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Hagerstown in another era

November 18, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Time - a winter evening in downtown Hagerstown circa 1929 - stands still in a watercolor painting by artist Rebecca Pearl.

"Six-fifteen on the Square," commissioned by Cliff Springer and Gene Sappington, new owners of Benjamin Art Gallery, doesn't depict Hagerstown's frontier days or life during the Civil War.

The twilight scene, with a hint of the holidays just beginning, captures Hagerstown Public Square in 1929.

Included in the painting - a view down South Potomac Street - are the steeple of St. John's Lutheran Church, the Alexander Hotel, which opened in 1929, and three forms of the transportation of the period. There's a horse and buggy and a Pope-Tribune, an automobile made in Hagerstown by the Pope Manufacturing Co. And there's the No. 168 trolley, pulling into the square for a 6:15 p.m. stop.

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Although they discussed the work, and Springer came up with its title, the gallery owners gave the artist a lot of license.

Go downtown and see what you think is interesting, they told her.

Pearl visited the Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library, as well as the county historical society. She had five or six old photos and plenty of information.

The artist, who lives in Frederick County and has a gallery in Emmitsburg, Md., does commissions, including animal portraits, architecture and historic homes. Many of her commissions are fund-raising vehicles for organizations, and her Hagerstown painting also has a connection to a local community nonprofit group. A portion of the proceeds - $5 of the $79 cost of each limited edition print sold before Jan. 1 - will go to REACH (Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless).

The fund-raising connections have brought many people together, Pearl said.

Hagerstown is new territory for her, and she's excited about it. She will be at the gallery from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday to sign the prints. About 30 of her paintings - she also works in oil and pastels - will be on display at the Hagerstown gallery.

Pearl, who received her formal training at the Schuler School of Fine Arts and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, was a nurse for 28 years.

She said she's been painting seriously for 25 years and paints five days a week. For seven years, she's been teaching a weekly art class in a New Market, Md., church. Pearl said she has to steal time from her commission work for her personal painting, but she wasn't complaining.

"It's wonderful to be an artist and be able to make a living," she said.

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