For the Love of the Sport Spirit, hard work fuel Israel’s efforts in two major lacrosse tournaments

From left: Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Premiere Lacrosse League, U19 coaches Emily Brodsky and Hannah Deoul and Mark Greenberg, executive board member of IPLL.

From left: Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Premiere Lacrosse League, U19 coaches Emily Brodsky and Hannah Deoul and Mark Greenberg, executive board member of IPLL.

The Israel Lacrosse Association finished two major international tournaments this August: the 2015 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s U19 World Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland and the 2015 European Lacrosse Federation Lacrosse Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Israel women’s division finished fourth overall in Prague while the Israel youth division that competed internationally for the first time finished last in the Scotland tournament.

“We had a difficult time putting together our team, but the 17 girls who competed in Scotland have amazing spirits and learned so much about the game of lacrosse, teamwork, how to deal with adversity and what it means to represent their country,” said Emily Brodsky, one of the coaches for the U19 team and a player in the women’s division. “We had not played a real lacrosse game [together] against another team before our first game in the World Cup.”

Despite a last-place finish, the players in the youth division have kept their heads high and are proud to have represented Israel. Although most of the team consisted of girls from Israel, several players from Baltimore joined them.

Genna Portner, 17, from McDonogh School, said she was nervous about traveling with girls she barely knew, but despite the language barrier the Israelis welcomed their American counterparts warmly. Jenna Baverman, 18, from Roland Park Country School, said she relished the opportunity to represent Israel on the field.

“We knew coming into it that many people would not be supporting Israel or us playing in the tournament, but it didn’t stop my teammates and me from loving the experience,” said Baverman. “After the opening ceremony, playing in our first official game together, getting goosebumps while singing ‘Hatikvah’ and then contributing to Israel Lacrosse, it was worth it all.”

As the games progressed the team enjoyed the opportunity to compete rather than focus on the outcome of any one game.

“It was about just having fun compared to the intensity and importance winning is given in competitive lacrosse in the United States,” said Portner. “Although we didn’t win any games in Scotland, after every game it seemed like we did. Our team would dance, sing and walk off the field smiling after not scoring a single goal.”

Lilly Pollak, 17, from The Hill School (in Pennsylvania) credits Israel’s coaches Brodsky and Hannah Deoul for bringing the team together.

“They had to make a whole team for an international tournament in less than a year and with girls who had never played the sport before,” said Pollak. “I admire them and all the other coaches for doing what they did because it was no easy task.”

Deoul said that during the course of the competition, Israeli players became known for their  spirit, love, kindness and pride for the opportunity to play.

When Brodsky and Deoul finished in Scotland they immediately flew to Prague for their own tournament in the European championships, which ran from Aug 8. to Aug 15.

“As a player on Israel’s women’s team we [were] serious contenders for the gold medal. This [was] completely opposite from the position that we were in at the World Cup,” said Brodsky. “Being the coach of a team from a country with a developing lacrosse program has given me a ton of perspective and respect for the teams that I am currently competing against as a player.”

Although the women’s team demonstrably did better in ranking than the girls, Brodsky said she hopes they walked away with a similar reputation.

Said Brodsky, “I want our women’s team to be remembered for the same things the U19 players are remembered for: spirit, energy, compassion and hard work.”

Coming Together LGBT discussion at Enoch Pratt led by change-makers

Yitz Jordan, also known as Y-love, speaks about his experiences coming out as a gay man at Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore City. (Justin Katz)

Yitz Jordan, also known as Y-love, speaks about his experiences coming out as a gay man at Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore City. (Justin Katz)

Yitz Jordan, whose stage name is Y-love, has seen hate, prejudice and racism throughout his life, but when he and several other LGBT activists shared their stories in Baltimore on July 21, the negative wasn’t the focus of their discussion.

“Taking a negative and making it a learning experience,” said Jordan, “[People have heard] a lot of stories of struggle and horrible things that have happened to people, but all those experiences have been transformed into something positive.”

Jordan, a gay Orthodox Jewish hip-hop artist, was a panelist in a discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City. The discussion was centered on Dr. Joe Wenke and his new book “The Human Agenda.”

Wenke thought of the title when he was writing an article about the persistence of the phrase “the homosexual agenda.”

“It became apparent to me that there is no such thing as the homosexual agenda,” said Wenke, during the panel. “There’s only the human agenda: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How controversial is that message? We’re all human beings.”

Other panelists included Gisele Alicea, a transgender activist who talked with Wenke for his book, Saida Agostini, director of LGBTQ resources at the FreeState Legal Project, and Keith Thirion, director of advocacy and programs for Equality Maryland.

Although Wenke interviewed many for his book, he picked Jordan and Alicea to accompany him on a panel discussion for their unique stories.

“Gisele and Y-Love have unique human stories to tell,” said Wenke. “I think if you have an open mind and a good heart, it’s hard to judge people for who they are.”

Jordan grew up in East Baltimore, and although his mother was catholic, he always had a deep interest in Judaism. After seeing a commercial on television that said ‘Happy Passover’, he began researching Judaism. His mother was doubtful that his interest would last.

But Jordan’s interest in Judaism only increased; at age 9, he insisted on celebrating Chanukah instead of Christmas, in high school he taught himself to read Hebrew, and in 2000, he converted. Although his engagement with Judaism was growing, his relationship with his mother was declining.

“When I was 13, my mother and I fought like cats and dogs. It became a mantra: ‘The Jewish community will not accept you,’” said Jordan. “Ironically, it was tzedakah that paid for my mother’s funeral in 2004.”

Jordan attempted to come out when he was a teenager, but between the lack of support from his mother and his efforts to join the Orthodox community, he went back into the closet.

While Jordan’s life has not always been easy, what makes his story more impactful is when people hear it side-by-side with Alicea’s story, as they did at Enoch Pratt.

“When I came out of the closet my mother was hurt, and she did cry, but she was so supportive,” said Alicea. “She let me live my life freely and didn’t question me after that,” said Alicea. “[My mother] and I didn’t always have a perfect relationship but when it came to gender she was very accepting.”

Alicea, who is transgender, had a very different childhood compared with Jordan’s. Most of her family was supportive with one exception.

