It wasn’t that long ago——just over three years, actually——that the Baltimore Opera Company folded after the economy tanked and many observers (us included) wondered if it was a harbinger of more to come. At the time, MICA president Fred Lazarus told Baltimore that “in terms of the corporate headquarters here, the financial strength of the city, and lots of other things, we don’t have lots of the resources that other cities have,” which sounded downright ominous considering the situation.
But Lazarus also noted something more essential, an observation that now seems prophetic. “One of Baltimore’s great strengths,” he said, “is that it has always been able to perform better than its resources, in terms of its cultural community.”
On some level, times are always tough for our artists and arts organizations, but they’re accustomed to being resourceful. A little money and lots of effort go a long way in the arts community, which has actually thrived over the past few years. In fact, we’re in the midst of a golden age——or a renaissance, if you will—that’s practically unprecedented for a mid-sized city. Read on and check out what’s happening this season in music, theater, visual arts, and literature.
We’ve also included a lengthy story on OrchKids, the innovative music program spearheaded by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Alsop, as it is particularly emblematic of what’s going on at this time. OrchKids reflects the vitality of an ascendant arts scene that, at its best, knows no bounds and can even make an impact across all sorts of barriers.
Welcome to the golden age.
The local indie-music scene now gets tons of media attention, thanks to the likes of Beach House, Dan Deacon, below, and the guys in Animal Collective, who all continue to rep Baltimore around the world. All three acts recently put out acclaimed albums, and Beach House’s Bloom, Deacon’s America, and Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz reflect the restless creative spirit that’s become the indie scene’s trademark and come highly recommended.
And that’s not all. At this point, it’s hard to keep track of how many local artists have signed with Thrill Jockey, the much-lauded Chicago-based label that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with blow-out shows in the hipster enclaves of Brooklyn, Portland, and, you guessed it, Baltimore (featuring Matmos, Arbouretum, Pontiak, and Future Islands).
Also, check the schedules for the Ottobar, Metro Gallery, and Rams Head Live, and keep your eyes and ears open for Rye Rye, Wye Oak, Lower Dens, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, Dustin Wong (who’s been touring with Beach House), Celebration, Height with Friends, Lands & Peoples, and Secret Mountains.
Future Islands at Virgin Mobile Free Fest, Merriweather Post Pavilion, October 6.
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion, October 2.
Mountain Goats and Matthew E. White, Ottobar, October 10.
Beach House, 9:30 Club, October 17.
Dan Deacon, 9:30 Club, November 17.
Could the local theater scene get much better? Kwame Kwei-Armah continues to work his magic at Center Stage, assuring that the theater’s 50th-anniversary season will be more exciting, diverse, and provocative than ever. Highlights include Kwei-Armah directing An Enemy of the People in the fall, and the world premiere of his new play, Beneatha’s Place, which is inspired by A Raisin in the Sun. It pairs nicely with another Raisin-inspired production, the Tony-winning Clybourne Park, which is also on tap. The highlight of Everyman Theatre’s upcoming season will be its January move to a new home below, around the corner from the Hippodrome. Despite losing Everyman, Station North is still a burgeoning theater hub thanks to the likes of the Strand Theater Company (with artistic director Rain Pryor), Single Carrot, and Glass Mind. Theatre Project is coming off its 40th anniversary season, and the Hippodrome and Lyric continue bringing in touring musicals, with the latter also booking a few full-scale operas.
Mother, May I, award-winning play directed by Rain Pryor, The Strand, to October 12.
An Enemy of the People, Kwei-Armah directs Arthur Miller’s adaptation of the Ibsen classic, Center Stage, through October 21.
August: Osage County, first production at Everyman’s new Fayette Street home, January 16— February 17.
Million Dollar Quartet, musical inspired by a legendary recording session involving Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, the Hippodrome, November 27 — December 2.
Jazz and Classical
The jazz and classical scenes have been thriving, thanks to ambitious music series, committed musicians, and accommodating venues. The High Zero Festival continues its adventurous run at Theatre Project each September, the Creative Differences series brings improv masters and jazz greats to Station North, the Shriver Hall Concert Series boasts a lineup of top-tier chamber groups and soloists, and An die Musik Live! hosts a staggering number of shows, practically all of them jazz and classical.
Peabody’s Gary Thomas books Jazz at the Hopkins Club and has brought the likes of Roy Haynes and John Scofield to town, and notable locals like Michael Formanek and Lafayette Gilchrist, below, gig regularly in the city. And let’s not forget ensembles such as Baltimore Choral Arts, Soulful Symphony (in- residence at the Hippodrome), and the BSO, which continues its run of diverse and excellent programming under maestra Marin Alsop.
