Second Wednesdays take first place in the hearts of attendees

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 by Melissa Howison

Few things in life are as reliable as the fresh produce, tasty treats, and smiling faces you expect to find at a farmer’s market. If you frequent the 32nd Street Farmer’s Market, add seeing Phyllis Jaslow wearing her sandwich-board sign and handing out flyers to that list.

Phyllis chooses to spend Saturday mornings promoting 2nd Wednesdays, an evening event series that takes place the second Wednesday of each month, which she launched at the Village Learning Place back in 2006. Her hope for the program has always been to bring people together over an entertaining educational experience, an impressive food and beverage spread, and a shared affinity for the neighborhood library.

Phyllis promoting 2nd Wednesdays at the 32nd Street Farmer’s Market

The food was not originally a focus of the evening, Phyllis said. It became such an enjoyable and attractive addition, however, that it has evolved to the point where people now bring homemade dishes matching the monthly theme to share.

Phyllis and her husband, Lee, were integral to the founding of the Village Learning Place following the contentious closure of the St. Paul Street Enoch Pratt Library branch in the late-1990s. They advocated with a group of neighbors to acquire the library building from the city, eventually agreeing to pay $1 per year to lease the property for 20 years. The VLP recently renewed its lease for another 20 years.

When Lee drafted the original vision plan for the library, it did not include any enrichment programs for adults. The plan focused on restoring the interior of the library to its original architectural intention, providing strong after school programs, curating a robust collection of library books about topics of high interest in the neighborhood, and creating an enclosed community garden behind the building.

The initiatives outlined in the vision plan came to fruition, and Phyllis said she realized the space’s potential as a gathering place for adults. She began envisioning 2nd Wednesdays. Initially, Phyllis imagined it would occur as frequently as once a week, but admits that she agreed when the Board of Directors approved a more sustainable, monthly schedule.

Since 2006, Phyllis, the Second Wednesday committee, and the VLP staff have consistently organized, planned, promoted, and hosted monthly evening events. Presenters range from local entrepreneurs, authors, chefs, historians, environmentalists; experts in health, food, wine, beer; musicians, artists, theater performers, and more. “We have a lot of people that are really good speakers, that are really well known in their fields,” Phyllis said. Presentations often include an interactive element, varying from dancing to oyster tasting. Baltimore favorites such as John Shields, Rafael Alvarez, Wayne Schaumburg, Jason Kalirai, and Peabody Institute musicians have been known to appear on the schedule.

Some of the Second Wednesday attendees come because the specific topic that month attracts them, according to Phyllis. Some people never miss the unique opportunity to enjoy good food, good conversation, and a good presentation. One thing holds true about them all. Stemming from her decade-long role spearheading 2nd Wednesdays, Phyllis said with confidence that almost everyone who comes once ends up coming again. She hopes 2018 will be the year that more residents and friends of Charles Village will discover the fun at 2nd Wednesdays is as reliable as Phyllis’s Saturday-morning Sandwich-board routine.

If you are interested in volunteering to serve on the planning committee or to bring food to a 2nd Wednesday event, or would like to present at 2nd Wednesdays, please contact Austin or Melissa at VLPnews@villagelearningplace.org.

See the list of upcoming 2nd Wednesday events here