January 10, 2003|by KEVIN CLAPP

When Eli Pollard is cooking up his bimonthly arts extravaganzas, he usually enjoys fusing contrasting artists to (hopefully) create a tantalizing result.

But for Friday night's version of M-: Mixed Multi-Media, the Washington County Arts Council Gallery director settled on a complementary combination, more chocolate and peanut butter than sweet and sour.

"They're both very elegant," Pollard says of the Appalachian Wind Quintet and Martinsburg, W.Va., painter Ralph Basford. "And I think they suit each other well."


Rounding out the evening, which begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, is an M- staple: Poetry readings by local authors in the audience.

Mixing the trio of disciplines results in an arts experience meant to tempt all senses.

And for the quintet, Friday represents a chance to preview selections planned for an upcoming recording session.

This month's event is special for another reason. Former Arts Council Executive Director Barbara Spicher is a member of the wind quintet, and Pollard thought it would be fun to turn the tables on her by putting the musician in the spotlight.

Basford's work, rich in color and personality, seemed a natural fit with the quintet's lush, romantic sound.

"They're playing romantic, classical music and Ralph Basford is a very romantic artist," Pollard says. "I consider his work to be romanticized and beautiful and very classical, and those are the reasons I chose him to appear with Barbara's Appalachian Wind Quintet. I thought they'd play off each other well."

A painter for 30 years, Basford, 50, first caught the artistic bug as a student in Hagerstown schools.

Working in oils - they've provided more flexibility for him than watercolors or acrylics - the artist bounces between subjects. For a time Basford may focus on landscapes before shifting to floral or sports-related images.

But always he paints, trying to make time each day to work in his studio above the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg.

"I need to paint like I need to breathe oxygen, I suppose," Basford says. "It's a necessity, it's a crutch, it's how I cope."

Contacted by Pollard to show his work at M-, Basford says any opportunity to exhibit is welcome.

"You have to access the opportunities given to you because there's really no entitlement to what I do or anyone who does this art thing," he says. "If you're trying to make a living at this you have to be ready and willing to put your work in the public domain."

His mindset is similar to those who have used M- as a forum for their creative writing, reading poetry and stories aloud for a room of strangers.

Loosely constructed, Pollard says the reading portion usually features someone from Antietam Review literary magazine. Friday, Managing Editor Winnie Wagaman will read.

Beyond that, the readings resemble an open mic night where anyone is free to step up and share their work.

Pollard says this provides an exciting, unique avenue for the audience.

"It brings audience and performers together because (members of the audience) are able to stand up and say 'I've got something I'd like to read,'" Pollard says. "In my opinion, it makes the group more intimate and makes the whole thing more spontaneous."

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