“My father initially had an issue. He banged his hands on the table and shouted, ‘My son is not going to be gay’” said Alicea.

Alicea’s father eventually came around when he saw her after she transitioned. Although Jordan’s mother passed away before he came out of the closet again in 2012, he ended up receiving support from places he didn’t expect.

When Jordan and a friend were studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, they’d use music and rhyming to help them with Talmudic studies. After performing at an open-mic night in Tribeca, N.Y., the owner invited them to come back for a regular slot.

Jordan stopped performing for some time when his rabbis told him that it would hurt his integration into the Chasidic community. But after seeing Matisyahu grow in popularity and losing both his mother and grandmother in 2004, he had a change of heart.

In 2005, one of Jordan’s friends from yeshiva, Erez Safar, got him signed on to record at Modular Moods, which would become Shemspeed, the premier Jewish-owned-and-operated label.

The success helped him come to terms with his sexuality, but not without hesitations.

“Before coming out I was preparing myself for backlash of epic biblical proportions,” said Jordan. “I was literally expecting people with pitchforks to bang on the door.”

To Jordan’s surprise, when stories appeared about his coming out in  2012, social media comments started flooding in showing support.

“I was expecting extreme hatred when I came out, but it got thousands of shares on Facebook, and lots of tweets through social media,” said Jordan. “People were saying, ‘I don’t understand Y-Love, but I support him.’”

Jordan was later approached by Wenke to participate in “The Human Agenda” with Alicea and other LGBT change-makers.

Wenke’s approach to writing his book and guiding the panel discussion was simplistic but direct.

“What if I just have conversations with amazing people in different communities across the country,” said Wenke during the panel. “Unique and amazing human beings telling stories about their lives and sharing their experiences. Maybe that would be a way of reaching people who have open minds and hearts but need to be educated.”

Jordan believes Wenke’s method is appropriate, and the event at Enoch Pratt is proof.

“What could be a better catalyst for change than just a simple conversation, where we come and explain why we’re human beings,” said Jordan after the event. “There were no confrontations, no heckling, no anger, it was literally just coming together as humans.”

Believing in Baltimore City students express feelings about unrest with help from renowned musicians

When Baltimore City saw riots and looting following the death of Freddie Gray in April, Believe in Music founder Kenny Liner was scared for his students and spent the night fighting the urge to hop in his car to make sure they all were OK.

The Living Classrooms program, which aims to uplift Baltimore’s inner city youth through music and self-expression, was started for those students — many who live in the very neighborhoods that were affected by the unrest — to learn how to tell their stories through writing and recording music.

In the days that followed, Liner had his students drop everything to write a song about the recent events.

From left: Believe in Music students Caprice Martin, Taniyah Kutcherman, Yamaudi Pinder and Amira Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

From left: Believe in Music students Caprice Martin, Taniyah Kutcherman, Yamaudi Pinder and Amira Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

In the program’s almost three-year history, students have performed at music festivals, there have been three packed benefit concerts at the Maryland Science Center and Believe in Music has been featured in international media. But July 20 was arguably one of the most special days for Believe in Music, when a song “Believe in Baltimore,” a plea for positivity and togetherness in the wake of Baltimore unrest written and sung by students backed up by some of Baltimore’s most well-known musicians, was released.

“I want people to realize that it’s not really about being black or white, it’s about all of us coming together,” said 15-year-old Yamaudi Pinder. “I think once people listen to it and listen to the lyrics, they’ll realize that we’re all a big family. We’re all human.”

Pinder, one of the song’s lead singers, wrote the lyrics to the bridge: “Unification can show the whole nation that we are together by association/through all the struggle and tragedy, violence and anger turn to peaceful harmony.”

The video can be viewed at

I want people to realize that it’s not really about being black or white, it’s about all of us coming together.

As the students worked on the song, Liner reached out to Baltimore musicians to get involved with the project. He got in touch with members of internationally renowned Baltimore band Future Islands, who were in town with a few days off, and as he said, “it kind of snowballed” from there.

With the help of Sam Sessa, Baltimore music coordinator at Towson University’s listener-supported radio station WTMD, the cast of musicians expanded to include members of Lower Dens, Celebration, The Bridge and Mt. Royal as well as Caleb Stine, Letitia VanSant and more. Local filmmaker Chris LaMartina shot a music video featuring scenes from around Baltimore as well as the recording sessions at WTMD, and the video was produced by 15Four.

Sessa said when he put feelers out, the response was overwhelming.

“I basically reached out to some of the best Baltimore musicians I could think of and I just went right down the list,” he said. “It’s amazing how these musicians wanted to give their time to this. It’s not often that so many great Baltimore musicians come together for one song. But these kids are so talented, I’m glad it’s this song.”

Future Islands’ touring drummer Mike Lowry and bassist William Cashion, who have spent much of 2015 touring, arranged the song. Jana Hunter of Lower Dens coached the kids through the song just days after returning from England opening for Belle and Sebastian.

“I don’t think [the students] knew who these bands were going in but realized quickly how talented these musicians are,” Sessa said. “This project has made an impact on these kids’ lives.”

Liner said the whole process, from his students writing the song to the response of local musicians to the recording and music video, has been amazing for him to be a part of.

“I’m just so appreciative that people are interested in what the kids are saying and their feelings about what’s happening in Baltimore,” he said. “Their little lights are shining so bright, and you can really feel and hear the talent and the depth in their voice.”

Charm City Theaters Sun photographer captures history, images of Baltimore’s theaters

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

About 140 people filled the Jewish Museum of Maryland on July  12 to hear Amy Davis, full-time staff photographer at the Baltimore Sun, discuss her new book “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters.”

Many of Davis’ photos are on display at the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit, which illustrates how films countered America’s isolationist mind frame during World War II and changed the post-war perception of the Jewish people. The exhibit, which is divided into two sections: the war years and the epic cycle, was originally curated by Hebrew-Union College to explore the effect of movies across the country, but JMM is focusing on Baltimore movies and theaters specifically.

Davis began working on her book when she noticed one of her favorite theaters had an uncertain future.

“I lived near the Senator Theatre when it faced foreclose in 2007, and I was attached to it as my neighborhood theater,” said Davis. “As I thought about it I realized that its state might be the same as all the others in Baltimore because it was the last single-screen theater Baltimore.”

