they say!
I read a recent essay on WYPR 88.1 FM for their program, The Signal, and it airs at 12pm and 7pm today, 13 November 2009! If you’re not in the area, or if a radio’s not handy, you can go to the mp3 page at signalradio.org and listen online and/or subscribe to the program (which I heartily encourage—it’s a great show, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on it this week!).
It’s been a radioactive time for me, with two appearances on the excellent program The Falling Room on CFBU 103.7 FM in Canada in the last month. I’m a huge radio fan, and an enthusiastic supporter of both public radio and college radio, so it’s great to have people track me down to share my work on the airwaves. I’m really hoping to get even more airtime in the next year, on traditional radio and the new media, as well.
On that note, the next piece in my 12 Minute Travelogues podcast will be coming up soon, #9 in the series, and it’s going to be yet another evolution in the ongoing ambient experiment of the podcast. I try to do something a little different and find a new angle for each of these pieces, and if this one works out the way I’m expecting it to, it’ll be something else. Subscribe, if you haven’t already, and feel free to share the music with anyone you like—episodes of the podcast are released with a Creative Commons “attribution-noncommercial-share alike” license, which means you can share them with your friends, use them in your films and theater projects, and remix them for free, as long as it’s not for profit and you contact me and give proper attribution.
That’s it for now.
As many of you may know, I’ve reluctantly left the American Visionary Art Museum, after quite a few successes, including the community mosaic project and my piece being on exhibit in the 2008-2009 show, Art, Science, and Philosophy. I had a great run with an amazing organization, but I’ve moved on to another of Baltimore’s architectural treasures (two, to be precise), managing the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower and the School 33 Art Center. The Tower, where I have my office, is a fifteen-story clock tower that now houses high-end studio space for local artists (if you’re looking for a space, please contact me via the web site). I oversee leasing, maintenance, upgrades, and other aspects of keeping these two facilities running at full tilt, and, a month into the job, it’s a great place to work.
The Tower hosts an open studio day once each month, when the building opens to the public to share the studios and work of our artists with the rest of the community. The next open studio will take place from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, October 17th, 2009, at 21 S. Eutaw Street, Baltimore MD 21201, as a part of the city-wide School 33 Open Studios Tour. I hope to see some of you there, and encourage you to come meet our artists and go for a ride on our 1911 manually-operated Otis elevator. For a whirlwind look at where I work, take a look at the video.
Hope I didn’t make you dizzy just then. Sadly, I can’t show you the clock room or the rooftop in person, owing to legal issues, but man, oh man, it’s neat up there in the secret parts of the Tower.
The change in my working schedule has also had the effect of allowing me to resume my extracurricular activities, like my podcasts, my performance work, and my writing, which means I’ll be posting a lot more work here in the coming year. I’m particularly happy to have resumed the production of my ambient/deep listening music podcast, 12 Minute Travelogues, this month, and will be updating it monthly in October through January to complete the twelve-part series. I’m also working on getting my other podcast, Last Night I Dreamed I Was You, which highlights odd little stories with original music. The stories will be a little shorter than the first experimental episodes, but with thematic threads connecting multiple episodes into larger narratives. Look for the first new episode sometime towards the end of September.
Work on Scaggsville is slowly resuming, as I undo a few overly-ambitious and misguided edits, with the aim of having a version of the book in print (the sonatext limited micro-edition) before the end of the year. Mind you, I’ve been hoping to hit the end of the year for a few years, so don’t count on the deadlines. It’ll be good, though, I promise.
That’s about it for now, and thanks for visiting the site!
Love, your pal,
I seem to have a growing fixation on landmarks and iconic structures, at least in terms of my career development. For the last three years, I’ve been working full-time at the amazing American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, which is the number one museum in the country dedicated to the art of self-taught, outsider, and visionary artists (and I’m not just saying that as a guy who’s shown art in the museum—AVAM was once again voted Best Museum by Baltimore Magazine readers). I started out in 1998 as a performer, tech guy, and otherwise useful fella, working various events at the museum, MC-ing Pet Parades, performing robot weddings, and disco-dancing in a monk’s habit for the Kinetic Sculpture Races, and was hired on full-time in 2006 as the project engineer/second-in-command for the museum’s community mosaic project (watch this site for a more detailed page soon). In 2007, at the wrap-up of the mosaic project, I was brought on as the museum’s director of maintenance, tech, and special projects, and kept the place running in spite of cranky hardware, tricky systems, and the usual bugaboos of a large institution.
It’s been an honor and a delight, working with the wonderful staff at AVAM and being a part of the museum’s mission to make art a less institutional and more personal experience for everyone, not just a privileged few. I thought I might just stay forever, and I’ll no doubt be back in my former role as a performer and consultant to the museum, but sometimes you just gotta change things up a bit to keep your senses sharp, and so I’m moving on to a new position with the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, managing two of their facilities, the School 33 Art Center and the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower.
I’ve loved School 33 since working with the artist Mars Tokyo and the installation we built for her show there, and the Bromo Seltzer Tower, of course, is the most integral and distinctive thing on the Baltimore skyline for those of us who grew up in the area. As much as I’ll miss the joyous, exuberant madness of the Visionary, I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities and meeting the challenges of BOPA. I found a great article, complete with video, about one of the first projects I’ll be tackling there—getting the South clock face working again—starring my predecessor in the position. I’m giddy (no kidding) with anticipation at getting to work with her, all too briefly, alas, and to jump into this new world with my boots on.
I’ve been way behind with my podcasts, live performance work, and updates to this site, but I’ve been hard at work revising, rebuilding, and adding new stuff to joewall.com, and there’s even more coming, as I sort through my archives and write pages about some of my past and future projects. I’ll be adding a calendar page soon to share upcoming dates for performances and other events. The long-delayed manuscript to Scaggsville is nearing completion, too, and I’m hoping to have a micropress edition available later this year.
Wow, I’m out of breath, but it’s been a wild month around here.
Love and kisses,