The Salon Series: A Smorgasbord of the Arts and Scientific Inquiry

Thank you to Publisher Emeritus, Mike Clark, for this blog post on the LPR Salon Series.  

If you have any interest in mythology, jazz, classical Indian dance, folklore, the Big Bang Theory, the fate of the Whooping Crane, a refugee’s escape from a war-torn country, Baroque music performed on reed instruments, the historic mission to Pluto, an expanding universe, the practices of world religions, ceramics, how food has influenced film, and protest art then I may have seen you at a salon.

Sponsored by Little Patuxent Review, a journal of literature and the arts, and the Columbia Association Art Center, the salons typically occur on a scheduled Monday night September through June.

The regular attenders say they find salons food for the mind, the senses and the spirit.

With the salon series entering its ninth year, Little Patuxent Review and the Columbia Art Center strive to bring in local artists, scientists and authors and engage with them in dialogue.

Salons have a unique history. In early 18th century France, they usually took the form of intellectual discussions where wigged, powdered French aristocratic men and women assembled in a drawing room. Closer to home is Chautauqua in southwest New York where 100,000 folks gather in the summer to enjoy a diverse cultural program. The salon series in Columbia typically draw 30 to 60 patrons.

The concept of initiating a salon series at the art center was first discussed in February 2008, when the literary journal staff members Susan Thornton Hobby, Tim Singleton, and I met with Liz Henzey, director of the Columbia Art Center and her deputy Trudy Babchak.

Liz Henzey pointed out in our early discussions that the art center would prove a welcoming artistic environment. “We would be using our space in a better way for all the different arts in our community,” she said.

At our first salon event, Tim Singleton expounded on haiku, a form of poetry tracing its imagistic influence to 17th century Japan and resonating with the Beat poets of the 1960’s. “Haiku,” he told the audience seems “very little (in verbiage), but it does big things” to stir our imaginations.

From there we reached as far as the stars. Nobel Prize winning NASA scientist John C. Mather told us about the story of the universe. Hubble Space Telescope Astronomer Thomas M. Brown let us know that astronomical sightings indicate that our universe is expanding. Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Manager, told us of the ten-year mission to Pluto with a spine tingling challenge the mission faced in the last minutes before reaching its goal.

Recent salons included a demonstration of classical Indian dance, a jazz performance, Tom Glenn’s bitter memories of the fall of Saigon, and Professors Mike Giuliano and Marie Westhaver exploration of how food has become a vibrant theme in movies that not only makes our mouths water but also affects human relationships.

The schedule for the 2017-2018 salon series is being put in place with the assistance of Columbia Art Center staff members Liz Henzey and Monica Herber along with Little Patuxent Review’s supporters– Liz Bobo, Phyllis Greenbaum, Sabina Taj , Tim Singleton and Kimberley Flowers. The first salon for the 2107-2018 series will be held at the Columbia Art Center on September 18, 2017, at 7:00pm and will explore the first 50 years of Columbia’s history. Featured presenters, Robert Tennenbaum and Prof. Sidney Bower, will present a talk entitled “The Book, Columbia, Maryland: A 50 Year Retrospective of a Model City.”

Salon Series for March 13th: Food and Film



Photo credit to


Sate your appetite while you learn about cinema in this seminar hosted by Professors Mike Giuliano and Marie Westhaver. Join us in an exploration of food in Giuliano and Marie Westhaver. Join us in an exploration of food in film as both professors bring their area of expertise to the table. Attendees are encouraged to bring their favorite food to share for a potluck as part of the experience. Additionally, the Columbia Arts Center will provide snacks and beverages.

Marie Westhaver is a professor of the arts and humanities at Howard Community College. Michael Giuliano is an associate professor of film and interdisciplinary arts at Howard Community College.

2016 – 2017 Salon Series

Little Patuxent Review’s 2016-2017 Salon Series has begun.

