George Barrick, teacher, portrait artist and founding member of the Arena Players, dies

George Barrick was a founding member of the Arena Players Inc., the oldest African-American, continuously operating community theater group in the country.
George Barrick was a founding member of the Arena Players Inc., the oldest African-American, continuously operating community theater group in the country. (Baltimore Sun)

George Brooke Barrick, a retired art teacher and portrait painter, died of Parkinson's disease complications April 21 at his Columbia home. He was 91.

Born in Rosemont, Pa., he was the son of Herbert Barrick, who owned a cleaning service, and his wife, Vaunita, a homemaker. He attended Radnor Township schools, and as a student project he and his classmates made a model city of the future. He served in the Navy in Japan during World War II. After his military service, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Temple University's Tyler School of Fine Arts.


Mr. Barrick was recruited to teach art in Montgomery County schools. After a few years, he moved to Baltimore and taught at Cherry Hill Junior High School and William H. Lemmel Junior High School in West Baltimore.

He later headed the Harlem Park Junior High School art department. When Lake Clifton High School opened, he was assigned to head the art department.


In the 1970s, Mr. Barrick headed the vocational education department at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School.

In 1980, when Harborplace opened, Mr. Barrick's Mergenthaler students ran a cart and sold tote bags and scarves printed with his drawings of Baltimore landmarks. The students silk-screened the fabric, which had been sewn by his co-worker, Minnie Reeves.

A mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Maryland, he was a soccer and tennis player

Mr. Barrick was a founding member of the Arena Players Inc., the oldest African-American, continuously operating community theater group in the country. He joined the theater company in 1953 and directed productions, acted in plays and designed and built sets. He also served on its board of directors.

Over the years, Mr. Barrick was associated with "The Amen Corner," "A Thousand Clowns" and "Tambourines to Glory."

He met his wife, Nancy Daniels, when she interviewed to join Arena Players.

In a 1982 article in The Baltimore Sun, Mr. Barrick said, "Many people depend on Arena Players for their introduction to live theater and in many cases, it's their major source of entertainment."

He retired from the school system nearly 30 years ago. He then opened a commercial graphic arts business, Emphasis Enterprises in Columbia. "You only have once to make a first impression" was his firm's motto.

He also remained in touch with his former students.

"Some of his students have continued in the fine arts — teaching, working as commercial artists and some painting and quilting. Some have kept in touch through the years," said his wife. "A special group of his former students celebrated his birthdays at dinners. They had a raucous good time."

Mr. Barrick also did portraits and completed commissions for former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Morgan State University's president, Dr. Martin Jenkins, among others.

The Schmoke portrait was unveiled in City Hall in 2002.

"He was a kind and thoughtful man," said Mr. Schmoke, now University of Baltimore president. "I recall visiting his home in Columbia and the partnership we had together."


At that 2002 ceremony, Mr. Barrick said in a Sun article, "It's just overwhelming to think that I'm there with the other artists who painted mayors."

The story described the portrait as depicting Mr. Schmoke in a relaxed pose with a hand on a red chair. A detail includes a book marked by a tasseled ribbon that says, "The City That Reads."

A communicant of St. James Episcopal Church in West Baltimore, Mr. Barrick was a member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrews. He and his wife founded Bailey's Bishops Chess Club to teach the children of the neighborhood and church the game.

He helped resettle two refugee families. On Sundays before service, he regularly attended the Forum discussion group and edited The Advocate, the parish newspaper. He was a member of the Diocese of Maryland Commission on Reparations and co-chaired a three-parish planning committee to commemorate the contributions of Thurgood Marshall. Mr. Barrick was a close friend of a Marshall family member, Cyrus Marshall.

He had been a member of the Genesis group to discuss the Bible from the Christian and Jewish perspective.

He and his wife enjoyed playing pinochle, attending the theater and traveling. He was a longtime member of the social groups Committee X and the Baltimore Mules, a men's social group.

A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at St. James Episcopal Church, 1020 W. Lafayette Ave.

In addition to his wife of 56 years, a retired Baltimore County public schools teacher, survivors include two daughters, Brooke Abercrombie and Rebecca Berry Andrade, both of Columbia; a brother, Warren Barrick of Pennsylvania; two sisters, Elizabeth Walker of Pennsylvania and Janice Rose of California; and five grandchildren.

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