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Sating a hunger for art

The Baltimore Sun

When a group of local artists created Foodscape 24 years ago, it was with tongues firmly in cheek that they named the annual art exhibit at Mount Royal Tavern. The title Foodscape indicated the artists' displeasure with Artscape, Baltimore's arts extravaganza, which the artists felt focused on food, rather than art.

Foodscape founder Ronald R. Russell went back to that sly humor a few years ago when he created Regurgiscape, which opens Tuesday at Roman's Place, a small bar close to Patterson Park.

"It's basically the Foodscape show, and I call it Regurgiscape because it's been seen before," he said with a laugh.

The original Foodscape grew out of the objections of a few young artists to the newly created Artscape festival.

"When Artscape started 27 years ago, it seemed to be that the majority of artists were from out of the area, and it seemed like more people came to eat than to look at art, and so we created Foodscape to react to that," Russell said.

Foodscape's founders decided that the exhibit had only one main requirement: All art must be food-related. The satiric nature of the event appealed to disgruntled artists.

"I liked the irreverence of it," regular contributor Laura Vernon-Russell said. "I like things that poke at the establishment, and it's all in fun."

As Artscape evolved into the largest public arts festival in the country, Foodscape lost some of its reactionary nature. Richard Deurer, an original Foodscape contributor, said that as Artscape became a true arts festival, Foodscape's "protest feel" waned.

The quality of the art did not decrease, however. The core contributors participate each year, including most of the original contributors, and each of the exhibition's three main founders invite artists to participate. Overall, the exhibit features more than 20 artists. Contributors grade their artwork and the exhibit as a whole every year, and this year's work ranked very highly.

"This year was a pretty great show, and the work is so different. These are professional artists, so they're putting up some of their best stuff, stuff made specifically for this show," Russell said.

Because it began as a response to Artscape, Foodscape usually bookends the weekend-long festival. The painstakingly created artwork hangs for a only few short weeks at Mount Royal Tavern. Regurgiscape allows artists to display their work for a longer time.

"A lot of the work is really good, and it's a shame that they take it down so quickly," said Kathy Strauss, a 2003 and 2004 contributor. She thinks Regurgiscape is "a great idea."

Russell created Regurgiscape to introduce Foodscape's art to a new neighborhood. The area around Patterson Park is a rising artistic hub, and Russell felt that people in the area could appreciate the humor and talent in the exhibit.

"It just gives some of the people in that neighborhood a chance to look at a variety of art," he said.

Regurgiscape also allows the artists, many of whom have been friends for decades, to reconvene one more time in celebration of their art.

"For the artists that are involved, sometimes we don't get to see each other a lot, so it's a social thing," Russell said. "It's fun, we enjoy it, we enjoy being there again, and it's more of a relaxed atmosphere."

Vernon-Russell reiterated her husband's point.

"It's an excuse to have another party," she said with a laugh.

"Regurgiscape" opens Tuesday and runs through Sept. 2 at Roman's Place, 2 S. Decker Ave. The artists' reception will be 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 2 The exhibit is free and open to the public. Call 410-342-5226.

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