By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun
7:42 PM EST, February 24, 2013
The rhythmic thud of the drum filled the air of Baltimore's Waverly community, alerting residents that something special was taking place in the neighborhood.
The joyous sound of children's laughter and eventual singing reinforced the sense of community organizers envisioned when they planned Sunday's parade and subsequent concert in a 25-foot-by-25-foot translucent bubble.
"It's whimsical. When people see it, they want to go in and enjoy it," said Seattle-based conceptual artist Nola Elsewhere, who dreamed up the concept of the bubble that housed the singing and music.
More than 50 people wafted in and out of the structure that looked like a gigantic pillow, which was set up in the Youth Sculpture Garden on Homestead Street. Throughout the day, children ate healthy snacks, played with hula hoops and darted in and out of the bubble. The event was sponsored by 901 Arts, a community-based arts organization housed at a nearby center on Montpelier Street.
Elsewhere, who has brought similar bubbles to 30 events nationwide, built this installment in two days. The materials — all from Home Depot — cost about $150, he said. The structure was anchored by four ropes and weighed down by 200 pounds of sandbags and the weight of the people inside. It was inflated by a vent-like apparatus.
"It exceeds my expectations," Elsewhere said. "It couldn't get much better than this."
Waverly resident Monique Langley came to the event with her two children: Augustine, 4, and Antonia, 12.
"It has been a lot of fun," she said as she watched Augustine burn off energy while running around with a hula hoop. "It's like a dome. It's different. I've never been inside the bubble before. It's a great day for it. It feels like Spring."
Augustine, taking a breather, chipped in: "I liked going inside and singing songs."
His mother, who also volunteers at the center, said she enjoyed watching him play a gourd-shaped instrument during the singing.
Antonia said she loved that the event brought the neighborhood's kids together.
"The best part was you didn't have to pay to have fun," she said.
City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke loved what she saw.
"I haven't seen anything like this before," she said shortly after emerging from the structure. "I expected something smaller. I didn't realize it was a place you could live. Because it was translucent, it doesn't make you feel like you are closed in."
Clarke said she would be interested in exploring having similar structures built at future events.
"It would add to the attraction," she said. "You feel real close together inside, but you're still outdoors. It's the best of both worlds."
Sarah Tooley, director of 901 Arts, deemed the event a success.
"I'm so happy to bring neighbors and families together," she said. "It's a wacky way to support community."
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