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Artscape 2000:

Inside the 'Cool Oasis' in the middle of Artscape, The Mount Royal Tavern
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 Artscape 2000, Main Music Stage, The Decker Stagehave 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 cover.

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".  Face Painting 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, quite 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 Artsacpe or Ford, Quality is Job No. 1one 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, the Cars 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 Blocking the eay to the Mount Royal Tavern 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!!!

Every kind of Food and Food by products you can imagine

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 A Baltimore Historic Landmark, the ARABBERSto 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 teaches Photography 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.

Other Resources:
also see Artscape 1999 - Present et al
One Man's Opinion by Michael Hamilton
Please Tell a Friend

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