Mysterious Towson-Glen Arm Ephemera

As I continue to put alot of extra work into finishing the 2nd and final part of the extensive Preschoolers bio*, I’m going to have to take a break from blogging. I’m not sure when the next TGAF post will be up after this one, but it’s possible there will be at least one new post before summer’s end. Part 2 of The Preschoolers’ story should appear around Christmas of this year.

In the meantime, I’m bringing back a bit of Towson-Glen Arm mystery that first came to my attention back in 2013. This was originally the subject of a TGAF blog post and some associated social media posts and was really mean’t to be only a temporary entry. Some of the TGA artists weighed in with some well thought out theories on this, but basically no further concrete info has surfaced about the artifact in question, so I’ve decided to repost it and leave it up for good in hopes that someone (anyone?!) can come up with an accurate description of what the heck is in the scan above.

Anyway, here’s the original 2013 blog post that I wrote about the mystery item:

This strange piece of Towson-Glen Arm ephemera was found buried in a massive archive of 1990’s d.i.y./indie/punk show flyers kept by a collector who wishes to remain anonymous. The collector in question had no recollection of how he got this roughly 1.5 x 2 inch shred of paper, but the band Disgruntled X-Postal Workers was definitely the name of an early combo that featured ex-members of TGA pioneers The Nudists and several of the original Preschoolers. Former members of The Disgruntled X-Postal Workers** drew a blank when questioned about this. The hand-written name at the top (Stranger Than Fiction) was that of a popular 90’s Baltimore, Md. grunge band; a member of that group also couldn’t recall anything about the meaning of this scrap of paper. The band Disgruntled X-Postal Workers probably never existed past early 1994. Other than that, there’s no other solid information currently available about this odd paper scrap, any of the names on it, or its origin. If anyone can elaborate on the meaning behind this piece, please email the address in the about section or leave a comment on this post.

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* you can read part 1 of The Preschoolers’ story here: https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/political-roots-of-the-preschoolers-and-towson-glen-arm/ )

** the members of The Disgruntled X-Postal Workers:                                                                Dave Willemain – trombone/vocals                                                                                                    Bob Phair – trumpet/vocals                                                                                                                Lou Thomas – bass/vocals                                                                                                            Spence Holman – percussion/vocals                                                                                                Chris Teret – guitar/vocals

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Towson-Glen Arm Graphic Design: part 3

the front cover of the zine 'July' by Tricia Lane-Forster and Lynn Szybist, presumably designed and published in late 1994 (courtesy of Colin Seven)

the front cover of the zine ‘July’ by Tricia Lane-Forster and Lynn Szybist, presumably designed and published by Lane-Forster and Szybist in late 1994 (courtesy of Colin Seven)

Diversity was one of the truly ubiquitous qualities of the Towson-Glen Arm scene. While the philosophical tenets of punk tradition were often and openly derided by the north County underground, even punk music and other more mainstream aesthetics occasionally influenced the pre-dominantly outre TGA works. Case in point: this early/mid 90's tape cover for the all-TGA hardcore/grunge compilation 'National Slut' (released and designed jointly by all of the bands featured on the album) displays a fine balance of Towson-Glen Arm esoterica and punk-style shock value. (courtesy of Jeff Duncan)

Diversity was one of the truly ubiquitous qualities of the Towson-Glen Arm scene. While the philosophical tenets of punk tradition were often and openly derided by the north County underground, even punk music and other more mainstream aesthetics occasionally influenced the pre-dominantly outre TGA works. Case in point: this early/mid 90’s tape cover for the TGA hardcore/grunge compilation ‘National Slut’ (released and designed jointly by all of the bands featured on the album) displays a fine balance of Towson-Glen Arm esoterica and punk-style shock value. (courtesy of Jeff Duncan)

A flyer for the final show at Dundalk, Md. venue Dub Housing designed by Tim Kabara and Lisa Starace. This was also the only show ever to feature a performance from the band Eli Jones' Airway.  Elements of this design embody the artwork from a World War II-era anti-fascist poster created by an unknown Italian artist. (courtesy of Tim Kabara)

A flyer for the final show at Dundalk, Md. venue Dub Housing designed by Tim Kabara and Lisa Starace. This was also the only show ever to feature a performance from the band Eli Jones’ Airway. Elements of this design embody portions of artwork from a World War II-era anti-fascist poster created by an unknown Italian artist. (courtesy of Tim Kabara)

An absurd/ironic promotional flyer for the confrontational performance art group/incredibly strange indie rock band Guru Magpie; this was designed by the group in early 1995. (courtesy of Shawn Phase)

An absurd/ironic promotional flyer for the strange TGA folk rock band The Freedom Riders; designed in the mid-90’s by The Freedom Riders. (courtesy of Shawn Phase)

From The Paris Review, No. 141:

From The Paris Review, No. 141: “Gary Snyder is a rarity in the United States: an immensely popular poet whose work is taken seriously by other poets. He is America’s primary poet-celebrant of the wilderness, poet-exponent of environmentalism and Zen Buddhism, and poet-citizen of the Pacific Rim—the first American poet to gaze almost exclusively west toward the East, rather than east toward Western civilization.” Cover art from the last Superstation album which the band self-released on cassette in late 1997; designed by Mike Apichella using elements of imagery from the cover art of Gary Snyder’s 1968 poetry book ‘Back Country’.

