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Exhibit of Marion E. Warren's photographs take their place in ambitious Annapolis Artwalk

The Baltimore Sun

Installation of the largest and most complex exhibit in the Artwalk project started yesterday in the BB&T; bank employee parking lot on West Street and will feature photographs taken by a world renowned photographer.

The third Artwalk installment is a display of work by Marion E. Warren, who lived in Annapolis for 60 years and was known for his candid photos of people and historic buildings in the city and around the Chesapeake Bay area. Warren died last year at age 86.

"It's a monumental task," said Chuck Walsh, one of the project's co-founders. "This particular installation at this particular site is the most difficult in terms of dealing with the location, and by far the most significant."

When completed, the Artwalk project will consist of six large-scale outdoor exhibits around the city. The displays - murals, paintings and enhanced prints - include work from local artists.

"It's a new way to exhibit art that brings art directly to neighborhoods and the people that inhabit them or visit them," said Sally Wern Comport, a co-founder of Artwalk and one of the artists whose work is included in the exhibits. "Sometimes the doors of a gallery or museum seem off-putting to some. This makes art accessible to all."

Six black and white photos taken by Warren between the late 1940s and 1950s will hang on the parking lot walls. The photos range from a candid shot of parade spectators on Clay Street to a still life photo of a city parking meter department car.

"Marion chronicled our community," said McShane Glover, a member of the city's Arts in Public Places Commission that provided $70,000 for the project. "He was part of the community. He was the fabric of Annapolis."

The photos were duplicated using archival quality ink on 4-foot by 10-foot vinyl panels that were coated with a UV resistant laminate. Collectively, the assembled panels form a complete photograph.

"It's a pretty long process to make sure each panel is perfectly in line," Comport said. "It's really one panel at a time."

Previous Artwalk installations at the Harbormaster Building and at the U.S. Naval Academy were less complex and took about a day to complete since they involved installing one piece.

However, the four-day Warren installation posed special challenges for organizers because the temporary exhibit had to be installed so as not to detract or damage any of the building's vintage characteristics.

External frames will be mounted to the back of the panels, and the frames will be hung using bolts screwed into mortar on the wall, Comport said.

"They're minor holes drilled into the mortar not into the brick of the building." Comport said. "When they're removed, the holes will be filled with mortar consistent with what's already there."

The photo exhibit not only preserves the historic integrity of the wall, but the city's history as well.

"It's a living memorial to Annapolis' recent past," said Chuck Weikel, Executive Director of Annapolis Charter 300. "It also shows the evolution of the Annapolis neighborhoods. I think it's such an extraordinary way to look back at the recent past and learn from it."

The Warren exhibit is close to his home and next to the restaurant where he regularly dined - Sean Donlon's Irish Pub, now Stan and Joe's.

Two years ago, Warren was walking past the lot when he noticed one of his photos on a tarp hanging there. Walsh happened to be at the lot with Comport. Warren was excited about the display and asked about getting involved with Artwalk, Walsh said.

"It's like Ansel Adams asking if he could be part of the project," Walsh said.

Warren's career, which spans almost 70 years, reached national acclaim. His work appeared in magazines such as Life and Fortune.

"It's the only thing he ever did to earn a living," said Joanie Surette, a close friend and business partner. "He picked up a camera when he was 17 and never stopped till the end."

In the last few years of his life while he battled cancer, Warren never complained and continued to work between hospital stays, Surette said. Warren's need to be productive took precedence over his cancer.

"His work was a life force for him," Surette said. "It was his passion."

The BB&T; bank parking lot is located next door to Stan and Joe's Saloon at 37 West St. Artwalk will host a formal unveiling and dedication August 10.

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