Michael Formanek Quartet, The Windup Space, October 6.
Brentano String Quartet, Shriver Hall, October 14.
Baltimore Choral Arts with the Heritage Signature Choral, Soulful Symphony, and guest vocalists in “The Land of the Free,” Kraushaar Auditorium, November 3.
BSO plays Beeth-oven’s Fifth and a piece it co-commissioned by local composer Christopher Rouse, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, November 8 & 11.
Ethel Ennis, celebrating her 80th birthday, Reginald F. Lewis Museum, November 17.
Terri Lyne Carring-ton’s Mosaic Project with vocalist Lizz Wright, Hopkins Club, November 17.
The reopening of The BMA’s Contemporary Wing, below, in November figures to be a major event, as contemporary curator Kristen Hileman has reconfigured the galleries and expanded the scope of the permanent collection, making it more global and diverse. Also, AVAM’s latest mega-exhibition, The Art of Storytelling, just opened; the C. Grimaldis Gallery is celebrating its 35th anniversary; and the much-lauded civil rights traveling exhibition, For All the World to See, finally comes to UMBC, which put together the show with the Smithsonian. And the school just opened a new Performing Arts and Humanities Building. It’s also worth checking in regularly to see what’s being shown at galleries like Area 405, Current Gallery, Nudashank, City Arts Gallery, Maryland Art Place, School 33, and the Creative Alliance.
Anthony Caro, sculpture exhibit, C. Grimaldis Gallery, through November 10.
Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, The Walters, October 14-January 21, 2013.
For All the World to See, exhibition about visual imagery during the civil-rights movement, UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, November 15-March 10, 2012
The BMA Contemporary Wing reopens November 18.
The Art of Storytelling, AVAM’s latest mega-show, to September 1, 2013.
OSAYCANYOUSEE: Prints and Objects Inspired by the War of 1812, curated by Post Typography’s Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen, The Windup Space, through October 27.
Books & Literature
That old “city that reads” tagline could be changed to “the city that writes,” as we boast an impressive roster of local authors, led by a triumvirate of former Sun writers: Dan Fesperman, Stephen Hunter, and Laura Lippman, who consistently produce page-turners. We’ve also seen the recent publication of The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (essential work from our patron saint of poetry) and Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (the Newbery Medal-winning Park School librarian). Michael Kimball, co-host of the 510 Reading Series, writes some of the most moving fiction you’ll ever read, while Larry Doyle writes some of the funniest. And masters such as Anne Tyler, Madison Smartt Bell, and Stephen Dixon walk among us. Mix in the excellent Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore! zine and events like the Baltimore Book Festival, the CityLit Festival, One Maryland One Book, and the recently-launched Lit Show, and you have a robust scene.
Baltimore Book Festival, with this year’s One Maryland One Book author Steven Galloway (The Cellist
of Sarajevo) and many others, Mt. Vernon Square, September 28-30.
The Lit Show, with guests James Magruder and Leslie Miller and an all-star band led by Howard Markman, The Creative Alliance at the Patterson, October 11.
510 Reading Series, featuring Matt Bell, Amber Sparks, and others, Minàs Gallery, November 17.
Only in Baltimore
This town generates its share of unique events that reflect the city’s exceptional and, in some instances, peculiar qualities. The Transmodern Festival showcases the art scene’s more radical and experimental sides each spring, scapescape brings together a staggering number of edgy bands at summer’s end, the Maryland Film Festival screens many obscure gems and gives a nod to talented locals like Matt Porterfield, and, of course, Artscape remains the largest free arts festival in the country. The Great Halloween Lantern Parade, below, as directed by local luminary Laure Drogoul, lights up Patterson Park with a fantastic array of lanterns, video projections, art installations, and marching bands. There’s an exhibition cel-ebrating the Ouija Board’s history in Baltimore, and there are shows in the works to commemorate next year’s 100th anniversary of Baltimore screen-painting and legendary screen-painter Johnny Eck. John Waters narrates Hairspray in Concert with the BSO in January, a show that also features Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. And next time you’re in Fells Point, check out visionary artist Loring Cornish’s new gallery next to Sound Garden on Thames Street. While you’re there, be sure to chat up Cornish and explore the rooms upstairs. You won’t be disappointed.
Halloween Lantern Parade, Patterson Park, October 27.
Let the Spirit Move You: Ouija, Baltimore’s Mystifying Oracle, Baltimore Museum of Industry, through January 27, 2013.
Hairspray in Concert, John Waters and guests with the BSO, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, January 25-27.