Tag: the arts

Arts Open House and the Bromo Seltzer

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It’s a common misconception that artists live glamorous lives.  They wax poetic about muses and live with little to no obligations, creating only beauty to rouse discussions that will ultimately altar society.

This is, of course, not true.  While the best work they create definitely sparks important discussions about life, about culture, about religion, they do so much beyond waxing poetic and have a wealth of obligations.  They have deadlines to meet, pennies to pinch, and pieces to create.

Once a month, the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower opens its doors to the public so we may have the great privilege of seeing works in progress.   Recently named a Baltimore Icon by WTMD, it plays a prominent role in defining our skyline and has been watching (no pun intended) over the city for over 100 years. Swing on by, soak in the history, and thank the artists that bring life and culture to this town.

Baltimore’s Chesapeake Shakespeare Company to Emulate Historic Globe Theatre

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On May 7th the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company announced its acquisition of the old Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building, at 200 East Redwood Street. The renovations of the 10,000 square foot building will transform the former nightclub into a 250-seat Elizabethan-style theater in time for the 2014 season, according to the company’s press release.

For over a decade the Redwood Street address has been home to a string of nightclubs and after-hours destinations. Before that, it spent over a century as a bank. Now, as the home to the Chesapeake Shakespeare, 200 East Redwood is going to house a stage based on the historic Globe Theatre. The architectural firm Cho Benn Holback and Associates is currently at work on a design which is going to incorporate traditional Elizabethan design into a modern, efficient theatrical setting.

Now in its 10th season, the Chesapeake Shakespeare was founded in 2002 by actor/playwright Ian Gallanar, who has since served as its artistic director.  The largest non-union professional theatre in the U.S., Chesapeake currently produces its outdoor summer productions under the Doric Columns at the 12-acre Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park.

The popular summer productions will continue, but this new development will represent the Chesapeake Theatre’s transition to an eight-month season. The Chesapeake also plans to use the new site to expand its educational programs, which include after school and weekend programs for Baltimore students. An international theater festival is also on the agenda.

This shift represents a rapid change in fortunes for a city that’s long been looking for a permanent local base for honoring Shakespeare. In 2011, under mounting debt, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore’s other professional Shakespeare Company, shut its doors for the last time. Situated in Evergreen Park during the summer, Baltimore Shakespeare seemed destined for greater things: especially after a $1 million dollar anonymous grant in 2007. That headlines-grabbing grant, however, wasn’t enough for a theater with a short season and an equity contract to overcome the burdens of the great recession.

The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival certainly is a cautionary tale, but it’s hard not to be encouraged by the Chesapeake development. This could add variety to a downtown scene which is largely associated with bars and comedy clubs. The Globe-style theatre will have the opportunity to tap into a market of convention goers and tourists in the Harbor area. With the demise of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, it also has access to a larger pool of Shakespearean actors than it had before. There are no guarantees in this business, but, for the moment, it looks like the Bard is back in Baltimore.

The Lit Show Hits Baltimore Tonight, Y’all

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When my fiction writer friend Jen Michalski invited me to co-host a new brand of live literary event in town, a theatrical presentation/celebration of literature, music and art that pushed the envelope in any direction we chose, I knew my answer was yes before she’d finished speaking. Since I relocated to Baltimore 10 years ago to study fiction in the JHU Writing Seminars, I’ve attended a wide array of literary readings — most peopled roughly 80 percent by fellow writers — some events amazing, some just fine plus a single bright spot, others pulse-free. All have shared one thing in common, however: A fairly serious vibe.

At a time when literary book publishing faces, if not possible extinction, a radical morphing of shape and marketing plan, as with all forms of print media, perhaps fiction writers are the most sober creatures of all. I get that. Sometimes this energy saddens me. After all, my fiction writer friends are among the wittiest and most sardonic folks I’ve ever known. Otherwise, how could they write such revelatory material?

Big Fish Q&A with Baltimore Community Foundation President and CEO Tom Wilcox

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Since Tom Wilcox arrived here in 2000 to become president and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF), the city has witnessed a now-you-see-‘em/now-you-don’t burlesque of changes among its top officials – at City Hall, the police department, fire department, health department, public schools – that includes a mayor and a police commissioner convicted of low crimes and misdemeanors.  Simultaneously, the city, sometimes by accident and sometimes by design, also has witnessed dramatic improvements: notably, a decreased crime rate, increased student test scores, and, probably thanks to the Internet, greater transparency at various government agencies. Partial credit, certainly, goes to a handful of forward-thinking municipal administrators, who, given a forum, loudly declaim their achievements. More quietly, the progressive policies of the BCF and its nonprofit brethren – true “BELIEVE” types – have just as demonstrably enhanced Baltimoreans’ lives.

As head of the BCF, now in its 40th year, Wilcox rides herd on 600-plus varied philanthropic funds, organizing “grants, initiatives, and advocacy around a vision of a Baltimore with a growing economy,” according to the foundation’s website. Last year, the BCF dispensed more than $20 million in grants to hundreds of local, regional, and national nonprofits. Specific to the metro area, its Invest in Baltimore agenda, co-crafted by Wilcox, “encompasses and measures coordinated efforts to reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, and assure a high quality of life in Greater Baltimore.” In essence, BCF shepherds donors’ charitable giving by matching benefactors to their particular areas of interest: neighborhoods, education (including scholarships), health, and the arts.

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