City Paper's guide to Artscape 2017



Don’t miss Baltimore singer, City Paper Big Music Issue honoree, and fabulous colorful wig wearer Amirror at Artscape this year. In that issue, CP contributor Nia Hampton said she first heard Amirror at a Kahlon event during First Fridays in Station North, and the performance brought tears to her eyes. It’s not hard to imagine why. Her voice hits you right in the chest, with the right balance of delicate emotion and church choir soul. She’ll be among the wide variety of local talent performing this weekend, so be sure to stop and give a listen. Also, please listen to the song that got her on our list, ‘Runnin Away,’ if you haven’t already. July 21, 7-8 p.m., Maryland Institute College of Art, Brown Center, Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.,, free. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)

Scroll Downers

Last year around this time, the Artscape website listed this group as “tippy rock,” a rather hilarious typo the band highlighted on its Facebook page. But here’s a real tip: Don’t miss Scroll Downers. As we highlighted in our Best of Baltimore blurb, this supergroup—made up of David Jacober and Zach Utz from Dope Body, bassist Samantha Garner, and singer and erstwhile CP contributor Lexie Mountain—pulls in the best parts of Sabbath and the 13th Floor Elevators for a psych-rock sound that rips, trips, tips, or what have you. Here’s another tip: They’ve got the goods when it comes to a stage show. July 21, 8-9 p.m., Johns Hopkins University Station North Stage, Charles Street near North Avenue,, free. (Brandon Weigel)

Sheila E

Do I even need to write anything to convince you to show up to see drumming bad-ass Sheila E? Decades before Beyoncé started touring with an all-female identifying band, Sheila E was taking center stage, banging the hell out of a drum kit. She started performing at the age of five and has been outspoken about the way music helped her recover from childhood sexual abuse. She was also a close friend and collaborator with Prince, getting her musical start with him on the song ‘Erotic City.’ And while some of us (well, me) become increasingly reliant on naps to get through the day, she is still creating, working, and touring. July 21, 7:30-9 p.m., Artscape Main Stage, 1400 Cathedral St.,, free. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)

You Gotta Have Faith: George Michael Tribute

George Michael, who died at the end of 2016 at the age of 53, was able to reach huge commercial success with his brand of R&B-influenced pop music. He never hesitated to give the black community its props, though, and was one of the first artists to use black models in his videos (remember Naomi Campbell in the ‘Freedom! 90’ video?) “While this might seem quaint now, those were daring and brave artistic decisions at the time,” writes The Root’s Jason Johnson. As part of Artscape’s Artscape After Hours programming, courtesy of DJs Mr. Lucky, Baysik, and Cian Noteman, you can remember him and is infectious, boundary-crossing music. If you don’t stand up and do the Carlton Banks two-step to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,’ we are not the same. July 21, 9 p.m., Johns Hopkins University Station North Stage, Charles Street near North Avenue,, free. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)


LOL @ Artscape

I love stand up comedy because it’s one of the few art forms that you can’t be pretentious about. If people don’t “get’” your work, you’re out of luck. Like other endeavors that no one is doing to get laid or look cool (except maybe in New York, where everyone does everything to get laid and look cool) it breeds down-to-earth, clever people, and some of these local down-to-earth clever people will be telling jokes both nights of Artscape. Hosted by Baltimore Improv Group’s Josh Kuderna (who, full disclosure, I opened for one time) the lineup features familiar Baltimore names each doing 10-minute sets. Many of these performers also host their own open mics and showcases around the city, and you could hit one of these every night of the week if you so chose: “Dark Mark” Joyner’s open mic at Sidebar, Umar Khan’s “Gin & Jokes” at Joe Squared, Chris Hudson’s “Everything Will Be Alright” at the Crown, and Michael Furr’s “Sunday Night Spotlight Spectacular” at Zissimos. It’s practically a who’s who of Baltimore comedy. July 21 and 22, 9-11 p.m., Artscape Playhouse, 1727 N. Charles St.,, free. (Brandon Block)


