Mark Cottman relaxes in his Federal Hill art gallery.

Artist Mark Cottman — Living the Dream

Mark Cottman relaxes in his Federal Hill art gallery.

Mark Cottman relaxes in his Federal Hill art gallery.

In the 1970s,  Baltimore’s  Federal Hill   was a poverty-stricken– inner- city neighborhood.  Today, it bustles with activity.  Stone and brick row houses complement new restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, art galleries and salons. Business suit attired men and women meld with local residents, blue-collar workers, yuppies and Raven’s-shirted-20 somethings.  Elm trees with yellow and green blended leaves line  S. Charles in front of The Mark Cottman Gallery.  

Mark Cottman dressed in dark khaki colored pants and a blue short-sleeved shirt relaxes in his chair surrounded by his vivid colored art and discusses his passion.

“I am so excited that the colors come out excited,” said Cottman. “The colors always indicate hope.”  

It wasn’t easy for Cottman, but he had hope and a positive attitude.   He persevered like the renovators of “inner city” Federal Hill. Today, he is living the dream.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Cottman said that he worked as a stand-up comedian.

“I was always funny,” Cottman said. “You know you are funny when you make your mother laugh and she laughs so hard she tells you to stop.”

Cottman said that he learned stand-up comedy by watching the best comedians and that the funniest ones told stories.  Cottman said that he was a good stand-up comic, and he also wrote for other comedians.

In addition, from 1994 to 1999, Cottman said that he worked as an accessibility officer for the State of Maryland.  He wrote waivers for construction projects to enable them to meet accessibility standards, ADA codes, for handicapped people.  He suggested changes for companies to comply with these standards. However, Cottman said that he was unhappy with the job politics at the State of Maryland for a few years and  that he was passed over for a new position.

Cottman said that he decided to paint his “visions” and left his job for six months to promote his art. When he returned to work for the State of Maryland, he said that he didn’t fit in, because  he was like “a round peg and my position was definitely a square hole.” His supervisor and HR personnel told him that he needed “mental counseling.” He said that they thought that I “slipped off the cliff.”

“So they slid this application across the desk for me to fill out,” Cottman said. “Two days later I had it upside down, I slid it back across the table and I wrote in big bold letters, I quit,” and he gave his  two-weeks notice.

Cottman said that his coworkers were angry with him and that it was painful and he didn’t understand their anger.  He said that he spoke to them and realized that they were upset because he was leaving to live his dream and it “reminded them of their dreams they didn’t pursue.” He said in order for them to deal with it they “lashed out at me.”  

When he left his job, Cottman  concentrated on his art.   He also said that he sold his car and bought an old van for cash. He  paid cash for his house to avoid debt and keep his expenses down.

“That was my plan and it worked,” said Cottman.

Mark Cottman and "This is Baltimore!"

Mark Cottman and “This is Baltimore!”

Cottman said he gets his inspiration for his art from life.  He said that someone could come into the gallery and sit or talk a certain way and he and Antoinette Powell, his assistant, see it as art.

“I would call myself a universe creative receptor,” Cottman said. “I am always aware.”  He said that it is like having a third eye. Cottman said that people who don’t have a third eye look across the street and see a building with glass. He said that we watch colors change and see shadows on buildings and trees.  They listen to conversations as people pass and watch to see if someone is wearing an interesting color.

“There is so much stuff going on out there, it could keep you entertained forever,” Cottman said.

Powell runs the gallery.  She describes Cottman’s work as different and vibrant. She said that passion drives Cottman and that he loves life and receives joy from his love of painting.
  Cottman lives his passion daily.  He and Powell view “Main Street” Baltimore (or Federal Hill) through their window that faces S. Charles Street. They watch diverse people blend like colors on an artist’s pallet.   They see hope and art as people pass by.
The War of 1812 Soldiers

Baltimore Book Festival

The War of 1812 Soldiers

The War of 1812 Soldiers

I dragged my husband to the Baltimore Book Festival in Mount Vernon Place which ran from Sept. 28-30. Author signings, cooking demonstrations, workshops, lectures, music, tours and poetry readings were among the featured events. Centerstage participated with an open house for tours, demonstrations, performances and more.

We went to Mount Vernon on Sunday and the weather was clear and warm with a slight autumn breeze. It was a perfect day to people watch and enjoy the outdoors.

There were book swaps and great bargains. My husband purchased four books (which included two hardbacks) for $12. It was a great day and I think that he was glad that he went.

Book Sign


Radical Books
Radical Books

Edgar Allan Poe Shirt
Edgar Allan Poe Shirt

Baltimore Review/Washington Writers' Publishing House

Baltimore Review/Washington Writers’ Publishing House

Mount Vernon Place

Mount Vernon Place

Radical Pavilion

Radical Pavilion



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How do the Occupy Baltimore Protesters Occupy Themselves?

