It’s a Waterfront Life! Baltimore’s 100-year-old folk art revitalized by local exhibit

Written by on November 23, 2012 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Anna Pasqualucci’s painted screen is on display at Talara, 615 S. President St.

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The Window Wonderland unveiling in Harbor East last Thursday featured the artwork of local artists from all over Baltimore, including Fell’s Point, Highlandtown and Hampden.

“This was a great way to get artists from all over the city together in one place,” one organizer said.

Window Wonderland is a holiday arts exhibit that will run through New Year’s Day, featuring installations from 10 local artists in the storefront windows of Harbor East.

The exhibit features a number of screen painters. Screen painting is a historic Baltimore folk-art that has lost popularity in recent decades. Some of Baltimore’s most talented screen painters, including Anna Pasqualucci, Pat Michalski and John R. Iampieri had works on display.

Michalski was born in Baltimore and has always loved “Baltimore’s unique art of the old-time painted screens,” she said.

Michalski started screen painting when she was young. She was inspired as a little girl by looking out of her window onto the streets of South Baltimore, watching people shop. She fell in love with Baltimore in those early years of her life, she said. For the exhibit, Michalski created a large screen painting of Baltimore from a distance, offset by a large tree in the foreground.  Michalski’s love for Baltimore is reflected in her painting of the city and the tree represents its growth.

“I really, really love this city,” Michalski said regard to why she chose it as the subject of her painting, adding “The tree is supposed to promote how to grow.”

The painting is on display in the window of White House Black Market at 810 Aliceanna Street.

Michalski is a master instructor at Anne Arundel Community College and also teaches the art of screen painting to senior citizens in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore.  She is a member of the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore.

According to the Painted Screen Society, Baltimore’s first screen was painted by William Oktavec, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, in 1913. It was displayed in his ‘Little Bohemia,’ grocery store on the corner of North Collington Avenue and Ashland Avenue.

In 1922, Oktavec opened The Art Shop on E. Monument St. where, according to the Painted Screen Society, he sold painted screens by the thousands and taught art classes. The popularity of screen painting grew to its highest in the 1940’s and 50’s, but has since become regarded as a lost art by many Baltimoreans.

Michalski has studied with some the Baltimore’s most famous screen painters, including John Oktavec, the grandson of William Oktavec, and Dee Herget, one of the founders of the Painted Screen Society.

“It’s a wonderful art and I don’t want to see it die,” Michalski said.

Pasqualucci was also introduced to street painting as a child in Baltimore.

“I used to see it along the streets when I was a little girl, it was very prevalent,” she said.

Pasqualucci, however, studied science and worked in the science industry for years before returning to screen painting.

“I was a lab manager, and I worked in bio agriculture and pharmaceutical biotech for 25 years,” she said, adding that her arthritis forced her to leave her career.

Subsequently, Pasqualucci took up screen painting again, and her hobby turned into a small business.

“It was great to have picked up something I loved as a child!”

“The thing I like to say is, I’m painting the town one window at a time”

Pasqualucci’s painting on display at Talara at 615 S. President Street.

John R. Iampieri’s painting is at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion on the 700 block of Aliceanna Street.  The screen painter said he was glad to share the 100 year folk art with the Harbor East community.

By Leslie Spacek
Special to the Baltimore Guide

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