Linda Franklin likes old Industrial Era cities. When, in 1993, she decided to move from New York, where she’d lived as an artist for nearly 25 years, to be closer to her Charlottesville-based parents, her choices were Richmond, Philadelphia and Baltimore. She chose Baltimore because of its eccentric reputation.
“I was immediately home,” Franklin explains. “Artists here do their own thing, and they can because it’s cheaper” than New York.
Franklin looked at more than 300 listings before finally settling on a three-story home on Park Avenue in Bolton Hill. “It was my last stop,” she laughs. She discovered she was close to the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she took a few classes, including welding, and the Meyerhoff, where she became a longtime subscriber to the BSO.
It was a chance encounter in 2006, though, that finally led to Franklin feeling she really, truly belonged.
In the waiting room of a veterinary hospital in Gaithersburg, where she’d taken her terrier, Nicholas Copernicus “Nicky” Franklin, to treat a mast cell tumor on his leg, she met Christine Sajecki, whose dog was undergoing the same radiation treatment. Sajecki was a young artist in residence at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown, where she worked primarily in encaustics—the use of beeswax and colored pigments to create images. Franklin looked forward to Nicky’s appointments so she could talk with Sajecki about art and Baltimore.
When Sajecki invited her to one of her shows at Hamilton Gallery, Franklin, then 65, who had considered herself fairly shy for most of her life, threw caution to the wind and attended. There, she met some of Sajecki’s friends—singer/songwriter Caleb Stine, writer/ artist Joseph Young and singer/fabric artist Carly Goss. They invited her to go bowling after the show. Quickly, the large gaps between them in age—and in life—vanished.
“Every Monday, we’d go to the Golden West Café,” Franklin explains, “and talk about everything. And they were all doing more than one thing, like me. Painting, sculpture, video, music.” Multi-versed is certainly an apt descriptor for Franklin. In addition to participating in “The Big Show” at the Creative Alliance every year (this year she’s also performing a five-minute play at their “Big Stage”), she’s taught writing to ex-offenders at Mondawmin Mall for more than 10 years through Writing Outside the Fence. And although she’s published more than 40 books, she’s earning her MFA in writing at the University of Baltimore. Since 1965, she has collected outsider art and has lent pieces to the American Visionary Arts Museum for exhibitions.
As versatile as Franklin is, she’s quick to credit Baltimore for her artistic renaissance, particularly the artists she now calls her family. Or, as she explains: “I don’t think I would have met these people anywhere else.”