+ By Emmy Nicklin + Photos by Alison Harbaugh
It’s early April and the sun generously streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, where Elizabeth Ramirez and Pamela Godfrey Stevens tell the story of the Annapolis Arts Alliance.
Born out of a project from then Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer in 2003, the Alliance started as a group of local artists—representatives from the visual arts, dance, music, theater, written word—and art organizations. They came together to discuss ways that the city and the arts could work together to foster this fundamental part of community.
Fifteen years later, the Alliance is flourishing. With more than 100 members and 12 board members, the nonprofit’s website says that it strives “to provide one collective voice for anyone interested in or touched by arts.” Throughout the year, it puts together exhibits and art shows featuring the work of Alliance members, including an annual Petite Squares exhibit showing 2D and 3D works of art under 12 inches in size and in a particular theme (this year’s being “floral” in honor of the spring season). The organization also offers an array of valuable business of arts seminars, ranging in topic from marketing oneself online as an artist to setting up one’s space at an art fair or festival in the most visually appealing way possible. In addition to networking events, the Alliance also hosts a popup store every holiday season, which features the art of many Alliance members.
“[The arts] enrich everybody’s lives on so many levels,” says Stevens. “And it creates community. It creates conversation. It brings people together. It supports people in times of good and bad, you know—art and music are always there.” A flutist who plays with the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, Stevens is the only board member who has been with the Alliance from the beginning. Now, when she’s not working as the Annapolis campus coordinator for Johns Hopkins Peabody Preparatory or pursuing her third master’s degree, she serves as the organization’s secretary and de facto historian.
Ramirez is equally ambitious in her pursuits but like Stevens, her dedication to the Alliance does not waver despite how busy she is. A homeschooling parent, owner of Wimsey Cove Framing and Fine Art Printing, and dedicated member of multiple art and heritage boards, Ramirez wholeheartedly immerses herself in bettering her community, including her work as the Alliance’s president.
“Music and art are my life,” Ramirez says. She takes pride especially in the collaboration and partnerships the Alliance fosters—whether it be working with the Anne Arundel County Public Library to create a more inviting, colorful space in its temporary location at the Annapolis Mall as its West Street location undergoes renovations or inspiring a newly graduated MICA student to offer help to a local shop with blank walls.
Last September, in partnership with Four Rivers Heritage, the Alliance invited 20 students from the Anne Arundel Performing and Visual Arts Middle and high school magnet programs to participate in a sketch crawl with other Alliance artists around downtown Annapolis, painting and sketching historic sites around town. “We ended up in The Chase–Lloyd House Garden where we held up the artwork on clothes lines in this fun, organic, impromptu way,” says Ramirez. “We really love working with others, and I think we do that well.”
Membership in the Alliance is open to everyone—artists and art appreciators alike—and ranges in cost from $10 for students to $35 for adults and $55 for organizations. Benefits include discounts on Alliance seminars and workshops; opportunities to exhibit, sell, or perform at Alliance showcase events; and marketing and promotional support on the Alliance website and in other publications. Above all, the Alliance aims to create a true sense of community that encompasses all forms of art—music, poetry, visual arts, and beyond.
Despite the partnerships and plethora of projects the Alliance has created and inspired over the years, Stevens, at times, feels the organization has often been overlooked. “We’ve been [Annapolis’] best-kept secret, and I don’t really want to be that secret anymore.” Lately, though, Stevens feels a shift. “I’m very excited about looking forward, now that we’re really blossoming, now that we have a new mayor. I think there’s going to be a lot of collaboration between this organization and the mayor’s office and city council once again.”
As if on cue, a bright streak of sun pools through the window before Stevens continues. “I think there’s a renaissance happening here. The arts community has finally got a little fire under it. I would like to see the Annapolis Arts Alliance be the center that sort of holds all the arts together. We’re always open to new ideas, we just need to hear them. I’m excited that the arts community is on fire right now!”
So are we. █
For a full listing of the Annapolis Arts Alliance events, shows, and workshops, please visit the website: annapolis-arts-alliance.com