Moving from forbidden walls to legal canvasBy...


Moving from forbidden walls to legal canvas

By day, Patrick Jacobson and his friends -- "The Fun Art Crew" -- sketched out their work. By late night, they emptied their stolen spray-paint cans in the name of angry art in all the wrong public places.

Graffiti art is called America's true art form. It's also called vandalism.

"I was expressing myself," says Patrick, now 23 and painting on canvas from his studio apartment in downtown Baltimore.

Patrick was a graffiti artist in Baltimore County in the late 1980s. His signature, or "tag," was Danger. When police arrested him for defacing public property, he did what graffiti artists do when they're caught. He started "tagging" under a new name -- Voke, as in "provoke." But unlike many other graffiti artists, Patrick went legal and went to school.

The Baltimore native enrolled in the Maryland Institute, College of Art, where he is a senior. Instructor Susan Waters-Eller: "There was no flash of natural ability, but he has this inner intensity.

I see lots of students with flair who go on to work in book stores. It's that need to express that's way more important and makes people like Patrick excel."

Patrick's canvas paintings exhibit the dark, symbolic and frenzied images of graffiti art. (He also draws on his walls, naturally.) Patrick's graffiti have mostly been "dogged," meaning other artists have marked or spray-painted over his Danger or Voke very-limited editions.

He still has the heart of a graffiti artist, but his mind has moved on. And although he's proud of the work of these anonymous artists, he wishes they could study traditional art and see how the masters, such as Dali, created pieces foreshadowing elements of graffiti art.

Mainly, Patrick wishes them space: "If they could only have their own walls to spill their guts out on." For 20 years, Jeannine Fleming has toiled in the background while others took center stage, looking great. Thanks to her.

The long-time costume designer wouldn't have it any other way.

Ms. Fleming, who works for Arena Players, makes sure the actors and actresses have the right costumes to suit their roles.

"I read the script, then dress them in my mind first," says Ms. Fleming, a Baltimore native and former model. "I design and make the costumes. Shows should be bright and beautiful.."

Although Ms. Fleming, 59, receives a small salary, the money isn't why she devotes so much of her time to the theater. And it does take a lot of time. For the recent production of "Dream Girls," Ms. Fleming began working on the costumes five months before the play opened.

"This is a community theater," she says. "That means there is not that much money involved. All of us just really want this theater to thrive."

Ms. Fleming is no wealthy socialite indulging her passion for costume design. She holds down a full-time job as a secretary in the AIDS ward at Johns Hopkins hospital. "It's a great job," she says about working at the hospital. Yet, the world of theater and designing always tugged at her. Ms. Fleming was 12 years old when she made her first garment, a skirt.

Through a modeling stint, Ms. Fleming became friendly with an Arena Players director, and that led to her costume designing. "It was one of my life's dreams."


Sandra Crockett

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