The Salon Series is a monthly meeting from September to May sponsored by Little Patuxent Review and the Columbia Arts Center. The series covers a broad range of themes and topics featuring a variety of guests in different specialties. From lectures to workshops and demonstrations, the evening is guaranteed to teach you something new while engaging with the local community.

Attend one of the upcoming meetings below and on our Events page:

Monday, September 19,  7pm

The Maceo Leatherwood Retrospective:  Reflections of Family, Life & Culture.  

Maceo Leatherwood

This presentation, which is produced by his daughter, poet Vanita Leatherwood, will explore the creative journey of Maceo, a Washington DC native.  Having engaged subjects for his art as diverse as human rights, ancestral connections, music and spirituality in nature, his work is steeped in symbolism.  This presentation is a look at not only the story of one man and his craft, but a dialogue about what it means to make an art of living against the grain.

Monday, October  24, 7pm

Protest Art:  Art with a Message

Presentation by Ann Wiker, Art Historian, Artist, and Instructor for Howard Community College and Johns Hopkins’ Osher Program

From Picasso’s Guernica to contemporary graffiti, art has often been used as a means of communication. This lecture will explore how artists throughout history have used visual imagery to raise attention for political and cultural issues.


Monday, November 7, 7pm

Hayden Mathews:  Magical Places in Maryland

Join Hayden, regional historian and word-weaver, for an illustrated journey to magical places in Maryland that will span the length and breadth of the ‘Old Line State’ from the surf-washed shores of Assateague Island to Muddy Creek Falls and Finzel Swamp in rugged western counties.  Through the words of Maryland natives, Hayden’s personal reflections, and the images of these places, past and present, this presentation is sure to give you a renewed sense of appreciation for the beautiful places that can be visited in Maryland. Hayden currently offers programs for all ages that mix natural and cultural history. He also leads educational bus tours for the Smithsonian Associates.


Monday, December 5, 7pm

Speak to My Heart Songs of Joy for the Holidays with Vocalist Denee Barr and Accompanying Cellist David Duan.

Celebrate an evening of cheer as performer Denee Barr sings seasonal melodies and familiar carols with the accompaniment by cellist David Duan.  Enjoy music and songs that are timeless.  Let the night carry you away in a place of wonderful festivity.


Monday, January 9, 7pm

Bitter Memories:  The Fall of Saigon with Tom Glenn

Tom Glenn was in Saigon as an undercover signals intelligence operative in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon when the North Vietnamese attacked the city. Glenn cheated, lied, and stole to assure that none of his subordinates, their wives or children were killed or wounded in the attack.  Glenn will present his story of how he got them out of Saigon by any ruse he could think of. For his work during the fall of Vietnam, Tom Glenn received the civilian Meritorious Medal, his proudest possession.


February 27, 7pm

NASA’s HISTORIC MISSION TO PLUTO with Alice Bowman, The New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Alice, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM), will talk about the voyage of NASA’s historic mission to Pluto – which culminated with the first flight past the distant dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. Experience this journey through the eyes of the mission operations team as Alice describes some of the challenges of piloting the small robotic spacecraft through the solar system for nearly a decade.  Her team itself was part of history, operating a spacecraft that had to travel longer and farther than any mission ever to reach its main target.


March 13, 7pm

Food in Film with Mike Giuliano and Marie Westhaver, Film Professors at Howard Community College

If you haven’t experienced Mike and Marie’s film talks, then you are in for a treat!  Back by popular demand, this presentation marks the sixth time this dynamic duo has shared their film knowledge and expertise with our salon groups.  Mike and Marie will be sharing their knowledge about food as a topic in film.   In line with the theme, attendees are welcome to bring a favorite dessert or snack item.  Columbia Art Center will provide other potluck snacks and beverages.


Monday, April  3, 7pm

A Musical Journey through South Asia

Shaista Taj Keating will share folk songs, ghazals from Pakistan, and classical ragas from North India. Shaista has performed on national television. She has taught at UCLA and has also performed at the United States Embassy in New Delhi, UCLA, and several international celebrations.