Gogol Bordello

There’s a certain populace in Baltimore that would see notorious gypsy punk troupe Gogol Bordello every time they came to town, which used to be quite often—generous considering the nine-piece has an evenly global and ardent fanbase. This frequency coincided with my high school years, and so I spent my teens at every Gogol show, where I learned to navigate and defend my five-foot-three self from the particularly violent, thrashing moshers as Ukrainian frontman Eugene Hütz showered the crowd with wine. A little older and more aware of the politics of my body having to claw itself out of the suffocating throngs of drunk, sweaty bros, my interest in this kind of experience has faded. But I still look upon the band’s wild performances fondly; there’s something special about the act of people uniting (albeit too closely to me) in the name of crushing fascism, advocating for immigration rights, celebrating world cultures, and partying—arguably the four pillars of Gogol Bordello—with horns blaring, fiddle flying, and at least a handful of languages being shouted. Not to mention, I was introduced to my current partner of seven years at a Gogol show (a meeting neither of us remember clearly). This is all to say that even if you’re prone to being groped or trampled, the group is worth experiencing, and it’s exciting that the first Artscape in the year of Make America Great Again and Build That Wall will welcome this band of immigrants back to our immigrant city. July 22, 7:30 p.m., Artscape Main Stage, 1400 Cathedral St., (Maura Callahan)

Martina Lynch

Not long after the death of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Uprising, rapper Young Moose released his sprawling protest track, ‘No SunShine.’ It was great to see the East Baltimore rapper, who has himself endured plenty of police fuckery, take such a strong stand. But it was a guest verse by poet and rapper Martina Lynch that really stood out, mostly for her delivery—fast, flashy, full of twists and turns, and her lyrics, which countered and complemented Moose’s, an ideal collaboration. “I’m not always in the area that it’s happening in, but I’ve lived in these communities before, I know people who live in these communities, and I see what’s going on,” she told CP’s Rebekah Kirkman back in 2015. “I definitely wanna talk about it, as far as poverty, police brutality, and then just regular problems, like everybody’s day to day problems: women empowerment, or just, you know, self-esteem.” Since then Lynch’s profile has risen and she’s become one of the most compelling rappers in the city and one who is apt to hop on a gig at the Crown, spit some lines at the Walters, and wherever else. July 22, 2-3 p.m., Johns Hopkins University Station North Stage, Charles Street near North Avenue,, free. (Brandon Soderberg)  

Polytechnic Institute Extradition Step Team

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute is having a good year outside of the classroom to supplement its legacy as an academic powerhouse. Penn State-bound Will Henderson won two state championships in track and friend. I photographed the men’s varsity basketball team every step of the way as they brought home their first state championship this past march with a thrilling win against Potomac at College Park. This year Poly’s Extradition Step Team, led by step master and Poly alumnus Kevin A. Dixon Jr., is scoring a victory as well. Videos on YouTube show the team paying tribute to Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, and Lor Scoota in front of family and friends, using stepping as a way to highlight the social climate of protest across the country. As part of a partnership with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore City Schools, the step team is handing itself over to the large crowds at Artscape this year as stepping serves as a form of performance art. July 22, 3 p.m., Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.,, free. (Reginald Thomas II)


