By Valerie Fraling, Special to the AFRO

“Art has to be a kind of confession. I don’t mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it…” James Baldwin

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past. It’s also the perfect time to renew lost friendships and embrace current friendships. It’s another opportunity to get it right, the opportunity to build dreams or to rebuild old dreams. It’s a fresh start to a new day.

I visited Kevin Brown, my friend of over 40 years, at his restaurant Nancy By SNAC for my favorite chicken salad on wheat and a hot lemon ginger tea. After being in the house for eleven days recuperating from a cold Nancy was the first place I wanted to go and Kevin and his partner Bill Maughlin were the first people I wanted to visit. An eclectic place, it is immediately a feel-good place; it is a high energy with an art gallery. There is art strewn throughout the area covering every available space on the walls, floors, tables and seating. Located in the MICA building, it’s an ideal hangout for the artsy people, many who have displayed their art in Nancy. It’s the go to spot when you want a bite to eat, meet friends, host community meetings, birthday celebrations, book signings and more. It’s a favorite of political leaders or political office seekers, bank executives, developers, or one of the homeless who stop pass knowing Bill and Kevin will feed them. Fulbright Artists Joyce Scott, Alma Roberts, Ernie Shaw, Jannette Witmeyer and other local artists have made Nancy the place to be. The mayor and her staff host breakfast meetings there, as does Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Gov. Larry Hogan and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” James Baldwin

Strong advocates for the arts and urban development, Kevin and Bill opened Station North Art Gallery on N. Charles Street about 13 years ago. Station North is an art gallery featuring art exhibits of students and local artists. Guests enjoy breakfast and lunch while appreciating or purchasing the artwork.

“The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” James Baldwin

Avid supporters of the great James Baldwin, who is displayed prominently throughout both establishments, they founded The James Baldwin Society, which recently celebrated 32 years.

“The fact is we can only love what we know personally. And we cannot know much. In public affairs, in the rebuilding of civilization, something less dramatic and emotional is needed, namely tolerance.” E. M. Forster

SNAC was a diamond in the rough, in an area that was deemed a misfit with vacant buildings, a dilapidated motel and vagrants loitering the area. Located between the Howard Street Bridge and Maryland Avenue, like the phoenix it is rising due to the foresight and vision of Kevin and Bill who birthed Nancy (as the regulars call her) five years ago. These two pioneers are excited about the changes that are taking place on the North Avenue corridor as it slowly develops into the Art District extension of Station North Arts Center (SNAC).

“A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink and to be merry.” Ecclesiastes 8:15

The next time you want to eat, drink, look, listen or shop, visit Nancy for a delightful afternoon and an experience you will never forget. Like Cheers everybody will know your name. Just don’t be surprised if a tall, thin man wearing glasses and a huge smile yells, “Welcome to Nancy” and sits down beside you as he takes your order. If this happens you have officially been welcomed to Nancy and I guarantee you will not want to leave. Oh, come early they close at 3PM.

“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” Abe Lemons

Congratulations to Dawn Rini on her retirement from the Social Security Administration and the surprise retirement party hosted by her husband Tom Rini at Pappas of Cockeysville. Tom diligently contacted Dawn’s family, friends, coworkers and former coworkers to surprise her on her special day. More than100 guests enjoyed Pappas delicious menu especially their world famous crab cakes made famous by Oprah. There’s a chair in the lobby that says “Oprah sat here.”

Retiree Carolyn Hill is using her past work experience providing income tax preparation and notary public service at Security Income Tax Service in Security Mall. For more information call Carolyn at 443-570- 2245or email chill0630@aol.com

It’s your birthday make some noise! Happy birthday: Candes Daniels, Harvey Harris, Dr. Vallen Emery Jr., Dr. Cynthia Neverdon Morton, The Hon. Marilyn Mosby, Ryan McNeill and Jean Johnson.

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Langston Hughes

Remembering the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.