May 15, 2017, 7-8pm

Helen Mitchell  Why Are They Doing That? Practices in World’s Religions!

Do you ever wonder why people dress a certain way, eat or avoid certain foods, engage in practices that can be puzzling to outsiders? What do the hand and body gestures associated with some of the world’s religions actually mean?  This ‘decoding” session will highlight the core beliefs and values that underpin these practices.


June 5, 2017, 7-8:30pm

Ceramics Panel Discussion:  New Technology in an Age Old Art

Computer technology enables seamless, hands free production of ceramic objects, allowing precision form and exact reproduction. But what is the downside to the loss of tactile interaction between ceramics artist and materials? Does smart technology further an artist’s reach or stand between artist and inspiration? When does ‘hand-made’ transition to ‘computer-generated’?  Does it matter?  Enjoy an evening panel discussion amongst recognized ceramics artists, including those exhibiting in Columbia’s 50th ARTrospective June exhibition in Columbia Art Center Galleries.




What’s a Salon, anyway?

Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Photograph by Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature.

Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Photograph by Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature.

When I heard the phrase “literary salon,” I thought immediately of Gertrude Stein and her famous Parisian salons of the 1920s. Invited to participate in one of her events, you knew you were definitely hot shit. Couldn’t you see the flapper dresses sway, feel the crisp bite of champagne, and hear Gertrude bark at Hemingway? I’d love to have been there.

Baltimore’s thriving literary and arts community offers so many opportunities to participate in lectures, readings, and openings that one could fill one’s social calendar with one event after another. These modern salons abound, yet thinking of them in terms of Parisian excess, I couldn’t quite figure out what to expect. Who attended these events? How did one dress? Would I fit in?

Oliver's Carriage House

Oliver’s Carriage House

The first Little Patuxent Review launch reading I attended was last January. Snow drifts piled high then, too (though not as impressive as today). Oliver’s Carriage House, a stone edifice, felt welcoming and warm. Voices drifted down from the second floor. I mounted the steps and arrived to find throngs of people gathered. Three groups of chairs, arranged in rows, fanned out to face an oak podium, which stood before a great unlit fireplace. The afternoon sun poured in through high windows, casting a warm glow throughout the room.

As the attendees shed their coats, I observed that they were a mix of old and young, smooth and wrinkled. Some wore scarves and jewels, others jeans and sweaters. Some were shod with L.L.Bean duck boots while others had feet encased in modest pumps. When the moderator spoke, a reverent hush descended. We all anticipated the words to follow.

Poets recited. Essayists read. The audience laughed. We leaned forward, rapt. Tears formed in the corner’s of eyes and were wiped away with the backs of hands. We asked questions and shared refreshments. Contributors received direct feedback about the impact of their work. The whole event felt positive, reaffirming.

In short, salons aren’t the stuffy, by “invitation-only” events they once were. (Sorry, Gertrude.) They’re attended by the curious, the learners, the adventurers, the dreamers, lovers of words and art and song. Everyday people attend. People like plumbers and cooks and lawyers and teachers and parents. Sometimes, there are even teenagers.

We hope you’ll consider attending this Sunday’s salon launch of Little Patuxent Review’s Winter 2016 Issue “Myth” or any of the upcoming Salon Series jointly sponsored by LPR and the Columbia Association. All events are free and open to the public.

Still not convinced? Here are a few photos from a recent Salon Series event where guest editor Patricia VanAmburg spoke on “Pulling Adiadne’s Thread.” She discussed myths, ancient images, and symbols using her own photographs. The next Salon Series event is scheduled for February 22 at 7 pm. It features blues singer Denee Barr, who will share her repertoire of songs by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Judy Garland.