Davis began researching other theaters and published a piece about it in the Baltimore Sun. She received feedback from many people who wanted to discuss their favorite movie theaters that weren’t featured in the piece.

Enthused by the response, she pursued the subject further. For her upcoming book, she interviewed more than 300 people such as political activist Shoshana Cardin who worked at a theater her father owned.

“The imagery will be nostalgic,” said Marvin Pinkert, executivedirector of JMM, describing the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit.

Nostalgia was the atmosphere during Davis’ presentation. When she asked the audience who had been to the Crest Theatre, the majority of people in the room immediately raised their hands.

One person Davis interviewed who had fond memories of the Crest Theatre was Baltimore filmmaker Barry Levinson. According to Davis, Levinson took his first date to the Crest Theatre and across the street was a parking lot near the Hilltop Diner. Whenever Levinson would see his buddies’ cars in the parking lot, he would know to end the date quickly and go to the diner.

“I think it’s a lot of fun for people to be reminded of going to the movies and seeing your favorite movie at the local theater,” said Joanna Church, collections manager at JMM. “It’s a reminder that history is fun and can be relevant to your own life.”

For many others like Levinson, the theaters also represent memories.

“I went through [the exhibit] with people who’ve lived in Baltimore their whole life and they say they remember those theaters from their childhood,” said Pinkert.

The memories are bittersweet for some because so many of the theaters that Davis has photographed are either demolished or in rough condition. She hopes her book will make people step back and remember the life theaters brought to Baltimore’s streets.

“I hope my book, in a gentle way, will spark a dialogue about what’s happened when you look at how vibrant these streets were with their movie theaters,” said Davis. “And how troubled some of them are now and it’s my effort at tikun olam, repairing the world.”

Davis added, “I was really gratified to see the large turnout. It confirmed the sense that I’ve gotten all along working on this book that there is tremendous interest in this subject.”


Cinema Judaica
Through Sept. 6
Jewish Museum of Maryland
15 Lloyd St., Baltimore
Call 410-732-6400 or visit for more information.

League of Their Own Hockey Moms take to the ice and find fitness, fun, camaraderie

Evie Altman, 50, shot a solid pass across the ice and immediately thrust her hockey stick high in the air, cheering on herself and her fellow Hockey Moms.

In the stands, her 14-year-old daughter, Marxe Orbach, took her eyes off her phone long enough to notice her mother’s play. “I like watching her. I love my mom, and I love watching her enjoying herself, and she enjoys herself so much when she’s playing.”

Call it payback.

Altman has been supporting her daughter’s pursuits all her life. She drives Marxe, a goalie and recent graduate of Westland Middle School, to and from practices at the Rockville Ice Arena on Southlawn Court. She makes sure her daughter has the proper pads, skates and uniform, and, yes, she cheers.

Forty-five mothers who know what it’s like to carpool, rush to practice and then hang around the lobby waiting for that practice to end have formed a league of their own. And “darn close to 50 percent” of those hockey-playing moms are Jewish, according to their coach, Steve Sprague.

On Sunday nights, from May through August, these women strive to replicate all the moves their children already have conquered. From 6:45 p.m. to 8:10 p.m., they skate around the rink, jump, stop and pick up one leg. There is no checking. These are not the Washington Capitals. In fact, it’s not unusual to hear them say, “I’m sorry,” following a poor pass.

“It’s a very nurturing environment. They encourage us to do our best and be a little adventurous,” said Irina Kebreau, 41. “You know, we are no spring chickens.”

Joyce Kammerman agreed. “We are not an aggressive bunch. A lot of us are just learning,” said the 49-year-old Rockville resident.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

“It’s very challenging. You need to be coordinated,” watch the puck and skate “all at the same time,” said Kebreau, of Silver Spring. She has two sons and a stepdaughter who play hockey and said one of the most important things she has learned after taking to the ice herself is not to be so critical of her children.

Several of the women vowed never again to say a disparaging word when their children take a long time to put on their pads, even when they put their pants on before their pads and have to start over. They also admit to being more reticent to criticize when a shot is missed.

Playing ice hockey “is not as easy as it looks,” Kebreau said as she sat on a bench in the arena’s lobby, pulling up her leggings and adjusting the bright pink helmet her daughter no longer wears.

Unlike the rest of her teammates, Kebreau chooses to steer clear of the ice rink’s locker rooms. Those rooms smell as bad as a boy’s bedroom, she said.

The lobby resembles a busy airport, with people of all ages rushing in and out, either lugging a huge bag of equipment or pulling a suitcase on wheels.

Many parents fill the time waiting for their children to finish by chatting with other parents they have met through numerous hockey seasons.

“We joke, when the kids play, at any time you could have a minyan” in the lobby, said Rori Kochman, 45, of Potomac, who is in her second season with Hockey Moms.

Playing “is exhilarating and a little bit scary,” she said. Her 15-year-old daughter, Julia, called it “hilarious” to watch her mom play. “I found someone as bad as me.”

Bonding with teenagers requires special skills. Sharing a sport helps, said Kammerman. “I think every woman here would say that it helps you relate to your kids.”

Agreed teammate Lisa Milofsky-Pinard, “There’s a lot of bonding that goes on.”

At first, the 49-year-old Silver Spring woman “never, ever thought I would play ice hockey.” Cycling, yes. Roller blading, yes, but not hockey.
“I thought it was too dangerous. And all those rules.”

She gave it a try last season, borrowing equipment from family members and friends. About three-quarters of the way through the season, she treated herself to her own gear.

Her sister, Alison Milofsky, 45 of Chevy Chase, “always wanted to play. I did play field hockey.” Not only does she work up a sweat during practice, but she claimed to be already perspiring by the time she finished donning her son’s jersey, her husband’s old gloves and helmet and her sister’s old skates.

At a recent practice, the sisters faced off, laughed loudly throughout.

Hockey Moms is the joint creation of Sprague and assistant coach Hilary Murphy.

“We joked about it for three years,” said Sprague.

Last year, she decided if it was ever going to happen, the time was now.

“I went to the rink, got some ice time, and was hoping to get 20 moms,” Sprague said. “We had 20 in the first week. After 40, I had to cut it off.”