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Towson-Glen Arm Graphic Design – part 2

a flyer designed by Tricia Lane-Forster to promote the only live show ever to feature TGA improv music group Out; the central image is a slightly altered reproduction of the 1891 painting 'Le Captif' by William Adolphe-Bouguereau (courtesy of Lisa Starace) Shortly after originally posting this, Tricia-Lane Forster shed some light onto the origins of the image featured here and many of the other non-original images that she and Lisa Starace used in show flyers they designed; here's a quote from that message: 'Like most of our flyers with images like the one above, I believe we found it in the Towson State University library's discard pile.  There was a section in the library that had images from magazines and books carefully cut out and glued to tag board.  I believe they were used for teacher resources.  They usually had a description written in pencil at the bottom explaining what the image was.  For example:  "fruit,"  "gas station," etc.  Lisa and I would frequent the box labeled "discard pile" and took home many images from there.  The bottom of the tag board would be stamped with a rubber stamp:  DISCARD and they were free.  We had images hanging in our dorm room from there and I probably still have some...somewhere...  The discard pile was definitely one of my favorite things in college.  I doubt anything like it exists anymore...  I think we went there weekly.  I believe it was in the teacher resource center.  I often wondered who decided which images were too obsolete to be used anymore.  Some were really old and some were so strange."

a flyer designed by Tricia Lane-Forster to promote the only live show ever to feature TGA improv music group Out; the central image is a slightly altered reproduction of the 1891 painting ‘Le Captif’ by William Adolphe-Bouguereau (courtesy of Lisa Starace) Shortly after originally posting this, Tricia-Lane Forster shed some light onto the origins of the image featured here and many of the other non-original images that she and Lisa Starace used in show flyers they designed; here’s a quote from that message: ‘Like most of our flyers with images like the one above, I believe we found it in the Towson State University library’s discard pile. There was a section in the library that had images from magazines and books carefully cut out and glued to tag board. I believe they were used for teacher resources. They usually had a description written in pencil at the bottom explaining what the image was. For example: “fruit,” “gas station,” etc. Lisa and I would frequent the box labeled “discard pile” and took home many images from there. The bottom of the tag board would be stamped with a rubber stamp: DISCARD and they were free. We had images hanging in our dorm room from there and I probably still have some…somewhere… The discard pile was definitely one of my favorite things in college. I doubt anything like it exists anymore… I think we went there weekly. I believe it was in the teacher resource center. I often wondered who decided which images were too obsolete to be used anymore. Some were really old and some were so strange.”

"Those who find ugly meaning(s) in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault." So reads the Oscar Wilde quote featured at the bottom left corner of this piece, a 1994 flyer designed by Tricia-Lane Forster for a concert at The Loft in Baltimore; lettering by Lisa Starace; the other acts listed here weren't Towson-Glen Arm bands, though the band Jigsaw included Young Death member Jim Sajor (courtesy of Tricia Lane-Forster)

“Those who find ugly meaning(s) in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.” So reads the Oscar Wilde quote featured at the bottom left corner of this piece, a 1994 flyer designed by Tricia-Lane Forster for a concert at The Loft in Baltimore; lettering by Lisa Starace; the other acts listed here weren’t Towson-Glen Arm bands, though the band Jigsaw included Young Death member Jim Sajor (courtesy of Tricia Lane-Forster)

Mysterious, provocative cover art from the first issue of Hell Cat zine designed and written by Laura Burke and Lara Oster in 1995. Laura Burke and Lara Oster were part of the legendary "L Crew" , a clique-within-the-clique of the TGA scene whose moniker was inspired by the fact that most of the Crew had first names that began with the letter "L". This group produced an enormous quantity of rare, limited edition zines and flyers which contained many aesthetic/political elements of both the 90's Riot Grrl movement and Towson-Glen Arm. (courtesy of Lara Oster)

Mysterious, provocative cover art from the first issue of Hell Cat zine designed and written by Laura Burke and Lara Oster in 1995. Laura Burke and Lara Oster were part of the legendary “L Crew”
, a clique-within-the-clique of the TGA scene whose moniker was inspired by the fact that most of the Crew had first names that began with the letter “L”. This group produced an enormous quantity of rare, limited edition zines and flyers which contained many aesthetic/political elements of both the 90’s Riot Grrl movement and Towson-Glen Arm. (courtesy of Lara Oster)

Page 20 from the zine Hell Cat by Laura Burke and Lara Oster. Most of this zine's contents represent Towson-Glen Arm's strong connection to the angst ridden zeitgeist of the Riot Grrl movement. Nonetheless, even with all the overt knods to radical feminism, Oster and Burke were definitely not skittish in letting their absurd TGA sensibilities freely mix with political expressions as is evident in this strange, occult-themed design piece. (courtesy of Lara Oster)

Page 20 from the zine Hell Cat by Laura Burke and Lara Oster. Most of this zine’s contents represent Towson-Glen Arm’s strong connection to the angst ridden zeitgeist of the Riot Grrl movement. Nonetheless, even with all the overt knods to radical feminism, Oster and Burke were definitely not skittish in letting their absurd TGA sensibilities freely mix with political expressions as is evident in this strange, occult-themed design piece. (courtesy of Lara Oster)

"Lay siege to Dullsvile!" A flyer advertising a 1998 Towson-Glen Arm concert at Baltimore all-ages venue The Small Intestine; design by Mike Apichella with some graphics taken from a 1960's ad for Harrisburg, Pa.'s J.H. Troup Music Co., an ad that was reprinted in the first edition of Mike Kuzmin's Pa. 60's rock discography 'Sounds From The Woods'.