Tom Kiefaber Former Senator Theatre Owner

Some of the occupants have jobs and others are homeless.  Many of them want change.

Tom Kiefaber, the former owner of the Senator Theatre, wore a sign that said,  “I am Revolting.”   Kiefaber recently lost the Senator Theatre in foreclosure.   He said that he is revolting because Baltimore is “one of the most corrupt cities in America. They took my job, they took my professional and personal reputation and they took my real estate all through manipulating the media.” Kiefaber’s “revolting sign” is an opening to discuss his opinions about Baltimore politics, the Senator Theatre, the media and the “Occupy Baltimore” movement.

Holly Brown is unemployed and on disability.   Holly said that she is part of an international group called “Women in Black” who “stand vigil” to promote peace and justice.  According to Holly, she stands  at Light and Pratt streets while holding the Arabic peace sign, salam.  She  has participated in anti-was marches in Washington, D.C., said Holly.

Elise Heroux  works in an organic grocery store and she said that she has spent every night at McKeldin Square for three weeks.  According to Elise, she has attended the “Occupy Baltimore General Assembly.”  She said that it is a “participatory democracy” and they don’t make decisions without a majority.  For example, she said that The Department of Parks and Recreation gave the “occupiers” a list of rules.  The occupiers told The Department of Parks and Recreation that any item they couldn’t agree on,  “they would not do,” Heroux said.

Heroux said that some occupants participate in knitting workshops, but she has participated in the “De-escalation Workshop.”  She said that the De-escalation Workshop teaches the occupiers to let their bodies “go limp” if police ask them to leave. She said that their body language is saying, “If you want me to move, move me.” She said that many times the police will pick you up and throw you in the street, but if you let your body become limp it will prevent a resisting – arrest charge.

William Lipscomb is homeless and has stayed at McKeldin Square from the start. “I cook, I clean and I do all kinds of other stuff so I am just trying to get everything figured out,” said Lipscomb.  He said that four years ago he had a job washing cars and has looked for work at McDonalds’s, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Charles Ballweg stayed at McKeldin Square for three nights.  He said that he cleans up the trash and cigarette butts. “I stay busy,” Ballweg said.

Some of the occupants carry 99 percent signs to protest the 1 percent top- income earners. Occupiers told me, they represent the 99 percent and the banks and wealthy are the 1 percent.

Two protesters carried a 99 percent sign while holding their Tibetan Mastiff dog. The Tibetan Mastiff is the most expensive dog breed in the world.


Cafe Troia, Towson, Maryland, Our Top Restaurant Choice

When you want  an authentic Italian meal, is your first thought Little Italy in Baltimore? I love Little Italy, but my first thought is Cafe Troia in Towson.

The Troia family, from Naples, opened Cafe Troia in 1986. They feature chicken, beef and lamb that are naturally and humanely raised in addition to fresh clams, shrimp, calamari, and fish.

When my husband and I visit, if we don’t dine in the restaurant or outside, we eat in their, elegant cherry-wood bar. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxing.

I enjoy  their Caesar salad because it crunches and they toss it with a creamy Caesar dressing that has a mild garlic flavor with a slight punch.

Their grilled eggplant accompanied by whipped goat cheese is one of my favorite appetizers. Grilling enhances the eggplant’s pungency and goat cheese balances it. In addition, they occasionally serve a nice beet salad with goat cheese and apple slices in a lemon dressing.

One of my favorite entrees is usually one of their specials, Branzino, a Northern Italian sea bass.  They serve it many ways:  in parchment paper, pistachio encrusted or with tomatoes, capers and olives.  You can’t go wrong with any of these preparations.

The spinach and ricotta filled ravioli with salmon, shallots, dill and cream is tender and melts in your mouth. The smooth sauce complements the smoky salmon and is not too heavy.

For dessert, their Creme Brulee is excellent. The custard is sweet with a crispy-caramel top. It is the perfect finale.

If you want to celebrate an event or just prefer a good meal, you should try Cafe Troia.

Cross Street Market in Baltimore’s Federal Hill

Cross Street Market in Federal Hill, Baltimore, Md attracts a polo-shirt-crowd that mixes with the blue-collar locals.  It’s a fun place to eat and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer and absorb Baltimore culture. There are a variety of food options from homemade soup, fried seafood (including Baltimore crabcakes), sushi, raw oysters, steamed clams, shrimp, and mussels; chicken, fries and more.

Also, customers can shop for fresh vegetables, produce, meats, seafood, and chicken, or purchase prepared food to take home.

 Businesses will remain open when Cross Street undergoes renovations in the fall.

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