Marian McLaughlin will be the Maryland Traditions Artist-in-Residence for the Spring 2023 semester, focusing on the tradition of crankies. Crankies are visual and kinetic stories that are illustrated on long, rotating scrolls. In January and February, Ms. McLaughlin will conduct workshops with elementary school students at Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School in East Baltimore with collaboration from art teacher Breea Williams. Working with Linehan Artist Scholar Program Director Stephen Bradley, Marian will also demonstrate the crankie art form to UMBC Linehan Artist Scholar students enrolled in LAS 121.
In honor of Black History Month, Ms.McLaughlin will present a crankie that highlights Black painters, focusing on Alma Thomas, Stanley Whitney, and Tom Miller. Students will learn about the distinct mark-making styles from these artists and how they used elements of art like color, lines, value, and shapes. As creative warmups, students will make artwork inspired by these artists. They’ll apply these mark-making techniques for a final collaborative crankie panorama that will be presented in a public performance in early March.
There are all kinds of ways to make crankies – some artists create fabric crankies, others apply paint or ink to their scrolls. Renowned crankie artist Katherine Fahey applies intricate paper-cut silhouettes to her crankie scrolls. Once the scroll is finished, it is loaded into a box which has a viewing window. It’s attached to two wooden spools, which allows it to be hand-cranked while a story is told, a song is sung, or a tune is played.
The term “crankie” is actually an innovation of panoramic painting that originated in the 19th century called moving panoramas. Moving panoramas we’re among the most popular form of entertainment in the world, with hundreds of panoramas constantly on tour in the United Kingdom, the United States, and many European countries. They became a new visual element in theater, incorporating a more realistic quality, and also served as an ancestor to cinema. Crankies are moving panoramas on a smaller scale, with a typical example being roughly twenty feet long by eighteen inches high. Like the larger moving panoramas, a crankie is often displayed with live music or narration. In the form of crankies, the moving panoramas has experienced a revival in the United States since the mid 2010’s.
Marian McLaughlin is a musician, visual artist, and educator. She has toured extensively in the United States and the U.K., released three studio albums, and performed a NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. She was a Strathmore Artist-in-Residence in 2015, and led an ensemble for the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage series in 2018. McLaughlin was a featured guest for WTMD’s Baltimore Hit Parade and recorded a live set in their studio. McLaughlin initially brought visual art into the fold with her music through her album art and performance fliers. She then became curious about “crankies” after seeing artists share these illustrated, kinetic stories. She created her first crankie to compliment one of her songs and has made crankies for all occasions since. She enjoys illustrating and painting with all kinds of mediums, such as watercolor, ink, and acrylic paint, and brings her passion for art-making into educational programs such as Arts for Learning’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy.
Linehan Artist Scholars worked with Artist in Residence Marian McLaughlin to create their own crankie.