“Lay siege to Dullsvile!” A flyer advertising a 1998 Towson-Glen Arm concert at Baltimore all-ages venue The Small Intestine; design by Mike Apichella with some graphics taken from a 1960’s ad for Harrisburg, Pa.’s J.H. Troup Music Co., an ad that was reprinted in the first edition of Mike Kuzmin’s Pa. 60’s rock discography ‘Sounds From The Woods’.

Detail from the flyer above

Detail from the flyer above

A rare, colorized Towson-Glen Arm flyer made advertising a performance by one of the last TGA bands, Mach Schau. This group evolved from the ashes of a band called The Spontaneous Gyrations. Like the preceding flyer, this piece is a playful, hallucinogenic distortion of teenage iconography, perhaps a subconscious knod to the nascent internet era's transmogrification of teen social mores. Whatever the case, the deconstruction of pre-fab 'youth culture' was a recurring TGA motif.

A rare, colorized Towson-Glen Arm flyer advertising a performance by one of the last TGA bands, Mach Schau. This group evolved from the ashes of a band called The Spontaneous Gyrations. Like the preceding flyer, this piece is a playful, hallucinogenic distortion of teenage iconography, perhaps a subconscious knod to the nascent internet era’s transmogrification of teen social mores. Whatever the case, the deconstruction of pre-fab ‘youth culture’ was a recurring TGA motif.

Here you can find more info. on Towson-Glen Arm graphic design: https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/towson-glen-arm-in-graphic-design-part-1/

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The Fine Art of Towson-Glen Arm – part 3: Chiwen Bao

Chiwen Bao - 'The Piano' - viscosity print, 1996 (originally published by Dulaney High School in the 1996 edition of their Sequel literary magazine; courtesy of Greg Storms). Music provided the inspiration for many Towson-Glen Arm visual art pieces, but, of all the music inspired visual works to come from TGA, Bao's 'The Piano' perhaps best symbolizes the ambition of the scene's music. The magical, lava colored piano points toward the void of outer space shooting out columns of written music that resemble skyscapers. Here is music as means to build communities, art created in the name of a fateful and positive change, creativity as civilization's fulcrum, a molten eruption illuminating the deathly darkness, a radical outburst of light and life.

Chiwen Bao – ‘The Piano’ – viscosity print, 1996. (originally published by Dulaney High School in the 1996 edition of their Sequel literary magazine; courtesy of Greg Storms). Music provided the inspiration for many Towson-Glen Arm visual art pieces, but, of all the music inspired visual works to come from TGA, Bao’s ‘The Piano’ perhaps best symbolizes the ambition of the scene’s music. The magical, lava colored piano points toward the void of outer space shooting out columns of written music that resemble skyscapers. Here is music as means to build communities, art created in the name of a fateful and positive change, creativity as civilization’s fulcrum, a molten eruption illuminating the deathly darkness, a radical outburst of light and life.

“Though a close knit social circle existed to support the Towson-Glen Arm arts community, many young artists from the area were uninterested in TGA’s social milieu, while others were a part of cliques barely connected to ours. Minus any excessive personal interaction with the scene, visionaries such as singer-songwriter Megan Carberry, Andy Papastephanou (of The Cosmic People From Outer Space), poet Julia Lee, Tyler Roylance and Ian McDonald (of the band Skull & The Cross Bones), and visual artist Chiwen Bao all accomplished feats of strange beauty equal and akin to even the best work of the more visible TGA artists…”

– from the notes to Towson Glen Arm Freakouts volume 1

'In The Midst' - intaglio print, 1996 (originally published in the 1996 edition of Dulaney High School's "Sequel" literary magazine; courtesy of Greg Storms)

‘In The Midst’ – intaglio print, 1996 (originally published in the 1996 edition of Dulaney High School’s “Sequel” literary magazine; courtesy of Greg Storms)

photos of 'Intrinsic' - mixed media, 1997 (originally published in the 1997 edition of  Dulaney High School's "Sequel" literary magazine (courtesy of Greg Storms)

photos of ‘Intrinsic’ – mixed media, 1997 (originally published in the 1997 edition of
Dulaney High School’s “Sequel” literary magazine (courtesy of Greg Storms)

Here's an interesting, one-of-a-kind black & white version of Chiwen Bao's 'The Piano' taken from a mock up copy of the 1996 edition of Dulaney High School's "Sequel" literary magazine. Hand written printer's instructions appear at the upper right. (courtesy of Meekah Hopkins)

Here’s an interesting, one-of-a-kind black & white version of Chiwen Bao’s ‘The Piano’ taken from a mock up copy of the 1996 edition of Dulaney High School’s “Sequel” literary magazine. Hand written printer’s instructions appear at the upper right. (courtesy of Meekah Hopkins)

Here’s where you can find more info on the fine art of Towson-Glen Arm: https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-fine-art-of-towson-glen-arm-tricia-lane-forster-part-1/

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Political Roots of The Preschoolers and Towson-Glen Arm

a photo of a very early line up of The Preschoolers circa 1993 at their first rehearsal in Lutherville, Md. at Eddie Macintosh's mom's house:(top left to right) Diego Ramos, Eddie Macintosh, Bob Phair, Lee Versoza, Dave Willemain; (bottom left to right) Joe Mysko, Sam Frazier, (photo taken with an automatic camera by Diego Ramos)

a photo of The Preschoolers circa 1993 at their first rehearsal in Lutherville, Md. at Eddie Macintosh’s mom’s house:(top left to right) Diego Ramos, Eddie Macintosh, Bob Phair, Lee Versoza, Dave Willemain; (bottom left to right) Joe Mysko, Sam Frazier, (photo taken with an automatic camera by Diego Ramos)

