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Seniors' artwork will be featured at renovated Market House in Annapolis

By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun

12:51 PM EDT, August 26, 2013

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When the historic Annapolis Market House reopens in the next couple of weeks, patrons will walk underneath Jean Tyson's bright red hollyhocks and Dixie Sangster's Cubist rendition of a vase of flowers.

The two women are among 16 artists who contributed artwork for banners that will hang near the ceiling of the Market House. Eight banners, each more than 8 feet long, feature works from the Annapolis Senior Center's corps of art students, one on each side.

All of the artwork features brightly colored flowers. The idea is to give a vibrant pop of color to the interior of the Market House, even when it's dark and gray outside in the winter, said Sally Wern Comport of ArtWalk, the organization that linked the senior center artists with the Market House.

Comport had a wide array of art to chose from for the Market House — the artists submitted 80 works within a matter of weeks, ranging from a notecard with a collage of flowers to a large, framed oil painting.

"They made it so easy for us," said Comport, who photographed or scanned the art before printing it out on the banners at her Annapolis studio, Art at Large.

Comport said the Market House project is a continuation of ArtWalk's efforts to introduce unknown artists to the community at large. She's worked previously with a variety of artists, including underprivileged and immigrant children, people with developmental disabilities and artists who are homeless.

The senior center artists are prolific, but their work often isn't seen beyond the senior center.

"We're choosing artists in a community that have a very vital art program, to be introduced to the community," Comport said.

The artists couldn't be more thrilled to see their work on display in one of the best-known buildings in Annapolis.

"I think it's very, very nice of them to do this for the seniors because we have really good artists," said Sangster, 80, who takes art classes at the senior center four times a week.

Like many senior center artists, Sangster long had a passion for art but didn't have the time to create it until her later years.

"You wait all your life to be able to do this," she said.

Tyson, 67, used to work in downtown Annapolis and often ate lunch at the old Market House. She's looking forward to it finally reopening — with her artwork as a feature that her friends and family can see.

"It's nice to think people I've met over the 30 years I've lived here will see my work at the Market House," she said.

It's still not clear exactly when the Market House will fully reopen, but city officials expect to host a grand reopening in the coming weeks.

Since Tropical Storm Isabel blew through and flooded the building in 2003, the city-owned Market House has operated in fits and starts as the city struggled to repair the building and attract a stable lineup of vendors.

Between renovations and lawsuits from former tenants, the city has spent millions of dollars on the Market House since 2003.

When the Market House fully reopens, Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen is expected to "walk the plank" into the water at City Dock — fulfilling a pledge he made when the city blew a self-imposed deadline to reopen the Market House in fall 2012.

After that, Cohen said he hoped to reopen the Market House by this spring and squeaked by when the first tenant, Amsterdam Falafelshop, held a soft opening on the last day of spring this past June.

The falafel restaurant has operated solo this summer while the other vendors continued construction of their stalls. The other vendors include Firenzes Gelateria, Hard Bean Cafe, Carl's Corned Beef and Delicatessen, Annapolis Organic Market, Good Life Smoothie Bar and Yellowfin Seafood and Oyster Bar.

The vendors will pay for the expenses of running and maintaining the Market House. When each tenant's gross sales top a specified amount, they'll pay 9 percent of their sales to the city. All vendors' leases run until the end of 2017.

There's been a Market House in downtown Annapolis since 1788, according to the city. The current building was built in 1858.

pwood@baltsun.com