Painting History


Don’t you love old buildings? We appreciate them for their beauty and craftsmanship — and for how they make us feel. They may bring back happy memories; inspire us to greatness; remind us of history; or just overwhelm us with their beauty.

Some buildings are works of art. Like paintings, music or literature, these buildings let us see what we can achieve, what is possible. And these buildings connect us with our past.

Join us as this week’s cover story explores Baltimore’s Jewish past. JT reporter Susan Ingram reveals the world of Baltimore’s bygone synagogues. Sixteen artists have been traveling all over Baltimore City recently to paint old synagogues as part of a special project titled, “Baltimore’s Bygone Synagogues: History Captured.” The project, conceived by Baltimore artist Lissa Abrams, involves painting old shuls for an exhibit on Sept. 1 at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Hoffberger Gallery.

For Abrams, a member of Baltimore’s Bolton Street Synagogue, the painting project is a way to honor the history of Jewish Baltimore.

“What I’m more connected to is the sense of Jewish presence, and I love Jewish history in the city of Baltimore,” she said. “So, I started looking at all the synagogues and I thought these are amazing buildings. There’s one on West North Avenue near Pennsylvania Avenue [former Har Zion]. It has a giant Jewish star on the front and it is beautiful. It is in the middle of the block and it has such presence. It’s like it’s saying, ‘See me. I’m here.’”

And speaking of artists … the JT sat down with Baltimore artist Helaine Sawilowsky, who is a distant relation to Anne Frank. Sawilowsky recently participated in an event at the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York in commemoration of Anne Frank’s 90th birthday. She also showed her work at the center’s gala.

Sawilowsky said making the Anne Frank paintings was a challenge and a “journey” for her as an artist.

“It was hard. Anne Frank is mostly [seen] in black-and-white photos. So I had to make the decision, if I was going to represent her, I wanted to bring her back to life in color,” she said.

And in keeping with this week’s art theme, the JT caught up with Baltimore comedian Marc Unger, who is producing a web-based series called “Thespian,” about a 50-year-old man who returns to the local Baltimore theater scene to become a serious actor.

“Thespian” was released on Amazon and Amazon Prime last year. Unger is currently shooting season two in and around Baltimore. The series is fun to watch, complete with Jewish and Gen-X humor. But definitely 100% Baltimore.

Shabbat Shalom.

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