by Jimi Haha  photography by Mark Peria

It’s New Year’s Eve 2015. I am sitting inside 45 West Street, applying little bits of paper—die-cut from art auction catalogs into the shape of guitar picks—to a canvas. Bob Marley is coming into shape. I am looking back on a great year, thinking about the awe-inspiring things created in the Annapolis Arts and Entertainment District, and reveling in it all.

P2090007Toward the end of the year, a group of artists approached Brian and Sarah Cahalan, the owners of 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar & Gallery, about their vacant space two doors down. They graciously let us create a pop-up art gallery that has become my favorite place to hang out and create.

If you wandered around the first block of West Street, you might have had the pleasure of seeing artists at work and their wares on display: Charles Lawrance working on a shark painting or explaining the fish prints that he created from his many angling excursions, Mark Peria washing color onto one of his fanciful faces on vellum, Alison Harbaugh editing or adapting her one-off photograph transfers framed with found objects. Derek Arnold’s metal sculptures, which peppered the space with industrial beasts, might have jutted into your view, or Erin Schweers’ large abstract pieces might have pulled you in off the street to discover their stark and colorful movements.

Stewart Weiss’ wooden moons dangling in the window hinted at the lunar god that rules his heart. Eric Roberge’s meticulous paintings on crab and oyster shells paid homage to the grand body of water our picturesque town embraces. A piece by Jah-Haha Collaborative Art (Jeff Huntington and me), “I Wee Wee with Ai Wei Wei,” stared at oglers from the back hallway. Christopher Pagent’s wooden sculptures and collages beckoned viewers to create their own meaning behind his hand’s purpose, while Michelle Lillie’s glassworks illuminated the imagination of passersby.

P2120140You might have had the pleasure of sipping on a glass of wine from Great Frogs, our local winery. Or caught Jonathan Stone, Black Rhinoceros, Gingerwolf, Dominic Fragman, Humble Trimble, Jason Zeckowski, or Johnny Kling performing sets of their original music. Perhaps you were immersed in a performance by one-man theatre Omar Said, or overheard a conversation between Joe Gormley and Gavin Buckley about plans to promote the arts in Annapolis.

The scene at 45 West Street is a snapshot in time, a place to commune and create. It inspires, teases, and intrigues the many people who pass by or linger. It also proves to be a great use of vacant space. ArtFarm will be moving in later in March to the keep with flavor of our rich Arts and Entertainment District. However, my hope is that, in the future, we will see more landlords granting use of temporarily dormant spaces for similar wondrous endeavors.

Sipping some more wine, I daub my brush on a bit of paper with a portion of Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn” to help color Bob’s bottom lip. I watch people pass by on the street. I fall deeper in love with this town and its people. And I look forward to seeing what 2016 holds for all of us. I raise my cup to all of you. Thank you for making our town better and our experiences richer. 

Artward and Upward.