Seventy-five-year-old Jim Cassels said he could not get into the modern art on display yesterday at Artscape '91. But he slid easily into a performance of modern dance -- the electric slide, to be exact.
"Hey, you got to keep up, keep active," said Mr. Cassels, as he side-stepped with his friend, Louise Swiderski, 70, and about 30 others during an audience participation dance performance at the festival along Mount Royal Avenue.
"We're used to this kind of dancing, but that art was too far out. Modernistic is not our style," said Mr. Cassels, a Greenbelt resident.
Artscape, which continues from noon until 10 p.m. today, offers entertainment to fit many styles.
Street performers like the Fettucini Brothers who juggle, ride unicycles and tell jokes, all at the same time, enlisted audience members to join their act.
Part Harmony, a five-man a cappella group with a Motown sound, fired up spectators with songs from veteran performers like the Drifters and new ones like Johnny Gill. The literary tent, art displays and craft booths catered to people who wanted to browse and enjoy the scenery.
Steven Rivelis of Charles Village, who said he came because he's "into cultural diversity," satisfied his interest by watching Umoja SaSa (Unity Now), a Baltimore-based African storytelling group.
"This provides people with exposure to different cultures prevalent in the community in an embracing sort of way," he said. "Where else can you have the diverse group assembled here to sit and listen to African folk tales?"
Among the more than 20,000 people at Artscape yesterday after noon was one man who said he came "all the way from India."
Well, not not quite, Raj Chawala, admitted later.
"No, really, I live about 10 blocks from here, but who wouldn't come here to enjoy this? It's just such a nice day, and I had heard so much about it that I had to come out," said Mr. Chawala, 30, who lives on 39th Street. "And it is really great. I definitely recommend the turtle races."
Also recommended for potential Artscape visitors is the "Plastic Play: The Art of Design" exhibit in the Lyric Theater lobby.
Patrick Hubert, Mark Gustafson, and Zennard Sun, all 9 years old, spent 2 1/2 hours in the creative landscapes workshop designing a farm, complete with a person, a tractor, and a barn out of Tyco Super Blocks.
"It's pretty cool here," Zennard said about the exhibit, but he could have been referring to the air-conditioned room he said he also enjoyed.
"This is my second time here, and each year it gets cooler and cooler," Mark said.
Nothing was cool about the weather outside, where most exhibits and performances were held.
Temperatures that reached 98 degrees made Laurie Simmons, 17, of Ellicott City wonder why she came to the festival at all.
"Why am I here? Good question," said Miss Simmons. "It's so hot my glasses are all steamed." But she said she braved the heat because her brother, David, and her friend, Chris Nickol, are artists who came to gain ideas from the exhibits.
Rosa Tomahn, 31, of Towson said she attended for the entertainment, but was also interested in the food.