The most popular group to emerge from Towson-Glen Arm was The Preschoolers, a high energy teenage ska band/performance art mutation who garnered a cult following throughout central Maryland during the early-mid 90’s. The Preschoolers stuck out like a sore thumb as an outrageous voice of the avant-garde in a suburban enclave that was, for the most part, devoid of any unique culture. This large ensemble regularly featured a line-up comprised of between 7 to 10 musicians, a few dancers, and even a hype-man, and, like that of many other TGA artists, The Preschoolers’ work was unusual for often expressing bold political sentiments.

In particular, Preschoolers’ co-founders Dave Willemain and Bob Phair made notable efforts to support social justice, efforts that were reflected in much of the innovative work made by the pair. Furthermore, by analyzing the relationship that Towson-Glen Arm collectively had with America’s contentious DelMarVa region, it’s easy to see how a strong political undercurrent became a core element of the scene’s activity.

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“…on March 1, 1780, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a law calling for the gradual end of slavery, and the longest portion of the Mason-Dixon Line became the boundary not just between Pennsylvania and Maryland, but between freedom and slavery…

When the Civil War ended slavery was abolished but the Mason-Dixon Line was still there, separating North from South. Up and down the Line, the racial hatred that had been seeded two and one-half centuries earlier continued to be carefully watered every day. And the Line is still embedded in the national psyche as a powerful racial symbol.”

– William Ecenbarger, from ‘Walkin’ The Line’

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Map of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert, 'The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom', The Macmillan Company, 1898.

Map of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert, ‘The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom’, The Macmillan Company, 1898.

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“If you believe in fighting racism, you make a commitment for the rest of your life…There’s no getting off that train. You can’t say, ‘I’ve put five years in fighting racism and now I’m finished.’ No, you are not finished. Our job is to fight it every day, to continue to shove it down and when it rises up to shove it down even harder.”

Parren J. Mitchell
Maryland, U.S.A.’s first African-American congressman (7th district, 1970 to 1986), the first African American to graduate from the University Of Maryland School Of Law

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Every single story behind every single wild art movement seems to begin with its own dramatic ‘Big Bang’ moment …right? Actually, that point is totally debatable, especially when it comes to Towson-Glen Arm and The Preschoolers. Nonetheless, it’s telling to find that some of the scene’s earliest works came to be shortly after a unique political demonstration with origins tied tightly to the geography of central Maryland and also to an actual parent of one of The Preschoolers’ co-founders.

David G. Willemain – father of artist David Scott Willemain – worked for the early 90’s administration of Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, a celebrated local democrat who gained fame and infamy for openly promoting radical notions regarding illicit drug policy, and the treatment of A.I.D.S. and H.I.V. Schmoke was also outspoken in confronting the financial problems that plagued the federal government funds intended to help impoverished urban America. To Mayor Schmoke, those interferences created by President George H.W. Bush’s aggressive foreign policy were especially troublesome.

In late 1991 civil rights pioneer Parren J. Mitchell (with support from Mayor Schmoke, and a coalition of community leaders and local politicians) used a series of town hall meetings in Baltimore to come up with a strategy for confronting the Bush administration’s apathetic response to the complex needs of blighted American cities like Baltimore and its neighbor D.C. The meetings resulted in a collective resolution to march on Washington, D.C. in May of 1992 to demand a decrease in U.S. military spending and an increase in federal funding for progressive social projects custom made for the nation’s most at risk neighborhoods. To publicly announce the D.C. march a smaller local march through the streets of Baltimore was held in October 1991. This consisted mostly of the same local leaders and activists who hatched the idea of the D.C. march. Eventually, The United States Conference Of Mayors and The National League Of Cities would join in to help organize Parren J. Mitchell’s effort thus giving the march a shot of prestige that had been missing as it developed in Baltimore’s low budget community centers.

Mitchell and his supporters dubbed their series of marches “Save Our Cities, Save Our Children”. David G. Willemain worked with Kurt Schmoke’s office thoughout the mayor’s tenure; as Schmoke was a close confidante to Mitchell, Willemain found himeslf on the front lines of the “Save Our Cities…” movement as it evolved. David G. Willemain’s son caught wind of the march and its purpose just at a time when he began to gain a strong interest and admiration for the early days of the Civil Rights Movement and the radical sentiments of the Black Panther Party. The goals of these movements shared a’lot of common ground with those of the “Save Our Cities” campaign, so David Scott Willemain (known to friends as ‘Dave’) decided to attend the march in order to express solidarity with those struggling against racist/classist oppression.

April ’92 saw the “Save Our Cities, Save Our Children” march suddenly and drastically take on a whole new kind of currency. On March 3rd, 1991, a 26 year old unarmed African-American man named Rodney King was nearly beaten to death by a group of white Los Angeles police officers. Naturally, this incident shocked and outraged the world, so it took a full year to gather up an impartial jury who could try the police accused of the beating. The evidence presented in the trial – including a video tape that documented nearly the entire melee – overwhelmingly implicated the officers of police brutality and assault. Despite this, on April 29th ’92 three of the accused were acquitted of all wrong doing, and the jury couldn’t come to a conclusion on an extra charge against a fourth officer involved in the beating. Once news of the acquittals spread Los Angeles exploded in a haze of violent unrest. Soon afterward, several other North American cities followed L.A.’s incendiary path.