Hockey Moms “is for beginners, for those who want to learn to skate, to understand the game better,” Sprague said, who has been coaching hockey for 13 years.

“They really want to be there. Most of them have told their spouses and kids, ‘Don’t come. Let me learn on my own,” he said. These are the same moms who “drive their kids back and forth, make dinner, bring snacks.”

Murphy, who normally takes to the ice with younger players, said, “adults learn faster. They are always so focused. They are quick learners.”

While focused, the women aren’t on the ice to conquer. Assistant coach Larry Boles recently demonstrated turning in a tight space. “If you can do a 360 [degree turn], you can do anything. If you fall down, you fall down. Most of you will.”

Only one skater fell, probably because most of the women slowed their skating speed to near zero as they tentatively attempted their turns.

Falling isn’t so bad, Kammerman said. After all, “you’re covered in what’s basically bubble wrap. There’s a level of protection.”

After they completed their turns, the women complimented each other on their success, banging their sticks on the ice in unison.

They soon finished their drills, followed by a few minutes of three-on-three and four-on-four scrimmages. Then it was back to the locker room for a quick change and out to the parking lot for 30 minutes of tailgating — wine, beer, cheese, crackers — before heading back to their roles as chauffeurs and nurturers.

Spirituality in Art ‘Underground’ artist finds inspiration in Jewish mysticism

LONDON — The underside of one of London’s busiest train stations is an unlikely place to find a room full of Kabbalistic imagery. Yet, located under Waterloo station, south of the River Thames, is Gallery 223, now showing the works of artist Simone Krok, whose main inspiration comes from the Kabbalah.

Taking center stage in Krok’s most recent exhibition, which opened on June 5 and will run through June 18, is a 4-foot, 2-inch high bronze ring upon which are etched the 10 aspects of Sephirot, the Kabbalistic concept for the 10 aspects of creation. It’s one of the more well-known themes found in Kabbalah and has captivated Krok throughout her career.

As a student at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the South African-born artist concentrated on Kabbalist symbolism. In the years since, she has made a point of studying spirituality as well as Judaism and currently learns with the rabbi and his wife from her local synagogue in London.

“I like it when people look at my work and have a personal response,” said Krok, 46, whose soft-spoken nature is at odds with the violence found in some of her work. “I don’t want to say ‘this is what you have to see.’ People should take away from each piece whatever it is they get from it rather than what I feed them. The art should speak for itself and have a life of its own.”

Titled “Paradise Lost,” after John Milton’s epic poem, it is Krok’s first solo exhibition and features elaborate sculptures, smaller pieces of intricate bronze jewelry as well as two multimedia pieces. It is a show of paradoxes in that it incorporates the themes of creation and destruction, heaven and hell and war and peace. It’s also noteworthy for the range of media the artist employs: bronze sculpture, collaged canvas, digital animation and plates of resin and steel.

One of the more interesting and upbeat pieces in the exhibition is a bronze sculpture of a baby fixed to the underside of a wing shaped like the Hebrew letter yud. According to Krok, the wing represents both the wing of an angel and the scapula on a woman’s back, the place where babies in South Africa are often carried to keep mother’s hands free. This baby, unlike many of the other broken babies on display in the exhibition, is protected.

This piece also demonstrates the influence Krok’s South African upbringing. Though she describes her childhood as sheltered and isolated from the reality of apartheid that was happening around her, it’s a theme that has greatly influenced how she approaches her art.

“I don’t believe there are new ideas or themes but a layering of existing ones,” said Krok, 46, whose history is as varied as her work. “My work is a culmination of my personal experiences.”

Krok has studied in her native South Africa, Australia and Tel Aviv and earned degrees in subjects ranging from classical civilization, animation and digital media to jewelry engineering, all of which she considers influences on her work. In particular, her work with metals led to the creation of extensive sculptures, or as she describes them, “turning little things into big things.” She now lives in London with her 12-year-old daughter.

For “Paradise Lost,” Krok worked for about a year to prepare the pieces, some taking weeks to complete and others up to six months.

“Every piece I work on, I have a love-hate relationship with,” said Krok, who has also spent time living in Berlin and Los Angeles. “There always comes a time that I want to throw it in ocean and never look at it again. Especially if a piece is taking a long time to finish.”

Current events also strongly influence the pieces on display. In the colorful “Sequence of Many Levels of Deception,” newspapers are used for the base of 12 collages, framed and hung in three rows of four.

“When I was working on the pieces for this exhibition, I was feeling very affected by war, by what happened in Paris, by the girls who were abducted in Africa,” said Krok, whose work sells from several hundred dollars to more than $23,000 for the larger bronze sculptures. She added, “We are so exposed to horrific things that we become desensitized to what’s going on.”

“Most of the work explores themes such as war, death, creation and destruction, and the underworld cave-like setting of Gallery 223 is a fantastic place to consider the somewhat darker underbelly of our existence,” said Alex Wood, gallery manager and curator of the exhibition.

One of the most striking — and disturbing — works in the exhibition is an interactive piece entitled “War Games.” The viewer is asked to spin a wheel to determine the color of the wax-work baby that the viewer will then place in an entanglement of barbed wire.

“Krok deals with questions and themes that are relevant to each and every one of us. The viewer does not need to know anything about art to find some meaning,” said Wood. “The work may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it certainly doesn’t take an appreciation of art to leave an impression.”

Rachel Stafler is a freelance writer from Baltimore lives in London.

The Many Lives of Arnold Clapman Renaissance man reconnects to Judaism in Baltimore as he continues lifetime of making music, art

Five years ago, Arnold David Clapman came to Baltimore, as he said, with his tail between his legs. His marriage had ended, as did his many art classes — which during his 25 years in California included teaching at-risk youth and incarcerated men — when funding dried up. California just didn’t feel like home anymore.

He hadn’t lived in Baltimore since 1962, when he left upon graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art to head to the cultural epicenter of Greenwich Village in New York City. No longer feeling the warmth of the Northern California sun, and with some encouragement from his Baltimorean sister, Arnie Clapman packed up to start over again, like he had done many times before.

