+ By Lucinda Edinberg + Photos by Alison Harbaugh
It’s summer 2012. Katherine Burke, owner of the Annapolis Collection Gallery, is sitting at her desk, having just hung up on what she thought was a telemarketing call. She later finds a voice-mail message: “I think we got disconnected. I’m calling for Carl Palmer. He’s coming to Maryland to perform at Annapolis’ Ram’s Head Tavern . . . he’d like you to exhibit his art.” Burke is curious and makes a call to Jimi Davies. “Jimi, do you know who Carl Palmer is?” Davies confirms that Carl Palmer is the drummer for the British rock super-group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Thus began the “Red Carpet Rock Star Series” at the gallery.
Although the Annapolis Collection Gallery is dedicated to six Annapolis masters—painters Ann Munro Wood, Greg Harlin, Jeff Huntington, Roxie Munro, and Yoomi Yoon, and photographer Charles E. Emery (providing a trove of old Annapolis pictures, circa 1940 to 1957)—Burke keeps the gallery vibrant with special events that can be over-the-top red-carpet affairs. Organizing the 2015 Annapolis Fringe Festival, the Edwardian Ball, Super Moon Nights, and temporary exhibitions in the Maryland House of Delegates has kept her on the move both on Gallery Row—the collection of art venues along upper West Street—and around town.
Burke’s path to the art world was a bit circuitous. A Washington, DC-area native, she spent a summer in the late 1960s as a roving reporter on Ocean City’s boardwalk, studied literature at American University, and worked for a publishing company. Time rolled on, and at thirty years old, feeling pressure after reading the accomplishments of Alexander the Great—who by that age had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world—she felt she’d better get busy.
Purchasing land in South County, Burke constructed a house with new and architectural salvage components. She redesigned the Women’s Yellow Pages for the Anne Arundel County Commission for Women and, importantly, met the now-late Philip L. Brown, a local historian and educator. His book, The Other Annapolis, the Life and Times of Blacks in Annapolis from 1900–1950, was successfully presented through Burke’s newly established Annapolis Publishing Company and led to her introduction to well-known local photographer Marion E. Warren. Burke, with her boots-on-the-ground approach, began a dedicated campaign to promote Warren that paid off with enthusiastic recognition for his work. This led to Burke opening the Marion Warren Gallery on State Circle.
Burke’s exhibition success sparked expanded interests, and thus the Annapolis Collection Gallery was launched. Located in a mid-nineteenth century building in what was formerly Frank Slama & Son Shoes, the gallery sits well amidst vintage furnishings, wood shelves, hardwood floors, and a beautifully patterned tin ceiling. The doorway is graced with windows on each side that feature photographs, paintings, and an assortment of other objects, not to mention a papier-mâché sculpture titled, Donald Drumpf’s Head on a Silver Platter (which, by the way, is listed as “priceless”). Once inside, graceful antique tables and vases, contemporary and traditional paintings, and sculptures provide a sensory surge that pulls the visitor in to explore everything from floor to ceiling.
Burke is no stranger to celebrities, who frequent her gallery as artists or clients. She has featured works by Palmer as well as Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, and jazz artist Roy Ayers, which have drawn attention from both music and art lovers.
Burke also is a veteran at handling creative ideas and treats her resident artists with the same respect as she does the glitterati. Harlin, one of the gallery’s renowned artists, says, “I thought my work would be a tough fit in most galleries, yet Katherine has created a space that feels as much history museum as art gallery, and my paintings seem easily at home.” Munro Wood agrees. “She exhibits a sense of history and, at the same time, a sense of humor . . . her windows with art and artifacts make for unusual art.”
Every day is full. Burke demonstrates her rapport with bodyguards, finds four different varieties of apples for a finicky rock star artist, caters a reception, and pulls out protocol for the book-signing of Lynne Cheney (wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney)—a collaboration with Harlin. Through all of this, she remains grounded and committed to her artists and community.
“The future?” Burke laughs when asked about upcoming plans. She’s going through another batch of old black-and-white negatives, getting ready for a December show. She’s also waiting for Munro Wood to finish her portrait of Benjamin Franklin; as soon as it’s dry, it will go in the front window—opposite Drumpf’s head on a silver platter. █