When the “Save Our Cities, Save Our Children” march on D.C. finally got off the ground on May 16th 1992 the event went from being an obscure fringe cause upheld only by the citizens of America’s toughest ghettos to a full blown national healing festival attended by an estimated 150,000 people. The march even featured the performance of a ‘Cumabaya’ type-anthem performed and written especially for the event by protest-folk veteran Peter Yarrow. This tune was made up entirely of quotes from a televised press conference that Rodney King gave at the end of the trial, including King’s famous plea, “Can we all just get along?”

Yarrow wasn’t the only one from the Civil rights-era old guard who illuminated the march with a more diplomatic tone. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, then New York Mayor David Dinkins, NAACP head Benjamin Gellis, and many other well known and obscure figures from America’s political left came out to protest against the financial excess of the conservative federal government and to try to calm the residual fear and rage inspired by the King trial.

Not everyone featured at the demonstration was repping the staid old ways of sit-ins and sing-a-longs. The Muslim hip-hop crew Defiant Giants brandished some tough Black Nationalist rap, and Bernice Price (a teenager who struggled with homelessness in D.C.) brought the sadness and frustration of poverty to life through brutal oration. Urvashi Vaid, a gay rights advocate who was then the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, gave what was perhaps the event’s most radical speech when she proclaimed that the injustice unleashed upon Rodney King and the ghettos was no different than that which was being felt in America’s gay communities. She pulled no punches when uttering the words, “To be lesbian or gay in America today is to live in a state of war!”

Dave Willemain invited his friends Bob Phair and Lou Thomas to join him in attending the “Save Our Cities, Save Our Children” demonstration , and this trio did indeed end up going down to D.C. where they got to soak up plenty of the march’s intense rhetoric. A few months after attending the march these three young artists would form The Nudists –  Towson-Glen Arm’s first recorded band, and Willemain and Phair would go on to form The Preschoolers at the end of 1993. Each of these kids were around 14 years old when they attended the protest, and they were driven there by Dave Willemain’s father the night before the march as he was part of its planning committee.

Bob Phair: We went to DC with Dave’s Dad , I think, where we parked at some church probably in Takoma Park or Hyattsville (Md.) From there we took a van full of marchers to downtown DC to another church where we slept on cots. It was cold in there but we were in good spirits and had been chatting up some DC school girls slumber party style. They got a kick out of us, white boys with long hair were pretty unusual to them.

Lou Thomas: …I remember we spent the night in some kind of hall or gym with the other marchers (I remember washing my armpits in a sink, partly because there was a girl I thought was cool and I was worried I smelled bad)…

…I remember talking to an African-American man, maybe in his 40s or 50s (hard to tell, I was 14), who was a long time activist, and Dave and I talked to him for a long time while marching. I think he told us stories about the civil rights movement, or at least 70s movements. I recall him being soft spoken, knowledgable, and really friendly. He made an impression on both of us, but I think particularly on Dave…

Bob Phair: …organizers spoke through bullhorns, we walked for what seemed like forever, at one point the two members of the (political rap group) Disposable Heroes of Hip Hoprisy joined in with the march… This was down by the National Mall, I think they then performed a few songs on a relatively large stage that had been set up… speeches were given and…some other performers played. We went home with bright red Save Our Cities T-shirts, I think the march had a positive impact…

…we all had pretty progressive parents so we were primed for seeing through the bullshit [that the march was confronting].

Although Dave took it farther than anyone. He borrowed Eldridge Cleaver from my mom! He also got tons of books from Che (Guevara) to Angela Davis and Marcus Garvey and I think internalized their struggles… But I think all of us realized that music is the great equalizer… the root of progress in our day and age.

Preschoolers’ co-founder Bob Phair at the Save Our Cities Save Our Children march, May 16th 1992 (the text at the bottom of this video clip reads “05-18-92″ – this was probably the date that CSPAN2 aired or edited the 4 hours of footage which made up its coverage of the march)

a button commemorating the Save Our Cities Save Our Children march

a button commemorating the Save Our Cities Save Our Children march

A throng of Save Our Cities marchers as they converged on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  (you can view 4 hours of march footage here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?26089-1/save-cities-save-children)

A throng of Save Our Cities marchers as they converged on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
(you can view 4 hours of march footage here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?26089-1/save-cities-save-children)

Progressive parents and righteous libraries weren’t dominant in every corner of the nascent TGA scene. In Towson-Glen Arm artist Violet LeVoit’s words, north Baltimore County in the early 90’s often seemed like “…a hermetic bubble for middle-class white people to live in without the ‘distraction’ of their own privilege…”. While the parents of some TGA artists did see the County as merely a pleasant backdrop for their domestic commitments, their kids often viewed greater Baltimore as a place littered with reminders of slavery, intolerance, and classism. Inevitably, these teens began making creative efforts to subvert the area’s darkest political elements. While the anti-racist/anti-right aims of the Save Our Cities march were influential, many in the TGA crew developed a radical consciousness completely on their own terms.