“Five years out, it’s a whole new chapter,” he said. “A whole new door opened. I was just treading water when I first came here.”

Clapman, 75, whose life has been a whirlwind of making art and playing music, now finds himself playing congas — his longtime instrument — with a variety of musicians in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community, and the music has connected him to Judaism in a way he had only previously dreamed of. And as a resident of the Weinberg House on Old Court Road, Clapman screens movies for the residents three nights a week, provides monthly cartoons in the newsletter and even fixes his neighbors’ TVs and remote controls.

“I’m the punk kid on the block,” he joked. Clapman even has a girlfriend. “I could be a millionaire, but I don’t think I could be richer. I have everything. What I have money can’t buy.”

Clapman’s reconnecting to Judaism through music is essential to being Jewish, said Guitars of Pikesville owner Joshua Polak.

“Music is at the core foundation of Judaism … That’s the spark that ignites when everything of consequence takes place,” he said, referring to biblical stories such as when Miriam led the Israelites in song after crossing the Red Sea, as well as modern customs. “It’s at the core of who we are. I’m not just talking about music, I’m talking about any sort of artistic expression where all artists find ourselves.”

A look around Clapman’s two-room apartment shows that his life has been anything but ordinary. There are photos of him with famed folk singer Richie Havens, the first performer at Woodstock with whom Clapman had an artistic, musical and business relationship, and of Muhammad Ali signing a painting Clapman made for him; Clapman illustrated a children’s book for Ali and sketched him for DC Comics. There’s at least a dozen swords on display — replicas from “Kill Bill,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Gladiator,” “Braveheart” and “Excalibur” — die-cast fighter planes and at least seven congas in plain sight, with his two stage congas set up and another propped up with a tuning wrench sitting on top of it.

An easel sits across from his desk in his art and music room. Inside the closet, along with congas, are printouts of his demon paintings, based on “The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage,” considered an important book in occult history.

“They’re not really idols, I don’t worship them,” he quipped.

The artifacts help tell Clapman’s story, from his time playing music and drawing portraits in Greenwich Village — where he played with everyone before they got famous — to Boston, where he had three children and joined a jazz-fusion band that would later get a record deal and take him back to New York, then to California, where he would teach art to those who may have needed a creative outlet the most.

Baltimore Beginnings
Arnie Clapman was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Baltimore when he was 2 years old, which is how young he was when he first exhibited his artistic abilities. His parents used to draw him pictures, his father in pencil when Clapman was learning to talk and his mother on a slate chalkboard to entertain him. She drew a bird one day, left the room, and when she came back, there were two birds.

“So, I don’t know whether I was a born artist or a born forger,” Clapman said. Drawing occupied his free time at home, where he spent his evenings after school taking care of his young twin sisters along with his other sister, Nannette, who is two years younger than Clampman. Both of his parents worked. “I liked just drawing stuff, but it didn’t really take off for me until I was old enough to read the Sunday funny papers. That was my first exposure to art that I wanted to be able to do.”

Comics like “Prince Valiant,” “Flash Gordon,” “Dick Tracy” and “Tarzan” piqued his interest, as did animals, dinosaurs and monster movies.

“We lived in a very small house. … My brother would make these animals, life-sized animals out of cardboard like a jaguar and various snake things, and my sisters, if they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, these things would be sitting there and scare the hell of out them,” Clapman’s sister, Nannette Blinchikoff, recalled.

As a student at the Talmudical Academy, Clapman wanted to be able to draw comic book versions of biblical stories as well. As he went on to high school at Baltimore City College, he was emulating the comic-book artists he idolized and working with pen and pencil. But after winning a nationwide patriotic poster contest with his design of a kid saluting a flag, his mother, Terri, hired a local artist to give him lessons, which opened his world to other mediums such as charcoal and watercolor paints.

“I wanted to master them,” Clapman said.

She also got him enrolled in adult art classes at MICA while he was still in high school, and the quality of his work landed him a four-year scholarship at the school.

At the same time, his mother, who Clapman said “what she lacked in funds she made up for in contacts,” got him a job on The Block playing congas at the Rainbow Lounge. It would lead to the other gigs, including drumming for exotic dancers, which helped Clapman pay for books and art supplies.

“At night I had a different life. During the day I was studying art and falling asleep a lot because I was working all night,” he said.

A friend who acted as his agent got him a gig with pioneering bebop jazz drummer Max Roach, who would ultimately inspire Clapman to head to New York after college. While playing the song “Caravan” at a gig at a black club called Estelle’s on North Avenue, Clapman’s hands started bleeding a bit from playing the up-tempo tune.

“I went into the men’s room and while I was bandaging it up — because I was embarrassed, I didn’t want anyone to see — Max followed me into the men’s room, and he said, ‘You’re really good, kid, but you’re never gonna find out how good you are staying here in Baltimore, you gotta go to New York,’” Clapman said. And he listened, taking off for Greenwich Village in 1962, when “everything was just starting,” and got himself a storefront apartment with oriel windows on West 16th Street off 6th Avenue.

The ‘Electric’ Village
“It was like going into Never Neverland, like wonderland, it was just magical,” Clapman said. “You could sense that something really big was getting ready to happen there. It was all about entertainment and music and just the arts, and I just walked into it; it was amazing. I don’t think I got home for almost a week. I slept at a different place every night.”

He would become house percussionist at Café Bizarre, where he would back countless acts including calypso bands, Havens, The Smothers Brothers and The Ronettes, the latter of which he’d accompany to Harlem, where famed record producer Phil Spector taught the ladies their future hit “Be My Baby.”

As he was playing music and making his own art, he was drawing portraits to make extra money. It was at a portrait studio one night where he met Havens, the famed folk singer who would give the opening performance at Woodstock in 1969 and pen the anthem “Freedom.” Havens also drew portraits to make extra money.

“Before that, I didn’t talk to him. I used to watch him play, he was magic. I used to drop everything just to watch him play at the Bizarre,” Clapman said. “So did everybody else; the waitresses, waiters, the whole place would stop. Richie would start singing and everything would stop. He was just hypnotic. It was like nothing else that anybody had ever heard.”

The two struck up a friendship, and Clapman performed with Havens all over the Village, meeting greats such as Bob Dylan. He even shared the stage with icons Carlos Santana and Thelonius Monk.

