July 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm EDT | by Wayne Curtis
Artscape anticipation

Last year’s Artscape festival. (Photo by Edwin Remsberg; courtesy Artscape)

If the only things you know about Baltimore are what you’ve seen on HBO’s “The Wire” or driving by on I-95, then you probably don’t make a close association between Baltimore and the visual, literary and performing arts. The city’s longtime support and celebration of the arts surprises those who only know Baltimore by its reputation as a gritty, working class town with steel mills, shipyards, railroads and Formstone-clad rowhouses.

Come visit us this weekend as Baltimore presents Artscape 2011, the 30th annual outdoor arts festival that has become the largest such event in the United States.

Artscape attracts about 350,000 people over three days and features more than 150 fine artists, fashion designers, craftspeople and performers. Beginning today at noon and ending on Sunday at 8 p.m., Artscape will spread out over 12 city blocks and offer 4 million square feet of exhibition and performance space, both outside in tents and open-air stages, and inside some of the city’s premiere galleries and performance venues. There’s also a large food court with vendors selling any kind of delicacy you can imagine, with tents and picnic tables available, and where hunger simply doesn’t survive.

Artscape is centered in Baltimore’s Mount Royal district, home to Maryland Institute College of Art, the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Lyric Opera House and the University of Baltimore, and directly adjacent to the Station North Arts District. Four outdoor stages will have constant performances scheduled through the three-day event while neighborhood churches and art galleries will also be sponsoring associated events around the Mount Royal district. Admission to the concerts, galleries, displays and tents is free. Some concerts do have limited seating, and you’ll want to go to the event website, artscape.org, and reserve your free tickets, get full schedule information, directions, maps and everything you’ll need for a fantastic Artscape experience.

Baltimore’s love affair with the arts isn’t limited to just one weekend a year. The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) organizes numerous events each year. If the written word is more your style, then you might want to put the Baltimore Book Festival on your calendar for Sept. 23-25. The mid-Atlantic’s premier celebration of literary arts features about 200 celebrity and local authors, readings, discussions, demonstrations, more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers, music, food and more, all in the picturesque Mt. Vernon Square surrounding the nation’s first Washington Monument (completed in 1829). Admission is free.

BOPA administers funds that encourages local arts and cultural organizations to provide residents and visitors with hundreds of diverse free activities, including dance and musical concerts, lectures, tours, exhibitions and more, as part of Free Fall Baltimore during Arts and Humanities Month (October). Visual arts are also a part of October’s schedule, with the Baltimore Open Studio Tour, on the weekend of Oct. 22-23. This free, self-guided two-day tour allows you to enter each artist’s private studio and experience the best of the city’s diverse art culture, literally in the making. Information for these events and many more that BOPA sponsors can be found on its website, promotionandarts.com.

While special events and festivals are great fun, Baltimore has fantastic institutions that promote the best in visual and performing arts every day. Whether it’s the music of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (bsomusic.org) and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, (baltimorechoralarts.org) the professional performing artists at Center Stage, (centerstage.org) or the exquisite collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, (artbma.org) the American Visionary Art Museum, (avam.org) or the Walters Art Museum, (thewalters.org), art lovers of all stripes will find something to embrace in Charm City.

Wayne Curtis, ABR, is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Advantage Realty. Visit his website at charmcityrealestate.com. He can be reached at 410-467-8950.


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