Pennsylvania Avenue, the thoroughfare running through central West Baltimore, was once home to countless jazz clubs, theaters and other hangouts offering a reprieve from Jim Crow and a hub for black culture in the city. That heyday faded rapidly early in the second half of last century.
Now, local black think tank Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle is championing an effort to revive the area in and around Upton as its own designated arts district, in the vein of the ones created recently in Station North, on downtown’s Westside and Highlandtown. “Lady” Brion Gill, the group’s cultural curator and a member of the Mayor’s Safe Art Spaces Task Force of yesteryear, is leading the charge by applying for the official designation with the state and pulling support from businesses and community leaders to help transform the area.
A big piece of the plan is to build around existing institutions like the revived Shake and Bake, the Avenue Market and Jubilee Arts, among others, and restore the area into a black-owned cultural and tourist destination.
Today’s “The Art of Activism” event marks the kickoff for the campaign, and it’s basically a party for the community. There will be art workshops, from painting and crafting to West African dance, a panel discussion on the history of Pennsylvania Avenue, a “community listening and feedback session,” plus live hip-hop and soul music, an open mic, a marching band and a DJ and dance floor. Food and merch will also be for sale.
noon-5 p.m., Jubilee Arts, 1947 Pennsylvania Ave., event page, free.
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