Organ Concerts

Over at Corpus Christi Church all Artscape weekend, you can enjoy a bill full of classical music of all kinds, including organ concerts packed into Saturday and Sundays afternoons. Among the performers are Michael Britt, who does classical but is maybe best known around here for performing organ music for film and stage; Michael Stefanek, whose glacial, mindful playing is exhibited well via a performance of John Weaver’s ‘Fantasia For Organ’ you can catch on YouTube; John O’Connor, the director of music and organist for Saints Philip and James Catholic Church; and Ted Davis, maybe best known for being behind Bach at Bartholomew, the yearly series of Bach compositions. For whatever it’s worth, if classical music is not your thing or you think it’s not your thing, the organ is a good way to get interested. By far the strangest and most eerie instrument, its weighty tones might recall the good-dumb pound of doom metal and, in its playful plinks and plonks, the pleasant quirk of IDM. July 22, 1-2 p.m. (Britt), 3:15-4:15 p.m. (Stefanek); July 23, 1-2 p.m. (O’Connor), 3:15-4:15 p.m. (Davis), Corpus Christi Church, 110 W. Lafayette Ave.,, free. (Brandon Soderberg)


Super City

While some of the biggest excitement at Artscape comes from the music headliner stage, anyone seeking a sense of what’s going on in the city’s scene should venture to the festival’s edges, where local talent gets a prime showcase. In particular, people with a predilection for guitar-driven indie rock, namely the kind with looping riffs and airy vocal melodies a la Local Natives or Grizzly Bear, would be wise to mark their calendars for local band Super City. Tracks like ‘Artificial Sin’ and ‘Find You’ are just two examples of the five-piece hitting that certain head-nodding, foot-tapping indie pop sweetspot. But as 2015 album “Again Weekend” shows, Super City is also prone to mixing in psychedelic guitar fuzz, orchestral strings, and plenty more. July 23, 1-2 p.m., Morgan State University Sound Off Live! Stage, Mount Royal Avenue near Lafayette Avenue,, free. (Brandon Weigel)


Artist-Run Art Fair

Open Space’s Artist-Run Art Fair has been a huge draw at Artscape for the last three years. Where much of the art one finds at Artscape tends toward the commercial, looks-good-in-the-living-room type of work or the superbly crafted solid oak coffee table sort, the Artist-Run Art Fair is, well, different. Contemporary artist-run spaces from near and far converge in the parking garage on Charles Street and set up their shows—sometimes straightforward, art hung on or situated between white walls, sometimes more immersive or mysterious or experiential. “It’s a fun audience too because people aren’t super serious like you’d be in a museum,” Open Space member Margo Malter told me when I wrote about the fair two years ago. “Some of them are drunk, some of them are with small children that are running around and eating popsicles, so it’s a very different context to be with contemporary art.” This year’s participants include local groups Clr’d Collective, Current Space, Kahlon, LabBodies, Little Foes-LFHQ, Make Studio, Terrault, and Open Space, along with Philadelphia’s Fjord, Little Berlin, and Minneapolis’ Yeah Maybe. (Full disclosure, I was asked to contribute to a poetry project on display in Open Space’s space.) July 21-23, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; Charles Street parking garage, 1714 Charles St.,, free. (Rebekah Kirkman)

Artscape Food

I hold this truth to be self-evident: Food purchased at an outdoor event and eaten on the fly always tastes better. And lucky for us, Artscape always has tons of food options to nibble on as you stroll from exhibit to exhibit: barbecue, burritos, snowballs, crab cakes, smoothies, ice cream, and more. And far from the standard carnival fare offered for sale in the past, Artscape has gotten all locavore on us, inviting some of City Paper’s favorite restaurants such as Ejji Ramen, Dooby’s, and The Local Fry to sell their grub alongside Baltimore mainstays like Zeke’s Coffee and Otterbein’s Cookies. You’ll need some good stuff in your stomach to take in all of Artscape’s many other offerings. All weekend, all over Artscape. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)

