|Artscape 2000, artafexus. Was it "The Premier Art Festival" in Baltimore, Maryland? (above)This artwork
can be found at the Mount Royal Tavern, it's their "Sistine Chapel" like ceiling mural. It was this
place that THEY tried to close down for the festival. Read a short commentary by
artist Michael Hamilton about FOODSCAPE.
Baltimore, Maryland--Artscape held for three days in the summer,
this year it started Friday July 21 and ended July 23. I believe the
orignal objective is to bring some focus and attention to the ever growing
arts community in Baltimore City. Artscape 2000, ARTAFEXUS, seems to
have made some improvement over last years festival. Held annually,
artscape attempts to present the arts in a unique and bold way. So we
have to ask a few questions, do they succeed in putting their best foot
forward, do they showcase the best available talent and most important,
what about the artists.
I think in some ways, the organizers of ARTSCAPE have a schizofrenic
personality. Imagine this scenario, on one hand, they say "Come see
some of the best artists in our community, we'll bring it to you like no one else,
we have events for all lovers of art and culture, think of our event as the premier
event for any art community!" But then, the organizers get back to the office,
they probably sit, paranoid and suspicious of failure, and ask themselves "Our art
community!!! Is it really good enough to attract, can we make headlines,
are we really the best of the best, will people come down to see the art?
What to do, what to do, what to do?" Their SECURITY blanket (I like to call them
mercenary artists) was indispensible,
they got not one but three giants in the music industry, Patti Labelle,
the Neville Brothers,
and my personal fave, Susan Tedeschi. Honestly, if I didn't care about art,
I would go just to see these three in concert. Even the cover of this years
Artscape Guide, is dominated by Patti Labelle and the Decker Stage! (of course
showing the channel 13 WJZ logo, must see for yourself) Are you
telling me for the Premier Art Festival on the EAST coast, not one local
or regional artist can cut it to be on the cover? Wow, what does
that tell you about the art (or is it the organizers)? I would rather
have seen my newly elected (guitar playin') Mayor, Martin O'Malley on
The Art and Artists were in most part, better and a bit more diverse
than last years crop. We talked with a few and all were quite happy
in general with this years festival. Last years long faces were
replaced with fresh new happy smiles. A few comments worth mentioning
,"Baltimore has a long way to go...", "that's just the way it is, it's a
funky city", "this is my 6th year and I don't have any complaints".
I actually saw some art I liked and thought very unique. The art came in all
forms, the fine arts, the arts and crafts, carnival art (face painting,
tattoos, etc. mostly for children), literary art and the performing arts.
Even this years outdoor exhibits, 20 Sculptures/20 Pedestals, easily overshawdowed last years rediculously silly 100 Square Foot
something or another!!! The 20 Sculptures/20 Pedestals,
exhibited talent, diversity and good old fashioned fine arts.
Artscape, artafexus, recieves an A++ in this category.
However, I think the telephone booths, Viewing Stations, are growing old,
predictable and mostly boorish. It's more like a kids collage done
by an adult, to pass off as a form of art. (As a side note this writer
was never big nor could accept, "Installations" as an art form, and
that Andy Warhol is to blame for this.)
You heard them say what??? You may have found a blurb about
the Art Cars in this years guide, but man, you were hard pressed to find
one of the most popular exhibits every year at artscape. Way back in
February / March, we got wind that the Art Cars weren't going to be at the
festival and we were disappointed but not at all surprised. However,
were in the festival, but not the usual dozen or so artfully decorated gas
powered art on 4 wheels and not in the usual location on Mount Royal Ave.
Here's the GOSSIP: "art cars too outsider", "can't give 20 bucks for
your gas to get here", "food vendors complained about'em last year".
I actually heard that it was a last minute "deal" that got the cars in the
show, maybe that explains why there were only 5 cars this year (last year
15 cars). What did you find in place of the art cars, why, the FORD
OutFitters group of course. Come to Artscape and why not look at a
few FORD autombiles while you're there.
Artscape recieves a big fat goose egg on this one!!!
mmm...mmm, I'm gettin' hungry and thirsty just thinkin' bout
artscape!!! Now we get to my pet peeve. Food and Drink,
nothing like I have
found at any other "Premier Art Event", almost as
many places to eat and drink as there were artists. Here's what we
heard: "they tried to close us down during the festival because the beer
vendors complained". The HIsTORiC Mount Royal Tavern, been in the
middle of MICA (Maryland Institute, College of Art) decades before Artscape
was even an inkling, sells you an honest draught for a couple of bucks but
yet we heard the "micro" beer vendors complained loudly enough and often
enough that there was a perceived threat to try to close down this
establishment during the weekend of the festival (boo boo, wee wee goes
the micro brewers, they're taking business away from us). Couldn't
close it, so they did the next best thing, set up a micro brew stand right
smack in front of the Mount Royal Tavern, you had to walk 100 yards in
either direction to get around the vendors, onto the sidewalk to get to
the Tavern. Once you got there it was packed anyway!!!
The Golden Goose lays another egg!!!
Food...you got to have foooood, my biggest and most perplexing question
would be, where are the ARABBERS? If you're from Baltimore, you know
who they are, if you're not from Baltimore, I know you'd love to learn more
about them, and if your a child you'd love to get close to them. It's
a mystery to me why they're not there, the ARABBERS are even invited to the
Smithsonian's Folklife Festival every year serving out fresh fruit
to those visiting our NATION's CAPITOL. The ARABBERS are fruit vendors
in the City of Baltimore, they take beautifully painted horse drawn
carriages around our neighborhoods selling their goods. I love'em,
the kids love seeing the ponies, but most
important, they are part of the Baltimore community and have been for many
many many years. If Artscape is turning into FOODSCAPE, at
least invite an ARABBER or two, if they are good enough for our nations Capitol,
they should be good enough for ARtsCape. The Golden Goose lays another egg!!!
That is about all we want to say about this years Artscape, artafexus.
It was certainly an improvement over last year, but lacked in a few
things we would like to see more of. For instance, how about signs,
at least as big as some of the vendors, telling what, where and when to go
for events, how about transportation to scheduled events or galleries off
the main "campus", how about a couple of fresh water stations to cool ones
thirst (for free, like a drinking fountain), how about a few volunteers
walking around with "Just Ask Me" t-shirts for those that need info, how
about getting the Artscape Guide out more than a few days before the event,
how about spreading out some of the food and drink vendors away from the
center of the events, how about putting a local or regional artist on the
cover of the Guide, and lots of other little things to make it better not
only for your patrons, but for the artists. Too often the art is made out to be
the reason to attend, but yet always seems to get second billing.
To summarize, by not failing doesn't mean you're successful, by not failing
you may never exceed anyone's expectations but your own.
I once had a discussion
with a friend and MICA graduate, Randall Gornowich. Randall also
at a Maryland School. One day while just sitting around, I asked him
how do you grade art? "It's pretty simple" he said, "if you do your
assignments your asked to do, do them exactly how you were instructed, you'll
probably get a B, but if you take a chance... maybe take a step outside that
'circle' and show me something new or different, maybe, just maybe you might
get an A!" Let's go ARTSCAPE, take that chance.
also see Artscape 1999 - Present et al
One Man's Opinion by Michael Hamilton
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