(left to right) Tricia Lane-Forster and Lisa Starace performing live with Spastic Cracker in Lutherville-Timonium, Md. at Matt Bray's basement; June 1994; photo by Lee Versoza

(left to right) Tricia Lane-Forster and Lisa Starace performing in Lutherville-Timonium, Md. with Spastic Cracker at Matt Bray’s basement; June 1994; photo by Lee Versoza

Matt Bray, TGA show promoter/activist/musician:

I lived in Lutherville-Timonium — it was a very white, middle class suburb. It seemed wealthy to me when my family first moved there from New York in 1983, but as I grew up and saw other parts of Baltimore County, I realized there were much much wealthier parts around me. From my parents’ bedroom I could see a large old plantation house, and tucked in the woods on the same property there was an actual cabin-like home that had been occupied by slaves. I remember thinking this was very scary but also super interesting. Once when I was about 12 I trespassed onto the property and met a man who lived in that house who said that the house had belonged to his ancestors that had been slaves on that plantation…I felt that I was touching history very closely, and I was haunted by the thoughts of slavery right in the land where I was living – interested and haunted. I always felt that given the history, the resistance (in Baltimore County) would be great and the fact that the opposite was true was always puzzling to me. When I lived in Germany, most regular people were extremely anti-Nazi, anti-racist — not just the leftists and punks. That made sense to me, and I never understood how the white kids who could trace their ancestry to slave owners were not deeply involved in anti-racism…

…Dulaney*(High School)…was full of right wing Catholics and other anti-choice Christians — it was the hot button issue of the time…I clearly remember there were very few actively pro-choice students…

At Dulaney, it was pretty clear that most people were at best Democrats, but mostly right wing and Republican. I don’t think I ever thought it was just the jock gestapo – they were simply the police force of the racist society…when the Iraq war started and there were probably less than 10 kids in the whole school that wore black armbands [in protest of the war] one of them was (I think) the president of the senior class and one of the only black girls in the school… She was totally ostracized based on her brave act, and the rest of us wearing the armbands stopped wearing them the first day. I was threatened with expulsion and suspension the first day of the bombing because I refused to stand for the Pledge!

Tricia Lane-Forster, visual artist/writer/member of the early TGA band Spastic Cracker:

I was very aware of social injustice, inequity of race, class, and the disabled. I remember being concerned about these issues at a very young age and very aware in middle school. How was a white suburban middle class girl aware of these issues? I’m not sure. Maybe because I was born without my left arm and was aware of anyone who was different and aware when things weren’t fair or right? My parents took me to the city and to other cities too and I saw the homeless, the poor, and often wanted to interact with them and help them from a young age.

My teachers, though, and the projects they gave me throughout school raised awareness too. I was reading short stories by Alice Walker in 10th grade and reporting on them. I had projects related to slavery several times during high school. I was reading about the holocaust, the Nazi doctors, and other travesties in history in 12th grade. I remember being thankful that I didn’t live in certain places or times throughout history because if I had I would have been killed or experimented on because of my arm. I also remember being thankful that I would have opportunities regardless of my limb difference. I knew that activists and political leaders and others had fought for these rights.

Lisa Starace, writer/member of the early TGA bands Spastic Cracker, The Unheard Ones, and Within:

I feel like there has always been this uneasy relationship between black Baltimore and white artists/musicians/punks…whatever you want to call them… it was totally common for places like The Loft**… to exist in these areas that were often invisible to most white Baltimoreans…I didn’t totally think about race then as much as I do now, but even if I didn’t critically think about what was happening, you couldn’t help but feel the divide deeply. And there was something so rebellious about crossing into this other world…crossing that line…perhaps a figurative Mason Dixon…

…the underpinnings of racial tension were part of why I always felt a love/hate relationship with Baltimore/Maryland. There’s so much to love, but I always found it hard to reconcile those things with the whole underlying world of injustice, poverty, and racism…

Cory Davolos in 1995; photo by Steph R.

Cory Davolos in 1995; photo by Steph R.

Cory Davolos, member of the early TGA bands Spactic Cracker, Retarded Dogs, The 6 O’Clock Alarm, Lard Star, etc.:

…the idea of growing up (in Maryland) and being unaware of its troubled past and divisions seems impossible to me. I always had an interest in history and very much remember my parents telling me stories about the racial disturbances in the sixties, MLK etc. The most disturbing of these were always the stories retold about their youths growing up in segregated Delaware if you can believe it! I’m always going back to this, my parents and their generation remember and were raised in a time that was nearly yesterday when Apartheid was ordered by the peoples governments! One generation away from us, it’s that close. It still blows my mind. My family were 20th century immigrants to America, racism is there, it always has been. It seems to be embedded with many newly established Americans, this jockeying for space, for power, a piece of the American dream that was guaranteed to them needs to be continually fought for, against fellow Americans. While we may not lose a war to some foreign nation, African Americans moving into a certain school district/rap music/hip hop culture posed a real threat to paranoid white suburbanites watching every penny and cultural edifice they were entitled to supposedly being eaten away by outsiders. Remember folks calling the Light Rail*** the ‘Soul Train’??

Attending public school I think really was the catalyst. Cockeysville Middle was a buck wild cauldron man. My first introduction to racial bullying, violence, pre-imposed class differences, sexual bravado. Those years are really some of the first times you become aware of the larger outside world around you, being more attuned to the cultural brew…

…Northern Baltimore County LAX culture: I played lacrosse all the way into sophmore year [of high school]…at the time Lacrosse was the upper class/private school white boy sport. Still is I’m sure. When I decided to attend Dulaney [a public high school], the guys on my Junior A team took to calling it ‘Dirtlaney’, because you know the kids (from) Dulaney were of a lower class and therefore ‘Dirtballs’ and ‘Grits’. There were no black kids on my lacrosse team either.

