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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 4, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 28
'Music, Art and Beautiful Things': The Garrett Family's Legacy

Peter Bruun shows off a painting by Shanice Williams, an 8th-grader at Stadium School, inspired by Evergreen's dining room.

By Abby Lattes
Historic Houses

Music, Art and Beautiful Things, an exhibition installed throughout the historic rooms of Evergreen House, opens on Friday, April 8, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. and will remain on view through Thursday, June 30.

The exhibition includes sculpture, photographs, paintings, writing and selected objects inspired by the history, collections and architecture of Evergreen House and created by students and young people from Baltimore Freedom Academy, Kids on the Hill, Park School, Roland Park Country School, Stadium School, Youthlight and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. Accompanying this work are new paintings by project director and artist Peter Bruun. Additional programs related to Music, Art and Beautiful Things include a gallery talk and tour with Bruun and Evergreen House curator Jackie O'Regan at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, and an "Evening of Music and Readings" in Evergreen's Bakst Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 7.

Bruun, an artist and art educator who works with diverse audiences throughout Baltimore's schools and neighborhoods, began planning this project four years ago after his first visit to Evergreen. Home to the Garrett family from 1878 to 1942, the 48-room mansion on 26 landscaped acres functions today as a house museum, contemporary art center and performance space, and is filled with the Garretts' extensive collections, among them Asian and post-Impressionist art, rare books and Tiffany glass.

"After seeing Evergreen, I was fascinated with how the Garretts' history still resonates with the present and the people who visit their home," Bruun said.

The Garrett family stipulated, when they bequeathed their home and its collections to Johns Hopkins in 1942, that Evergreen should remain open "to lovers of music, art and beautiful things."

"Today, everyone is a lover of music, art and beautiful things," Bruun said, "and my intention in organizing this exhibit was to introduce Evergreen to audiences the Garretts may not have had in mind when they wrote their will."

One of Bruun's 72 paintings that celebrate the 72 student participants.

The students Bruun invited to participate represent a cross section of Baltimore's youth, as they come from neighborhoods throughout the city and from divergent socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. In conceiving the project, he said, "I wanted to help students and teachers explore the meaning of their own experiences of Evergreen and have them identify ways they could creatively respond to the Garretts' legacy." In all cases, the students' work supports topics and themes they are exploring in their classrooms. "In addition to stimulating students' imaginations, the project is also designed to further teachers' goals," Bruun said. "My hope is that even after the exhibition is finished, the educators involved will think of Evergreen as a resource they can continue to use."

Working with teachers and instructors from the participating schools and after-school programs, Bruun arranged for the students to visit Evergreen.

"I was surprised by some of their reactions," he said. "While some kids wanted to know about the art collections and the family, others were fascinated by the fact that people actually lived there. They wanted to know about the art and furniture, but they also wanted to know if the plumbing and fireplaces work."

Drawing upon their interests and skills, the students' work reflects their own feelings about Evergreen and the Garrett family. "The art and writing in Music, Art and Beautiful Things defies categorization," Bruun said. "It is not just one kind of creative interaction but a range of responses. Evergreen, after all, is not just one thing."

Among the works on display is a group of paintings by eighth-grade students at the Stadium School depicting imaginary views from within the home's interior. These paintings combine aspects of the students' own homes and interests with factual recordings of Evergreen's rooms. The changes and additions the students imagine for the house are intended to make Evergreen feel more like their own homes.

More than 20 excerpts of writing by 10th-graders from Park School and students from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins further explore and fictionalize visitors' experiences of the house and illuminate aspects of Evergreen, ranging from the architecture and collections to the students' opinions of the Garrett family.

Participants from Kids on the Hill, an after-school art program in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood, used digital photography and text to investigate the absence of black history recorded in Evergreen's collections. The students were asked to complete the phrase, "If black history were documented ... ." Their statements, accompanied by photographs they took of their peers and themselves in a variety of poses, are displayed in Evergreen's upstairs hallway amid photographs of the Garretts' friends.

Also interspersed in the Garretts' personal photograph collections is a selection of images of young people at home, engaged in everyday activities, taken by students in Youthlight, an after-school photography and media literacy program. Their contemporary photographs are juxtaposed with those of similar scenes from the Garretts' lives and are accompanied by students' descriptions of the images.

To complement the Garretts' collection of miniature Japanese masks, high school students from the Baltimore Freedom Academy created their own papier-mache masks to depict how they would feel about being invited to spend an evening with the Garretts. The resulting expressions ranged from shyness and joy to envy and fury.

A total of 72 students contributed to the exhibition, and to "invoke and celebrate these individuals," Bruun has created 72 new paintings. In the North Wing Gallery, he will display 72 unique but related paintings that he calls "drops of beauty," accompanied by the names of the exhibition participants. Each painting is comprised of two colors, from a total palette of nine, and includes a background and a simple circular shape. "The paintings and names," Bruun said, "form a constellation of beauty, referring visitors to the participants and suggesting that they, too, as visitors are adding to this beauty by bringing their own experiences to their visit."

Evergreen House, located at 4545 N. Charles St., is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $6, adults; $3, students and children over 6; $5, seniors. The opening night reception is free. For more information, call 410-516-0341.


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