Artscape Gallery Network

Yes, Artscape is about tourism and street food and concerts and sweating and cute handmade coasters and, apparently, camping. But let’s not forget that this is still the country’s largest free arts festival. So when you need a break from the crowds and the heat (or if you’re skipping that part altogether), do not neglect the long list of galleries open to peruse this weekend. Among the nearly two dozen gallery shows associated with Artscape this year: C. Grimaldis Gallery’s 40th annual summer exhibition highlighting 15 established artists both local and international like Hasan Elahi, Zoë Charlton, and Diane Victor (on view now through Aug. 26); “Camp-Along” at Motor House, not far from the Charles Street end of Artscape, a show curated with this year’s Artscape theme in mind featuring the work of recent MacArthur “genius” Joyce J. Scott, street artist Ernest Shaw, and art activist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, among several others (opening reception July 20, 5-8 p.m.; on view now through Sept. 4); and Terrault Contemporary’s “Through the Layers Pt. 1,” a solo show of 3D images and collages by Antonio McAfee using appropriated photographs from W.E.B. Du Bois and Thomas Calloway’s Exhibition of American Negroes at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900 (on view now through July 29). Various dates through September, various locations,, free. (Maura Callahan)


Videogame demos and art take over the H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons and it’s cool in there, in the literal sense, which makes it very cool in the figurative sense as well because videogames are a perfect thing to play and do and check out and study and revel in during Artscape when it’s ninety-eleven-bazillion degrees frickin’ centigrade outside on Charles Street and you just can’t take any more of that. Relax and watch gamers compete on the big billboard or check out any of the dozen and a half new games including “Bomb Squad Academy,” which involves cutting wires to defuse a bomb; “Circle Soiree,” which is like an electronic Twister; “DinoBlaster,” in which you are the dinosaur, dodging asteroids; “Interstellar Invaders,” which is like “Missile Command” and “Galaga” and “Brickbreaker” from the olden days, all rolled into one; or “Mister Mart,” in which you play the role of a counter person at a very bad store where all the customers are returning their purchases. Relaxing! July 21-23, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, 1415 Maryland Ave.,, free. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

Sondheim Artscape Prize Semifinalist Exhibition Reception

If you can’t make it to the opening reception of the Janet & Walter Sondheim semifinalists exhibition the evening before Artscape kicks off, don’t worry. It’s open all weekend, so you can take a break from the stifling awfulness outside (I’m no weatherman, but you know, Artscape is usually on the hottest weekend of the summer) and cool off in these galleries in MICA’s Fox building and try to avoid dripping sweat on or near the work of this year’s 29 semifinalists. It’s going to be great and probably overwhelming—you might experience heat-induced delirium, a state of mind which can totally enhance your experience of the work and open your brain’s pathways up to new interpretations of the art that you might not normally arrive at under better circumstances. While you’re at it, take advantage of the shuttle for Artscape visitors that’s running from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday—it’ll go between the semifinalist exhibition, the finalist exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, and “The Dog and Pony Show,” an exhibition at Area 405 featuring more than 30 former Sondheim finalists, co-organized by BmoreArt’s Cara Ober and 2014 Sondheim finalist Stewart Watson. Opening reception July 20, 6-9 p.m.; exhibit open through Aug. 6, Maryland Institute College of Art, Fox Building, Decker and Meyerhoff galleries, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.,, free. (Rebekah Kirkman)

“Wet Hot American Summer” and short film screenings

The one guarantee of Artscape is it will be hot and sticky outside, causing Baltimoreans to sweat in all manner of places. The only other alternative, it seems, is for it to be rainy and gross. Regardless of the outcome, the Parkway Theatre has everyone covered with the respite of air conditioning and cinema. Friday kicks off with a screening of “Wet Hot American Summer,” the fittingly named cult classic comedy set at a summer camp in the early ‘80s. On Saturday and Sunday, the theater will screen short films, sorted by genres such as dark comedy, diverging forms, animation, and more, on the hour from noon to 6 p.m. The filmmakers themselves will be on hand for a Q&A session once the movies are over. Come for relief from back sweat, stay for some great movie-watching in the lovely Parkway. “Wet Hot American Summer” at July 21, 6 p.m.; short film screenings on July 22 and 23, on the hour from noon-6 p.m.; The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, 5 W. North Ave.,, free. (Brandon Weigel)

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