…In my senior year, I had a good friend gay bashed by jocks…of everything that happened at Dulaney this was a defining moment… Year by year I was convinced that there were major problems with not only myself but with our society in general. High school was bullshit, I had to get out from under the magnifying glass of pre-adulthood, I withdrew into music and art and started to daydream…about speaking out, freaking straight people out, dressing weird, making our own secret noise…leaving ’em all behind. This new thing…a dedication to radical awareness and mega fun…wouldn’t be something they could touch or corrupt…This was Towson-Glen Arm.

TO BE CONTINUED

—————————————————————————-
* Dulaney High School in Timonium, Md.; many Towson-Glen Arm artists attended this school.
** The Loft was an 80’s/90’s Baltimore. Md. music venue that primarily catered to punk and hardcore bands, but also hosted many Towson-Glen Arm concerts. It was located in an abandoned building situated near a predominantly black neighborhood in the city’s impoverished west side.
*** The Light Rail is a public transportation train line that runs north/south through Baltimore city. It also runs through many of the suburban neighborhoods that were hotbeds of TGA action during the 90’s.
————————————————————————-
Bibliography

The introductory quote from Congressman Parren J. Mitchell was made circa 1989 and appeared in an obituary for him published in the May 30th 2007 edition of the Los Angeles Times

BOOKS:

Ecenbarger, William. Walkin The Line. New York: M. Evans and Company, 2007. First printing.

PERIODICALS:

LoLordo, Ann, “Save Our Cities: ‘Ordinary people’ plan extraordinary steps”. The Baltimore Sun [Baltimore, Md.]. 10/5/1991.

Anonymous. “Saving the cities”. The Baltimore Sun [Baltimore, Md.]. 10/8/1991.

Mitchell, Parren J., and Corr, Katherine. “We march against a policy of abandonment and neglect”. The Baltimore Sun [Baltimore, Md.]. 10/11/1991

“Save Our Cities march on Saturday” letter to editor of The Baltimore Sun newspaper [Baltimore, Md.]. May 13th, 1992. Levin, Jack L.; Baltimore, Md.

Weisensee, Nicole. “Mayors Demand $$ To Save Ailing Cities Rendell Wants Urban Aid To Match Soviet Aid”. The Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia, Pa.]. May 16th, 1992.

Carlson, Tucker. “At Home With Big Government”. City Journal [New York, NY]. Summer 1993.

INTERNET RESOURCES:

Free Republic.com forum on activism. http://www.freerepublic.com/focust /news/2180225/replies?c=23. Free Republic.com. 2/6/2006.

The Wikipedia Foundation. “List of protest marches on Washington, D.C.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_protest_marches_on_Washington,_
D.C.#1950.E2.80.931999. December 18th, 2014.

The Wikipedia Foundation. “Kurt Schmoke”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Schmoke. 11/23/2014.

Rubin, Paula N., and McCampbell, Susan W. “NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS: IS BALTIMORE A BUST?” http://www.cipp.org/pdf/BALT_BUST.PDF. The Center For Innovative Public Policies Inc.; Tamarac, Fla. April 2001.

The Wikipedia Foundation. “Rodney King”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King. December 14th, 2014.

Asian/Pacific American Archives Survey. “The Rocky Chin Papers”. http://dev-dl-pa.home.nyu.edu/tamimentapa. New York University. 12/13/2011.

Sauro, Briar (with revisions by Leslie Reyman). “Women’s Action Coalition Records 1989-2003″. http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/archivalcollections/pdf/wac_0.pdf. The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library Manuscripts and Archives Division. October 1997 (revisions: October 2008).

VIDEO:

Gary, Garney and C-Span. (5/18/1992) “Save Our Cities Save Our Children march”. [http://www.c-span.org/video/?26089-1/save-cities-save-children]

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Towson-Glen Arm Graphic Design – part 1

A flyer by Lou Thomas advertising a September 1995 show that featured his band Rive Gauche. The other bands who played this gig weren't Towson-Glen Arm groups. Note the holy seal of the Universal Life Church in the upper right corner. Thomas was an actual ordained reverend and member of this non-denominational mail order "faith" which was supported by many TGA kids as a means of expressing opposition to conventional organized religion (i.e., among the church's many untraditional policies, it clearly encourages atheists to join up; for more on  the ULC check this website: www.themonastery.org/aboutUs).

A flyer by Lou Thomas advertising a September 1995 show that featured his band Rive Gauche. The other bands who played this gig weren’t Towson-Glen Arm groups. Note the holy seal of the Universal Life Church in the upper right corner. Thomas was an actual ordained reverend and member of this non-denominational mail order “faith” which was supported by many TGA kids as a means of expressing opposition to conventional organized religion (i.e., among the church’s many untraditional policies, it clearly encourages atheists to join up; for more on the ULC check this website: http://www.themonastery.org/aboutUs)[courtesy of Lou Thomas].

