Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Maryland Historical Society Exhibit explores art of Catonsville Nine member and artist Tom Lewis

  • May 12th at 5:00 pm, attendees of the opening will have the opportunity to view a screening of the film Investigation of a Flame, which combines volatile, long-unseen, archival footage with interviews of members of the Catonsville Nine, encouraging viewers to ponder the relevance of civil disobedience and the implications of personal sacrifice.

    The screening will be followed by a community discussion with film directors Joe Tropea (Hit & Stay), Lynne Sachs (Investigation of a Flame), and moderated by filmmaker Joanna Raczynska.

  • May 12th at 7:00 pm, directly after the screening and discussion is the opening reception for Activism & Art: Catonsville Nine, 50 Years Later.

WHERE: Maryland Historical Society, 201 West Monument St., Baltimore
Parking and admission are free for both events.

Free tickets and more exhibit information are available at www.mdhs.org/activism-and-art

The Maryland Historical Society has tapped the legacy of the iconic Catonsville Nine protest as the subject for an exhibition opening May 12th. 50 years ago, on May 17, 1968, this disparate band of resisters chose to break the law in a defiant, poetic act of civil disobedience by taking files from a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, dousing them with homemade napalm and setting them on fire in protest of the Vietnam War. Afterward, they waited peacefully to be arrested. The Catonsville Nine protest is still one of the most written-about acts of political protest in 20th century American history.

"This exhibition is a perfect opportunity to educate visitors who know a bit about 'The Nine,' and to reach others who may not know about the historically-significant acts of this group of people," commented Alexandra Deutsch, Vice President of Collections & Interpretation.

The exhibit uses the art of lifelong activist Tom Lewis of the Catonsville Nine to tell the story of those who came together to protest the Vietnam War based on the premise that some property when used to destroy human life has no right to exist. In addition to their deep commitment to peace and justice, this was a group of activists that understood the power of symbolism and art. They viewed their action as equal parts street theater and protest, intended to inspire further action. In addition to portraying atrocities committed in Vietnam and the protest movement in the United States, Lewis' etchings and screen prints examine the motivations and consequences of the notorious draft raid. What is seen in Lewis' art is not only why he and his friends willingly broke the law and went to prison, but also the ability of art and action to inspire.

Accompanying art created by Lewis, segments from the documentary film Hit & Stay: A History of Faith and Resistance are also featured as key components in telling the story of this historic event. Hit & Stay portrays the hidden history of the Catonsville Nine, the community of activists they inspired, and the raids they staged that turned priests, nuns, and college students into fugitives and targets of the FBI. In addition to curating this exhibit, Joe Tropea is also the co-director of the film Hit & Stay and is thrilled to present this story in a physical space. "With artifacts and the artwork of an amazing activist and under-recognized artist such as Lewis, I am excited for viewers to understand and experience this history through his eyes," shared Tropea.