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Lewis Museum is a hit even before it officially opens


The big opening of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture may be set for this weekend, but celebration was in the air at the museum last Friday night. Some 300 longtime advocates of the museum were invited for a preview peek and a black-tie thank-you dinner.

Grand-opening co-chairs Beverly Cooper and Wanda Draper were just inside the door, warmly greeting guests and sending them upstairs for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. There was good people-watching, with faces in the crowd including Joe Haskins and Rhonda Overby, Theo and Blanche Rodgers, Paige Davis, Bill Jews, Aris Melissaratos, Brooke Hodges, Jake Oliver, Freeman and Jackie Hrabowski, Zach McKinny, Nathaniel Byrd, Jim Shelton, Kathleen Pontone, Barbara Gehrig and Ann and David Ramsey.

Not to mention the family of the late Beatrice Foods CEO in whose name the museum was built. Reginald Lewis' mother, Carolyn Fugett, mingled with guests, as did his widow, Loida, and daughters Leslie and Christina.

A sip of wine, a nibble of crab ball, and it was off to stroll through three floors of exhibitions.

Downstairs, guests were treated to a dinner of filet mignon and Chilean sea bass.

"We did it! We're here!" exulted George Russell, museum founder and board chair, as he kicked off the program. He and co-founder Lou Grasmick talked about the long struggle to get the museum built, and what an incredibly worthwhile effort it has been. Kudos to them, and their biggest supporters -- wives Marion Russell and Nancy Grasmick.

For Sandy Bellamy, museum executive director, the most touching moment of the night came right before guests began arriving.

"I was walking by the exhibition about lynching, and listening to the [recording of] a young girl's voice as she read the names of the men who had been lynched in Maryland. Opposite that was the Back Home Day exhibition with a re-creation of a church ... And it hit me ... the balance of struggle and oppression, coupled with faith, hope and resilience of these people. The dichotomy of the black experience. These are determined people with strong faith.

"It was an emotional moment."

Another Fleischer

Everyman Theatre supporters are still talking about its recent "Classically Hip" evening. About 300 folks descended on the Brown Center at Maryland Institute College of Art for a little vino, a bit of finger food and a concert by hometown boy -- now New York City performer -- Julian Fleischer. Zelig Robinson, Everyman board chair, says Julian performed cabaret tunes with an 11-piece band. At one point, he invited dad, famed pianist Leon Fleischer, onstage to perform a classical piece, as well.

Zelig says Julian reminisced about his days growing up in Bolton Hill and going to Park School, pointing out his sixth-grade teacher, Rosemary Knower, now a performer at Everyman.

Science Center Solstice

Quite the night at the Maryland Science Center for its annual gala, Solstice 2005. This year, the theme was "Stardust Lounge." We hear that everywhere you turned, you found another cool lounge to lounge in. Science Center President/CEO Van Reiner says each of the museum's main exhibits was turned into a hip hideaway. The Dinosaur Mysteries exhibit became the Lizard Lounge, complete with hors d'oeuvres and a scaly host -- a live Savannah monitor lizard. The human-body exhibit was draped in black and scattered with cozy cocktail tables. Voila! Welcome to the Elbow Room, and help yourself to dinner. Next up -- the Sand Bar, set up next to the "Follow the Blue Crab" show, where you could curl up in a comfy armchair or sofa, and sip a scotch or after-dinner drink. Or fight your way through the crowd around the chocolate fountain, where you could dip cookies and fruit into the pool of melted bliss. "You needed to almost be a football linebacker to get close to that!" Van noted.

Not that anyone got too relaxed. Van says Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra kept guests dancing until the party shut down at midnight.

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