An artist's rendering of the proposed eight-foot monument by Sebastian Mortarana.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed eight-foot monument by Sebastian Mortarana.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed eight-foot monument by Sebastian Mortarana.

If at first you don’t succeed, try another crowdfunding source.

That’s the route taken by six Baltimore residents who have proposed to build a monument to honor the late actor and Baltimore native Harris Glenn Milstead, also known as Divine, using money raised privately so no city funds are involved.
The group launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in January but did not meet its goal of $70,000 by the March 26 deadline. As the deadline passed, the group had raised slightly more than $14,000. Under the terms of the Kickstarter program, donations are not taken unless the goal is reached, so the group has to start again.

This time, the group is using Rally4. One difference is that Rally4 does not set a deadline by which funds need to be raised. More info at the Divine Monument website.

Michal Makarovich, a Hampden merchant who is part of the group planning the monument, said he is grateful to the 235 donors who pledged money before and hopes they will do so again.

“We aren’t giving up,” he said. “We’re moving forward. We know there is enthusiasm for this project on the part of thousands of Divine fans. Now we have to find a way to get that to translate to donations.”

Makarovich said he has been gratified by many aspects of the project, including the work of sculptors David Hess and Sebastian Martorana; the support of the city’s Public Arts Commission and other public agencies, and the extensive media coverage in the U. S. and Europe.

Group member Alex Fox noted that the project is different from many projects for which crowdfunding assistance is sought. “We tried to do something that not many people have done before – crowd sourcing for a public monument,” he said.

Fox said the Rally4 campaign will give the group more time to spread the word about the project and initiate supplemental fundraising efforts to go along with crowdfunding. One of the goals is creating additional graphics to show prospective donors what the monument will look like when completed.

The “Divine Shrine” will be created on the side of a building at Read and Tyson streets in Mount Vernon to honor Milstead, who came to fame in movies by Baltimore filmmaker John Waters and died in 1988.

The Read Street building is near the spot where Divine filmed the sequence that brought him and Waters international recognition – the final scene in Pink Flamingos where a triumphant Divine, having vanquished his rivals for the title of “Filthiest Person Alive,” scoops up a handful of fresh dog droppings and eats them.

The design by Hess and Martorana starts with a marble archway, three feet wide and eight feet high, reminiscent of those found on entrances to many Victorian town houses in Mount Vernon.

At the top of the arch is a single word, “DIVINE.” Beneath it is a black-and-white, laser-etched photograph of Divine’s face on black granite, glaring out from the doorway.

Leading up to the arch are two white marble steps, similar to those found in row house neighborhoods all over Baltimore.

On the top step is a small bronze sculpture representing what Divine ate on his way to international cult status.

The planners originally hoped to raise sufficient funds in time to have the monument in place by this year’s ArtScape festival. Makarovich said the group will be meeting this week and one of the goals will be to talk about a revised timetable for completion.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.