Two free arts-related speaking series kick off in Baltimore on Jan. 13

This winter, Baltimore is shaping up to be a place where talk is cheap — and enlightening.

Two new free speaker series are in the works: The Contemporary museum will present artists with national reputations talking about their creative process. Meanwhile, the Ivy Bookshop has lined up a roster of local cultural pioneers and has asked them to discuss the books that have influenced their lives. Both series begin Jan. 13.

The Contemporary's speaker series represents the first offering from the newly reorganized institution since it abruptly shut its doors in mid-exhibition in May 2012. Deana Haggag, the museum's new director, asked 13 local galleries and independent arts spaces: "Who is the one artist or art professional that you want The Contemporary to bring to Baltimore?"

Each gallery will host a residency for its chosen artist, who also will conduct studio visits and deliver a free public talk. All lectures will be held at the Baltimore School for the Arts, 712 Cathedral St. So far, four artists have been scheduled through March. Advance registration is recommended.

The artists are:

•Coco Fusco, the New York-based interdisciplinary artist whose work combines electronic media and performance, will speak on Jan. 13. Her visited is being co-hosted by the art exhibition space Guest Spot.

•Nick Cave, a former Alvin Ailey company dancer-turned-fabric-artist best known for his so-called "Soundsuits" — bright, wearable, otherworldly fabric sculptures. His Feb. 18 appearance is co-hosted by Pinebox Art Center.

•Brendan Fowler, a percussionist on the underground/DIY music circuit. Since 2008 he has added "visual artist" to his resume by, as he puts it, "crashing together" photography, performance and sculpture. His March 5 appearance is co-sponsored by the Nudashank gallery.

•Wayne White, the painter, cartoonist, animator, set designer and puppeteer, will speak March 27. His invitation was issued courtesy of Gallery CA (or "city art").

For details, go to contemporary.org/speakerseries.html.

The Ivy Bookshop also kicks off its second annual Baltimore Masters Series on the 13th — though this is the first time these events are open to the public. Half a dozen local leaders will present a kind of literary autobiography, in which they discuss how books have shaped their careers and their outlook on the world in general.

"The inaugural series was so much fun that we decided to bring it back," says Ed Berlin, owner of the independent bookstore.

Admission to the 2012 series was by invitation only. This year, the public is invited to attend, on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited, so Berlin is encouraging book lovers to arrive early at the store at 6080 Falls Road. For details, call 410-377-2966 or send an email to info@theivybookshop.com.

The lineup includes Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch (Jan. 13), philanthropist Eddie C. Brown (Feb. 12), Maryland Film Festival director Jed Dietz (March 13), Johns Hopkins University's dean of libraries Winston Tabb (March 28), WYPR host Tom Hall (April 15) and Baltimore Museum of Art Director Doreen Bolger (Nov. 19.)

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com