It takes longer to change a culture than it does to promote an idea. Berlin was promoting itself as an art destination well before the culture caught up, but that was to be expected. The town has always been a preferred place for artists to live and work because Berlin is quiet and walkable. Once the town was accepted as an arts and entertainment district, the incentive to sell as well as produce art in town strengthened. Art shows spread beyond the town’s increasing number of galleries and the idea about who could make art as what counted as art morphed as well.
Every child that is in a local school, for example, has had the opportunity to show their work during the annual student arts night, held each March as part of the 2nd Friday Art Stroll for the better part of the last decade. They have grown up with the idea that art is a real and regular part of life, not some separate thing for grownup sophisticates. Art is alive in Berlin and likely will remain that way well into the future.
The next chapter in public art
Earlier this school year, the notion that the students at Buckingham Elementary School could produce a mural to be hung at the Berlin Visitors Center got out into the ether. There certainly is plenty of credit to go around, but Robin Tomaselli, owner of Baked Desserts in town, was credited with spearheading the movement to make it a reality. Working with her fellow Arts and Entertainment committee members, Tomaselli helped secure enough funding to engage artist John Donato to come in and help plan and construct the mural.
The students, teachers and members of the community all worked together to make the mural a reality. It was laid out so that it could eventually be cut to fit in the wall on the north face of the Visitors Center. Although the mural is a work unto itself, as the project came into focus it was clear that it could be expanded for more of the town’s children to participate. The Arts and Entertainment folks decided to begin planning more mural phases based on the premise that the community will come together to help fund the rest of the mural. They expect to release those details in late March.
The history of Berlin, Maryland
The mural doesn’t just focus on promoting a certain aesthetic that the town embraces, it also focuses on the town’s rich history. The project was about more than the art, it was about learning different ways to express the Berlin story. A lot of times, many would say too often, the point of history gets lost in the reading of it. History isn’t dry, although historians can be.
That’s been changing in recent years with history becoming more engaging across disciplines in the schools. History isn’t about plowing through texts, it is about making sense of the present by engaging in stories about how we got to where we are.
According to Donato, Carol Rose brought her command of Berlin’s history to bear on the project, telling stories about the town that were incorporated by the artist as well as by the children in subtle and obvious ways throughout the mural.
A sense of the future of Berlin art
One perfect March morning Donato measured and cut the mural to fit around the windows and outcroppings of the building and secured it into place. It is as new as it will ever be now, but one gets the sense that as the years goes on it will be well protected and regarded. The children of Buckingham Elementary wont all grow up to be professional artists and might not even cultivate their abilities to make art at all. Still, as they grow old, leave and return to Berlin or as they become stable members of the community, business or civic leaders, the mural will stand as a reminder that, at its heart, Berlin is an artist’s community. Berlin is someplace that understand the value of having people in the community who have given themselves over to the aesthetic life. A place where people who value people who value art always will be drawn, always will be welcome.