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It’s No Myth: LPR Announces Guest Editor for Winter 2016 Issue

When the Winter 2016 theme of Myth was announced to the LPR staff, I felt a flutter of possibility ripple through my body. I’d just returned from Italy, having done my fair share of cavorting before various Roman temples, and my mind immediately turned to the Medusa myth. As my eldest son tells it, Athena came upon Zeus “getting funky” with Medusa in Athena’s temple. Athena cursed Medusa, hence the snakey locks and turning-people-to-stone thing. Myths take all forms. They are a collected body of stories, told to explain nature, history and customs. Myths occur in every culture. Remember the urban legend of Mikey and Pop Rocks? Thank goodness for Snopes, who confirmed my theory that Mikey lives. (In my home, we’ve got our own faux version of Snopes called, to which we “refer” whenever some outlandish story is told at the dinner table.)

Patricia VanAmberg, June 2015.

Patricia VanAmburg, June 2015.

When the LPR staff decided to invite a guest to edit our Winter 2016 Myth issue, our choice seemed clear-cut. Baltimore poet and writer Patricia VanAmburg balances literary credentials with scholarly training in classic myths. Lucky for us, Patricia is as excited about the intersections between myth and literature as we are.

Here is guest editor Patricia VanAmburg, to tell us more about her thoughts about LPR’s Myth issue.

I have been a writer/poet since the moment I learned the alphabet. I have been a teacher for most of my adult life. My favorite class has always been world literature because I marvel at the diversity and sameness of its stories—especially those of the ancient world.

One of the defining moments of my life was my introduction, by Maryland poet Edgar Silex, to the Sumerian myth of Inanna. I had been teaching the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh (c. 3000 B.C.E.) for many years before I first read the Inanna text of the same era, a story in which the female hero takes an inward, spiritual journey. Immediately, I started a library of mythology which expanded to archeology because I loved the visual symbols that went with the earliest texts.

This is how I learned about the work of archeologist Marija Gimbutus, who claimed that millions of small prehistoric figurines were evidence of a very early mother goddess worship. A seminar on Gimbutus’ findings in the early 1990s provided my first trek in search of ancient artifact. Soon after, I travelled through Turkey (the Greek/Roman ruins at Ephesus) and the Greek Islands gathering material for a course I would teach at Howard Community College titled Ariadne’s Thread: the link between the images of prehistory and classic Greek Myth.

Patricia VanAmberg on Cyprus.

Patricia VanAmburg on Cyprus.

Later in 2004 and 2006, I arranged student/faculty trips to Greece and Crete. In Athens, we visited museums and ruins including those of the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. On Crete, we saw the ruins of palaces (c. 1600 B.C.E.) at both Knossos and Phaestos and the archeological museum of Herakleion with its wonderful bulls and snake goddesses. We also visited Mycenaea in the Peloponnese, and the ruins of Apollo’s temple at Delphi. Some of these travels will be featured in a slide presentation for the 2015-16 LPR Salon Series.

Aphrodite's birth place

Aphrodite’s birth place

More recently, I have searched for stories and ruins in Italy, France, Brittany, Vienna and Cyprus. In Vienna, I sought the tiny fertility figurine named goddess or woman of Willendorf. On Cyprus, I was searching Aphrodite—sometimes called Cyprus by the Greeks because of her rumored birth amidst sea rocks of that island. I have seen the very place from which the legend sprang, as well as, the temple ruins of Paphos and the wonderful museum of prehistory at Nicosia.

I can tell you that the Aphrodite of Cyprus has more in common with the Sumerian goddess Inanna than than she has with the Venus of classical myth and western art. As a fertility goddess, she also has something in common with both Willendorf and the Greek kore Persephone. It is all about season—season of place and seasons of life—cycles and lapses:

Some Mythic Lapses
by Patricia VanAmburg

Visions of Demeter dangling
darling Demaphon in the fire
causes his startled mother
to lose her faith in the gods.

Metira’s startling lack of vision
causes disappointed Demeter
to turn heels on earth and
lose her faith in humanity.

Envisioning mother burnout
human and divine
causes darling Demaphon
to lose his immortality.

A lovely vision in flame
Persephone awaits Demeter
eats three seeds and
forgets about spring.

Online Editor’s Note: Submissions for Myth open on Aug. 1 and remain open until Oct. 24.