Graphic design represents a big chunk of Towson-Glen Arm’s most well known output. In the 90’s the TGA design style was featured prominently in hundreds of photocopied paper flyers made to promote live performance events, though it also made its mark on zines, political pamphlets, and various oddball print ephemera. Towson-Glen Arm flyers could be found posted up throughout the Baltimore area in record stores, book stores, coffee shops, college campus bulletin boards, down on the legendary merch table in Matt Bray’s basement*, wheat pasted onto telephone poles and other utilitarian structures, or even posted (without permission) on the grounds of the public high schools Dulaney and Towson (the two schools that most of the teenaged TGA artists attended).

Towson-Glen Arm artists would often give out flyers by hand at their own shows or other all ages concerts in the area. The front steps of the Towson Commons shopping center (a loitering hotspot for young troublemakers from all over suburban Baltimore) also was a place where one could find TGA kids handing out print material. Unfortunately, as most Towson-Glen Arm shows were drug/alcohol free** events, the hedonistic “mall punk” kids who hung out at the Commons would frequently end up throwing the show flyers into the trash or they’d just refuse to take them.

The TGA movement thrust the art of graphic design into a nebulous realm where leftist fervor, wild absurdity, and primal/d.i.y. production culminated in brash displays of ragged grace. Presented here is the first part of a new blog series featuring some top examples of Towson-Glen Arm’s visual splendor.

the logo from the Daily Schoolbus zine; designed by Spence Holman; October 1994 (courtesy of Spence Holman)

the logo from the Daily Schoolbus zine; designed by Spence Holman; October 1994 (courtesy of Spence Holman)

a set list created by multi-media artist Jeff Duncan for his band The Idiots; early 1995 (courtesy of Lou Thomas)

a set list created by multi-media artist Jeff Duncan for his band The Idiots; early 1995 (courtesy of Lou Thomas)

 a flyer probably designed by Jeff Duncan and his Behind Closed Doors band mates (Aaron Friedman and Guy Blakeslee); this was made to promote a TGA concert at the Baltimore city venue The Loft  (pardon the condition of this flyer; it was actually ripped off of telephone pole back in the mid 90's.) [courtesy of Shawn Phase]

a flyer designed by Jeff Duncan and his Behind Closed Doors band mates (Aaron Friedman and Guy Blakeslee); this was made to promote a TGA concert at the Baltimore city venue The Loft (pardon the condition of this flyer; it was actually ripped off of telephone pole back in the mid 90’s.) [courtesy of Shawn Phase]

design/lettering: Lou Thomas; 1997 (courtesy of Lou Thomas)

design/lettering: Lou Thomas; 1997 (courtesy of Lou Thomas)

(* the full story behind the premiere TGA venue Matt Bray’s basement can be found in the notes to the Towson-Glen Arm Freakouts 2 compilation, some of which are reprinted here: https://towsonglenarmfreakouts.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/matt-bray-and-the-early-days-of-towson-glen-arm/)
(** While Towson-Glen Arm didn’t completely indentify with the drug free straight edge philosophy, some in the north County underground identified the excessive drug use associated with Gen X/grunge rock/’slackers’ as “counter revolutionary” therefore at odds with the TGA movement’s political beliefs.)

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Alive And Well And Tattered

Damn…looks like I skipped out on blogging last month.

Well, I wasn’t tryin to, I swear, but let’s just say things got interesting in the non-blogisphere, so I had to put in some extra time in the outside world, that strange nonsensical place where you won’t find teenagers from the 90’s sitting around feverishly worshipping at an altar of obscure music and radical leftist politics…uh, yeah anyway…

Since I’m still recovering from the overload of interesting things that happened last month, I don’t really have a ‘traditional’ Towson-Glen Arm post ready just yet, so…

This morning, in a groggy/just woke up/zombie-esque haze, I unknowingly put on a pair of pants that I really thought I hated. The reason I hated these pants is cuz a few months ago, while wearing these pants, I fell down really hard in NYC’s Chelsea section shortly after getting off of a bus. I brutally skinned my knee, I even still have scars from the injury. The pants bear the marks of discoloration and still have a tiny rip in them where my knee got ground extra hard into the pavement.

I’ve been avoiding wearing these pants for months just cuz the site of that damage reminds me of how dumb and careless I felt after falling, not to mention how painful the injury was.

It wasn’t until I walked a few blocks from my apartment this morning that I realized I was wearing these most hated pants. The funny thing is, despite the negative association, these pants were actually really comfortable. They felt like any other pants I have. Right now, as I write this hours later, I’m still wearing them even and they still feel very comfy.

What this all means and what this could possibly have to do with an obscure art movement from the 90’s is beyond me, but I really felt compelled to share this with everyone out there…maybe this is just a weird metaphor for the creative work I’m usually covering here. It’s like this: if something is damaged, if something reminds you of a less than perfect time, even if something seems like trash, before you throw it away forever maybe just give it a second chance cuz you might find something of value in it that you’d taken for granted before, whether it’s a tattered pair pants or a warbly old cassette tape of crazy teens bangin on pots and pans all day.

A flyer for a 1994 Towson-Glen Arm show that occurred in the affluent Baltimore City neighborhood of Lake Evesham at The Church Of The Holy Redeemer. If you really dig this kinda crazy art and attitude, stay tuned - before the end of this year there will a post up featuring for the first part of an ongoing blog series all about the rise and fall Towson-Glen Arm's biggest band: avant-garde ska provocateurs The Preschoolers! (flyer art/design: unknown)

A flyer for a 1994 Towson-Glen Arm show that occurred in the affluent Baltimore City neighborhood of Lake Evesham at The Church Of The Holy Redeemer (flyer art/design: unknown)

 

 

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