“The air was like electric,” he said of the Village. “It was like the center of the world.”

But he only stayed a few years. Clapman married actress and dancer Nancy Hall and moved up to Cambridge, Mass., with her in the mid-’60s. The couple would have three children.

In Boston, Clapman took his art skills to Harvard University, where he drew dinosaurs and plants for gift shops and scientists and performed fossil restorations, a dream-come-true for some who drew dinosaurs as a kid. When archeologist Louis Leakey found the “ape-man” skull, believed to be an ancient relative of humans, Clapman was the first to draw it in America, he said.

“All this crazy stuff happened to me,” he said. “It’s being in the right places at the right time.”

All this time, Clapman continued playing music and making art on his own terms. He earned himself a reputation for being a good funk player, which landed him local gigs as well as musical run-ins with Miles Davis, around the time of his “On the Corner” album, and The Staples Singers.

“To this day, my daughter Madeleine [Hall] is a blues singer I think because Mavis [Staples] held her in her arms when she was a baby,” Clapman said. “The music came from somewhere.”

Hall remembers the kind of music her dad was playing back in those days.

“It was very experimental avant-garde jazz,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ I don’t know that I recognized it as music at the time. But it was cool having people around playing instruments.”

Clapman was recruited for super-band Baird Hersey & The Year of the Ear, which he described as an 11-piece band with a huge horn section and three drummers playing “avant-garde jazz rock.” It would take Clapman back to New York, where the band cut three albums under a contract with Arista Novus Records, and he reconnected with Havens.

California Dreamin’
Clapman and Havens, along with the folk singer’s longtime manager, Marcia Wolfson, formed ARM Productions (for Arnold, Richie and Marcia), which entailed Clapman working on art and music with Havens.

During this same period, Clapman created comic-book art for Heavy Metal magazine and art projects for Muhammad Ali and Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong.

ARM Productions would take Clapman to California, where he and Havens hoped to get in early on special-effects technology. They used top technology and a created a demo reel showing their colorization and film restoration skills using “King Kong.” Although Hollywood studios were interested, the project never came to fruition after millions of dollars in startup funds fell through.

With seven years of work down the tubes, Clapman decided to stay in California and met a woman who took him up to Santa Cruz, which he called “the most beautiful place I’d ever been.”

“I’d never been any place like that. I was a city boy,” he said. “The surfing capital of the world and redwoods and mountains and nature like I’d never seen. Big Sur, Monterey, unbelievable.”

Clapman started teaching adult art education: caricatures, cartooning, portraits, illustrations and watercolors. But he wasn’t making enough money, and his lifestyle caught up to him.

“I had hit a bottom. In 1991, it all kind of crashed. I was homeless and wanted to stop, couldn’t stop,” he said, referring to drinking and drugging. Although a car accident nearly killed him, it wasn’t until he was threatened with jail time that he decided to get clean.

“The problem all my life was that drinks were always on the house wherever I went, and the drugs were pretty much free, particularly when I was well known. I had dealers following me around,” he said. Even in California, where he was lesser known, “it was still there, all around me.”

He got sober, and through his recovery groups met a woman he would marry and a guy who became his best friend and bandmate, Joey Bryning, with whom he would form “sober band” Crazy Heart.

In the mid-’90s Clapman started working as an overnight counselor at a group home for troubled juveniles, “mostly gang kids,” he said. While on the job, he would work on freelance art projects.

“My wife would give me a pot of black coffee … so I could stay awake all night, and I would do illustrations,” he said. “Kids started sneaking out of bed to watch me.”

Word spread to the kids’ counselors and then to their schools, and in no time Clapman was teaching more at-risk youth from Santa Cruz to the barrios to juvenile hall, where he was affectionately known as “Arnie the Art Guy.”

He opened his own nonprofit art school, and with the work of these kids and other teens, he published “Comix by Kids,” a diverse series of comics still very dear to his heart. Two of the kids from barrios even landed scholarships at prestigious art institutes because of their work.

“I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” he said. “I never saw that coming. … California turned into an amazing trip for me, that’s why I stayed there for 25 years.”

But Clapman’s California honeymoon came to an end. Funding for his teaching dried up, his marriage of 17 years ended, and his age was preventing him from running around the way he used to.

“Everywhere I looked were things I can’t do anymore,” he said. “It was like rubbing my old age in my face.”

He moved back to Baltimore feeling like a failure for having left California under those circumstances.

“I thought it was all over for me here,” he said. But the ever-adaptable Clapman soon made a new, rich life for himself.

A Rebirth in Baltimore
Blinchikoff, Clapman’s sister, reintroduced him to Baltimore and helped him get into the Weinberg House. Through a Chasidic rabbi, the son of one of the building’s residents, Clapman wound up playing with Israeli folk singer Oneg Shemesh at Congregation Tiferes Yisroel on a whim.

“We rocked the place,” Clapman said. “On the strength of that I got noticed by the Chasidic community and even though I have an earring, even though I wasn’t one of them, they took me in.”

He’s become a regular at Guitars of Pikesville, where he performs Sunday, and got a gig with the “Rockin’ Rabbi,” Avraham Rosenblum, known for his work with the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, playing with new band The Brisket Brothers.

“He’s one of those people you instantly fall in love with,” Rosenblum said. “He’s a very big-hearted individual, he’s a got a great sense of humanity.”

Added Rosenblum: “He’s a great conga player. He’s a total natural. It’s in his bones. It’s in his blood.”

Clapman, who has since purchased a “beautiful” talis, said he has everything he ever wanted now.

“What I wanted more than anything that I could never have was the joy, the joyous part of the religion. To be with people that love God so much it just comes bursting out,” he said, “Like Simchas Torah, I’m up on the bimah and I’m playing and the Torahs are dancing around me or I go to a Shabbaton over at Pearlstone and I’m playing congas and I’m soloing and all the rabbis are dancing in a circle. For a Jewish kid this is big stuff.”

Like Clapman, Polak reconnected with his own Judaism later in life.

“It’s something that never leaves you. I think it’s something you find truth in when you’re allowed to,” he said. “We find that when we’re allowed to experience Torah … when it’s not coercion and when it’s more a time of exploration, that’s when you get Torah and that’s what happened to him.”

