Baltimore Painted Screens & Rowhome Theater
"Painted screens have been around a long time. Probably before you were born."
–Mrs. Gottsch, East Baltimore resident
Painted Screens have been a fixture on Baltimore row houses since 1913. William Oktavec, a grocer in the Northeast section of the city known as "Little Bohemia" painted the first screen to advertise produce at his corner store near St. Wenceslaus Church. His neighbors noted not only the beauty, but the privacy afforded when sitting inside, without compromising the breezes passing through. A Baltimore tradition and true folk art was born—designed, produced and used in a single community. Residents flocked to his store for custom-made landscapes taken from greeting cards and calendars for their woven wire window and door screens. For less than a dollar, he gladly obliged. Soon every ethnic enclave had its own screen painters. Enterprising men and women turned out custom landscape views on demand. The screens in situ are their own best advertisement. The classic "RB" red bungalow with winding path, pond and swans was the standard, eventually found in as many as 100,000 windows and doors during the heyday of painted screens in the 1940s and 1950s.
Air conditioning and replacements of wooden window frames with aluminum and then vinyl took their toll. But a stalwart band of resourceful entrepreneurs—sign-painters, dabblers, jacks-of-all-trades—kept at it, inspiring younger artists to ensure painted screens continue as one of our city's most enduring trademarks.
Artists featured in this exhibit:
- WILLIAM OKTAVEC (1884-1956)
- RICHARD OKTAVEC (1927-1979)
- JOHNNY ECK (1911-1991)
- ALBERT OKTAVEC (1917-1992)
- TED RICHARDSON (1901-1986)
- BEN RICHARDSON (1904-1991)
- JOHN OKTAVEC (Born 1964, Baltimore)
- DEE HERGET (Born 1935, Baltimore)
- JENNIFER CROUSE (Born 1961, Havre de Grace)
- ALONZO PARKS (c.1900-1950, Baltimore)
- TOM LIPKA (Born 1935, Canton)
- ANNA LIPKA (Born 1959, Trinidad)
The Painted Screen Society of Baltimore