At the mayor's Cultural Town Meeting last year, the topic was "creative placemaking," which on the surface sounds like a pretty cool (if idealistic) plan for Baltimore: using art to change or enhance a place. The challenge is to do it right and make sure that those doing the "placemaking" don't impose their vision without consulting with those who live there. Keep residents' best interests in mind, urged Mia Loving, an arts advocate and founder of the "creative community incubator" Invisible Majority, during the Q&A portion of the meeting.
There is no map or "how to" guide for this new Baltimore, but artists and activists have initiated a series of conversations and projects to explore the topic. City Paper joins the myriad voices this week with a manifesto by Visual Arts Editor Rebekah Kirkman and Performing Arts Editor Maura Callahan that encourages visual artists to invent new paradigms. With a design inspired by Jenny Holzer and her emphatic text-based works like her "Truisms" series, the manifesto includes a critical look at the ways that institutions—including the arts districts, museums, and MICA (from which Kirkman and Callahan received their BFAs in 2014 and 2015, respectively)—use their power.
Loving observes the city's lack of support for cultural centers and spaces run by black people (and why that seems preposterous in a city that's more than 60 percent black) through a profile on Billie Taylor, the woman who bought the theater on 25th Street and ran it as the Autograph Playhouse for about five years.
A few months after the mayor's Cultural Town Meeting, artists packed the 2640 Space for a discussion titled "Art-Part'heid: Bridging the Gap of Disparities in the Baltimore Arts Scene" (full disclosure: CP Editor-at-Large Baynard Woods was one of the moderators). One of the organizers, poet/comedian/actor/artist Sheila Gaskins, described the process of looking for funding, for some artists, as trying to enter a building that only some have access to. Gaskins, intent on "calling you in" rather than "calling you out," offers a love letter to the city's art scene.
To home in on a current example of what's great and what needs work in Baltimore's institutions and arts funding, CP Deputy Editor Brandon Soderberg dissects the Baker Artist Awards exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.