Rivka Malka Perlman, a member of Tiferes Yisroel who first met Clapman at the Oneg Shemesh concert, said the Orthodox community is very accepting of Clapman in contrast to the Judaism he grew up with.

“[Back then] there was a strong sense of judgment and harshness: ‘You do it like this or you don’t do it at all.’ A very punitive kind of Judaism and judgmental,” she said. “I know in Baltimore, there’s a tremendous amount of diversity and acceptance. In the Orthodox community, the more cultural the better.” She’s seen people perk up when Clapman is introduced to them as a cartoonist or as someone who worked with at-risk gang kids.

Hall, who is 49 and lives in the Boston area, said she’s seen a lot of personal and spiritual growth in her father.

“He didn’t get the kind of recognition that other artists did. I know that at one point it was a big deal to him,” she said. “I think he’s in a different place now, a spiritual place. I think his priorities changed.”

Clapman, who is working on illustrations for a series of short stories written by his grandfather and namesake, Aaron David Schwartz, is now happy and comfortable in his Pikesville apartment, surrounded by mementos of his storybook life.

“These are fleeting moments and that’s why I like to surround myself with all this stuff, surround myself with my life,” he said. “It’s a whirlwind. It would make a great movie.”

See Arnie Clapman perform as a featured guest Sunday, June 21 at Guitars of Pikesville, 806 Reisterstown Road, Suite 6, Pikesville. Music starts at 6 p.m. Visit or call 410-415-5400.

A Musical Summer

Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia hosts a diversity of musical acts and festivals this summer. (Provided)

Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia hosts a diversity of musical acts and festivals this summer.

This summer, Baltimore residents can catch jam bands, pop-punk heroes, classic rock icons, alternative rock giants, comedy, orchestral performances and a variety of up-and-comers at the region’s various outdoor venues.

“There’s nothing like seeing a concert outdoors,” said Toby Blumenthal, director of rentals and presentations at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. “That’s what summer’s all about: being outside and really enjoying the atmosphere.”

Between Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, the city’s music and art festival, Artscape, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s outdoor shows, concertgoers can find any genre quite literally under the sun.

Merriweather hosts a variety of top performers this summer, from the newly wildly popular Sam Smith (July 24), pop-punkers Fall Out Boy with rapper Wiz Khalifa (June 27), ever-evolving rockers My Morning Jacket (July 26), neo-soul queen Erykah Badu (Aug. 8), two days of jam-band giants Phish (Aug. 15 and 16), country star Darius Rucker (Aug. 22), alt-rockers Death Cab for Cutie (Sept. 13) and up-and-coming blues rockers Alabama Shakes (Sept. 18).

Several shows stand out for Audrey Schaefer, spokeswoman for I.M.P., which operates Merriweather and the 9:30 Club, including Willie Nelson, who performs with Old Crow Medicine Show on Aug. 19.

“This guy’s still got it, man, I don’t know how. He’s 82,” she said. “When I grow up I wanna be like him.”

O.A.R. will be setting what Schaefer thinks must be a record by playing at Merriweather for the 11th season in a row.

On the heavier side of things, the punky Vans Warped Tour comes to the venue on July 18 and is the one show that boasts what Schaefer calls a “parents’ depot,” a tent for parents to hang out in while their kids watch the bands.

Faith No More makes a triumphant return to the area on Aug. 2. “I know there are a lot of near-40-year-olds losing their mind about them,” Schaefer said of the band, which hasn’t toured in decades.

“There’s nothing like seeing a concert outdoors. That’s what summer’s all about: being outside and really enjoying the atmosphere.”

For classical music, one can head to Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra continues its annual tradition of the Star-Spangled Spectacular on July 3 and 4, which features fireworks at the end of each performance. The symphony is also bringing “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane to sing American standards and perform comedy on July 16 in Baltimore, and then it’s on the road to The Mann in Philadelphia on July 18. The symphony also performs “Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions” (July 1) and the music of Led Zeppelin (Aug. 1) this summer.

“The summer, for us, is an opportunity to play around with the calendar and really do some unique programming,” Blumenthal said.

Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, located in the Inner Harbor, also boasts a diverse array of artists this summer. The venue hosts alternative rock heroes Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional (June 17), explosive acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriella (June 20), John Fogerty performing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs(June 22), gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and Irish punks Flogging Molly (June 25), progressive jam rockers Umphrey’s McGee and funk band Lettuce (July 19), comedian Jim Gaffigan (Aug. 11), guitar maestro Santana (Aug. 26), The Doobie Brothers and Gregg Allman (Sept. 2), among others.

To top it all off, Baltimore City hosts the nation’s largest free art festival, Artscape, July 17, 18 and 19. Headliners include funk pioneers George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, reggae rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead and New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue alongside a variety of local and regional bands on three stages.

“This is an area that has a really sophisticated audience in that there are so many people here that are passionate about music and different flavors of music and different styles,” Schaefer said.

While Baltimore is sometimes skipped on big national tours in favor of Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia, Blumenthal said a lot of artists see the value in coming to Baltimore, especially the older ones, given the city’s history with rock music. Merriweather, while showcasing a variety of American music icons, also features a lot of newer artists and focuses more of the younger generation of music fans, Blumenthal said.

“I think that what’s great about this market is you can do any kind of show, whether it’s a bluegrass festival all the way to the heritage artist or newer, younger artists, and there’s always a crowd,” he said. “There’s always a demographic that supports these kinds of concerts.”

A Philharmonic Journey Huberman’s music comes to Gordon Center to mark 70th anniversary of WWII

Last Sunday, attendees at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills were transported back to the days of World War II, but in a manner that no one has done before.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, Sundays at Three Sinfonia performed selections by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman in a concert titled “Exile to Freedom.”

During the war Huberman put his career on hold to recruit Jewish musicians throughout Europe who were in danger of being captured by the Nazis. He obtained visas, entrance documentation and funding to secure the passage of the musicians and their families to what was then known as Palestine. He launched the orchestra in 1936.

