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Fall Arts Guide: Artists on immigration at School 33, plus staff picks for art events this season

Around this time every year we offer our best bets for exhibitions, plays, movies, shows, and more for the fall, along with a view into the current "state of the arts." In recent years, City Paper has explored how the city's oft-lauded network of galleries, venues, theaters, studios, and artist communities has a serious problem with insularity, fostering siloes and practices that overtly or covertly align with the white male standard that dominates both Western art history and the modern art market, championing art that is redundant or alienating if not explicitly toxic.

Throughout our tenure as arts editors at City Paper, and not just in the Fall Arts Guide, we've tried to keep these things in mind with our regular coverage of the scene, that nothing exists in a vacuum, that art made and presented here always has something to do with the fact that it is made here in Baltimore. In March, we caught up with the former tenants of the Bell Foundry, many of whom are queer artists of color, and asked how the city's order to shutter the warehouse space reflected a long-held misconception and mishandling of DIY spaces—often seen by those who occupy them as "safer spaces" even if they appear to lack structural safety. And more recently, in August, we wrote about the pandemic of abuse and how it manifests and goes unchecked in Baltimore's art scene.

This year, we again offer our suggestions for shows to see this season. But beyond that, we're kinda at a loss for words. After this issue, there are four City Paper issues left. Despite its challenges (self-imposed and otherwise), the arts in Baltimore will outlast CP, and thank god for that. But if we're being honest—and you all know that's what we do—there is a certain quality surrounding the scene that does feel less than alive. Not quite dead, but in a lull. It's a cycle, for sure: Things end or get shut down and new things are born out of that; maybe right now we're in the weird gray area in that cycle where so much remains at a standstill. As you will read in the following pages, exciting things are happening, but it's as if we all are still unsure of what to make of this terrifying, unhinged point in history, and how to respond to it. That apprehension is not unique to artists or to Baltimore, but in a city as troubled and impassioned as this, where much of the country's problems seem to manifest dramatically, and in a scene with so much initiative and savvy, one would hope that Baltimore in 2017 would see a renaissance of sorts, or a kind of artistic revolution like those before us that were born out of strife (even if art historians and theorists might tell you those movements are no longer possible). A lofty idealism, sure, a dogged dream, perhaps—but if you don't let yourself imagine a better future, can there ever be one?

Not to shit on everything though—over the years, dozens of artists and collectives have moved us and shocked us out of this dread of the void that comes and goes, and although City Paper has been by no means exhaustive, we have tried to seek out and write about at least a few of those during our time here. You can take a look at our last Best of Baltimore issue for a small sample of some of the folks we've found reinvigorating and challenging just within the last year: Baltimore Youth Arts, Odyssey Works, Press Press, The Acme Corporation, Joe Biden (the band, not the former VP), and much more. We'll be keeping an eye on them even after we're gone.

But back to that creative lull in a time of dread and opportunity: Maybe it's all just too soon. Maybe we critics are too focused to see that change is really happening, but it's slow, so we won't get it until decades later. Maybe for now we just need to dance it off, as Baltimore does so well. Maybe that's all we can or need to do—just stay alive. What this city does to reflect and respond to our times is really up to you: artists and anyone who walks into a gallery or a buys a ticket or a piece of art. You're in control of what you make and what or who you support.

In this issue, Visual Arts editor Rebekah Kirkman writes about a group show at School 33 Art Center that features first- and second-generation immigrant artists whose work is thoughtful, personal, and righteously impassioned—experiences that are daily maligned by anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S. and elsewhere. Then, peruse the staff picks, and have fun with it. But understand that even after City Paper isn't here to write about why your scene is problematic or how the city is fucking you over, history will have its eyes on Baltimore. (Maura Callahan and Rebekah Kirkman)

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