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A Day of Discovery

June 7 was a memorable day for art lovers. Some 38 art enthusiasts traveled by bus to Brooklyn on a trip sponsored by the Arts Program at UMUC. The journey began shortly after sunrise at the Leroy Merritt Center for the Art of Joseph Sheppard in Adelphi. From the time we boarded the bus until we returned safely that evening, art was the topic of the day.

On the way to New York, we got a preview of what we would see in Brooklyn, and we discussed the state of the arts in our local area. We shared information about our personal art collections and the artists who have created the works we love. We chatted about up-and-coming artists as well as the importance of the arts in community.

Our first stop: the Kentler International Drawing Space. Florence Neal, the artist who serves as director of the gallery, told us all about the Kentler Flatfiles, a compendium of artwork by 200 artists that showcases the gallery's commitment to contemporary drawings and works on paper. Artists, curators, collectors, and the public all have access to this rich resource.

We had the opportunity to spend time with two artists connected to the gallery, Ilene Sunshine and Marietta Hoferer. Sunshine, who told us about her interest in negative space, described how she uses natural materials such as leaves to expand the notion of traditional drawing—sometimes tracing the leaves on paper, sometimes sewing the leaves to paper and embellishing them with other materials.

Hoferer demonstrated how she uses rolls of paper tape, cuts the tape into the tiniest of pieces, and uses the pieces to create geometrical works of art on paper. Her technique—and patience—impressed us all.

After lunching at the historic Junior’s Restaurant (cheesecake, anyone?), we proceeded to the home and studio of sculptor Frederick Eversley. We entered a four-story building that serves as the artist's home and studio. The main floor, which he uses as his living space, contains stark white walls and an installation work toward the back of the space. When we moved on to the second floor, we saw some truly magnificent sculptures.

Eversley talked to us about his works, many of them made of polyester. "My sculpture deals with the notion of energy in the very broad sense of the word," he told the group.

After we left Eversley's studio, we visited the Red Hook Gallery complex, where we peeked into the various galleries and got to meet the Uruguayan-born conceptual artist Silvina Arismendi. We then journeyed to the Domino Sugar Factory to see a much-talked-about sculpture by Kara Walker, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby. This installation, a massive sphinx-turned Mammie made of foam blocks and coated in sugar, was 35 feet high and 75 feet long.

The artist’s full name of the installation—A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby An Homage to the Unpaid and Over-Worked Artisans Who Have Refined our Sweet Tastes from the Cane Fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the Demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant—gives you clues that the work was an examination of issues related to race and exploitation.

"I used the figure of the Mammie because she is powerful and iconic in our history," Walker says. "It is very important to look back." We appreciated getting the chance to see this provocative work. This exhibition closed just a month after our visit and the refinery is scheduled to be torn down later this year.

Our final stop in Brooklyn was a reception at Dorsey's Art Gallery, the oldest continuously run black-owned and -operated art gallery in the New York area. Artist Karl McIntosh, who serves as gallery director, greeted us, and then two other artists, J. Bell-Bey and Otto Neals, treated us to a short history of the gallery and talked about some of the works. With a day like this, it’s no wonder the trip got such positive and enthusiastic reviews.

"Had a great time," L. Christina Waddler wrote in her evaluation. "Would love to go on another art trip with UMUC Arts Program. The most memorable experience was going to Frederick Eversley home/studio. That made my day!"

Diane Maglaque was enthusiastic as well, rating the trip A+++. "I really enjoyed seeing the art in the galleries and studio and listening to the artists talk about their work. Nothing really can step into the place of being physically present in front of a piece of art. My biggest wonder that I saw was the Kara Walker installation. The whole experience made the wheels in my head run around. I actually Googled her the next day to find out more information about her sculptures of Sugar Babies, and her sphinx sculpture. Then I wrote my blog about the impressions I received from her artwork. There were so many great parts to the trip that I can’t tell you which was the best part."

For Maeva Dumena, connecting with the artists was the highlight. "Meeting an artist who is a living legend was awe inspiring. Fred Eversley’s story was moving. I am always honored when I get to be in the presence of African American pioneers. Thank you for that."