Sunday’s performance featured seven selections that had been performed by the original orchestra in Tel Aviv almost 80 years ago, including Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” — a composition that consists of two movements and alternates between a mellow and frantic pace. Conductor and violinist Ronald Mutchnik said Schubert wrote the symphony in order to illustrate that the work of oppression is “never finished.”

The Gordon Center performance featured selections by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman. (Photos Provided)

The Gordon Center performance featured selections by Polish-Jewish violinist
Bronislaw Huberman. (Photos Provided)

“He felt he had to show the world our work is never done,” said Mutchnik. “We must fight against tyranny and anti-Semitism.”

Mutchnik, who is also music director for the Howard County Concert Orchestra, co-founded Sundays at Three 18 years ago following the death of Daniel Malkin, a cellist who played in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and taught at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The orchestra consists of a collection of musicians from the Baltimore-Washington area and plays mainly chamber music. He has known most of the musicians for 30 years.

“It was about seven or eight years ago that we began to form an orchestra together on our own with these musicians,” Mutchnik said of the current group.

He said after watching the film “Orchestra of Exiles,” which tells the story of Huberman, he became curious as to whether anyone had re-created the first concert given by the Palestine Symphony, later the Israel Philharmonic.

After Mutchnik looked at the original program and saw no one had re-created it, he decided it was “high time” to do so.

“Huberman basically felt that he had to save the lives of these musicians that were no longer allowed to perform in the countries that they had been born in and studied music in,” he said.

Mutchnik became interested in classical music from an early age upon learning the story of how his uncle, Allyn Leavey, became a German prisoner of war.

“Before his capture he had met a fellow soldier who shared with him his love of classical music and said ‘you’ve got to listen to Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart and all of these great composers,’” Mutchnik said.

Leavey then wrote to his mother and instructed her to get the recordings, which he was finally able to hear after he returned safely home.

“Because of that, my mother brought me up to listen to classical music,” said Mutchnik, “and I learned to love it so much so that’s the most basic reason any of this was even possible.”

Susan Kleinberg, who lives in Columbia and attended Sunday’s performance, said she was inspired by the unlikely pairing of music with a time of tragedy.

“The choice of playing this again and reliving something that happened in the 1930s was particularly powerful for me,” said Kleinberg, “because of everything going on in the world today, and it all seems to be falling apart. And somehow this gave me some hope that we can work together without violence and without hatred.”

David Gradwell, who is involved with the Howard County Concert Orchestra, also attended and said he was impressed with Mutchnik’s vision.

Gradwell said, “I thought it was a fantastic concert and a great occasion to commemorate.”

Forging a New Vision Josh Kohn embraces new role as performance director at Creative Alliance

Less than a week before heading to China for a tour sponsored by the New Orleans-based public radio show “American Routes,” the Chinese government clamped down on all outdoor festivals. Club appearances with audiences greater than 600 people were canceled too.

With three ensembles — Treme Brass Band, Los Tex Maniacs and Wylie and the Wild West — set to depart for the April 27 through May 3 tour, Josh Kohn worked his Beijing contacts and managed to book venues on the fly.

Josh Kohn (Photo by David Stuck)

Josh Kohn (Photo by David Stuck)

The 34-year-old’s exuberance, network and ability to work in a fast-paced environment are among the reasons he was appointed as the performance director for the Creative Alliance this past fall, taking the reins from Megan Hamilton, who departed for her next adventure with the Peace Corps.

“It was really interesting to be in a city having its issues while things were going on in Baltimore,” said Kohn. “I think about things artistically [about the comparatively] loose nature of American artistic expression.”

Walking through the Creative Alliance space at The Patterson Theater in Highlandtown, Kohn contends that “every art space has its own energy” and at the Creative Alliance that means the “weird, eccentric is embraced,” as evidenced by the Monday morning remnants of the Mad Max themed Marquee Ball from the weekend before the initial interview.

Using his “encyclopedic knowledge” of music, Kohn is responsible for booking 110 shows a year in the first-floor versatile black box theater performance space. He’s brought in polka music, Egyptian artists to perform music from their country’s golden age, Pakistani spoken word performers and experimental jazz musicians.

If there doesn’t seem to be an obvious thread linking the performers Kohn books, it’s because he’s not stuck to a niche.

“I bounce around with my knowledge obsession,” he admits. “I live vicariously through the great art I help facilitate.”

Moving across the street to a quirky, independent coffee shop, Kohn continues to espouse his vision for the future.

The Creative Alliance will continue to “tap into community-based expression” through partnerships with local schools, the Hispanic community, the Baltimore Resettlement Center and others. Mainstays such as burlesque performances and intimate jazz performances aren’t going away, but the focus on hyper-local artists is going to be expanded upon.

Kohn envisions bringing in more nationally known performers, both to expand the audience’s exposure to other performers and to connect local artists with those on the national stage. He’s talking to agents about promoting local talent, so those artists in residence at the Patterson or living locally can earn a living that affords them to keep on creating.

He also wants to foster a more robust Jewish artistic presence. The national trend for Jewish artistic expression, he said, “has devolved into a cappella puns” which are “shlocky.”

“It disappoints me where we are,” he said. “I want to support good [Jewish] artistic expression,” pointing to successes like puppeteer Anna Fitzgerald of Red Ball Theatre’s retelling of the Purim story at the Wild Purim Rumpus hosted by Charm City Tribe at the Creative Alliance.

Prior to joining the Creative Alliance, Kohn spent 11 years as the Programming Manager with the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Silver Spring and served as Program Officer, Jazz and Traditional Arts at Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. The Bucks County, Pa., native, who graduated from the George Washington University with a degree in American Studies, also completed a competitive fellowship with Devos Institute of Arts Management, now housed at the University of Maryland.

Knowing what the organization, which will celebrate its 21st birthday in style next year, means to the Baltimore arts scene, Kohn is working to strike the right balance.

“I look at my position as both curating really interesting, powerful, transformative events here at Creative Alliance and also be a conduit for the community. I try to keep the lines of communication open for what the Creative Alliance should be,” said Kohn.

This month is another busy one for Kohn and Creative Alliance. Tonight marks the release party for the Bumper Jacksons — whom Kohn describes as “one part old mountain music, three parts New Orleans jazz” — and the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival and The Big Show Dance Party with Bachata Plus will take place in late June.