Clearing pigeon heads from the drain and dodging lightning bolts; all in a day’s work for Bromo-Seltzer Arts Tower facility manager, Joe Wall. Joe has been the facilities manager for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower and School 33 Arts Center since 2009. Wall wears many hats, facilities manager, writer, performance artist, beekeeper, storyteller, and self professed “raconteur electronique.” Jack-of-All-Trades or Renaissance man, you be the judge.
“Facility management is really story fodder”, says Joe, because there is always some insane story.” For various reasons, many of the stories go untold, for now. When asked about story he cars to share, Joe quips, “This is the only job where I would call my boss and say, the Peregrine falcons broke the elevator. The falcons catch pigeons and eat them on the top of the tower. The pigeon parts clog the roof drain causing the roof to leak into the elevator controls. Joe redesigned the drain so it wouldn’t clog, but not before getting caught on the roof alone in an electrical storm. With lightning bouncing across the downtown sky, he was up on the roof cleaning out the drain. With the last scoop of pigeon heads in his hand the jam clears. When the drain cleared it created a vacuum that sucked his arm into the drain up to his shoulder.
Joe describes raconteur electronique as “big narratives with electronic music and sound design behind them. His last big piece, “My Fairy God Mother Smoked Too Much” landed Joe a Maryland State Arts Council grant. Joe’s other electronic interest is ambient music which he considers telling a story with sound.
Joe Wall making music with his iPod Touch. (Video by Greg Cundiff)
An iPod Touch is the centerpiece of his current “live rig”. A live rig according to Joe is his box of toys for creating sound. “The iPod Touch has got a really nice physical interaction to it, it is kind of like pushing rocks around a Zen garden.” Last fall Joe had some time to show me his rig and how it works. In the video he mixes up some sound.
Downsizing his rig was a must after his car broke down on a bridge outside of the Philadelphia Naval Yard. The car was filled with hundreds of pounds of sound equipment when it broke down on the bridge. The bridge had no walkway or shoulder. After shuttling the equipment an item or two at time, Joes finds himself in a swamp at the end of the bridge. He then has to explain to a puzzled gate guard why he needs help and how he got there. The live rig is now downsized to a “box that is tightly designed to my ergonomic specifications.”
Before coming to the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, Joe was the facility director at the American Visionary Art Museum. While there he oversaw the installation of the giant mosaic on the outside of the building. To get away from it all, Joe is an avid beekeeper, and maintains a retreat cabin in West Virginia. For a closer look, check out Joe’s website, joewall.com.