In the arts, Baltimore needs 'another time of renaissance'

December 01, 1992

The Baltimore Community Foundation yesterday released "Building Community," a report on the state of the arts in the city written by Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and former U.S. commissioner of education. Following are excerpts:

BALTIMORE'S pride in the arts is widely apparent. Civic leadership is strong and there is, we found, a shared determination to build a community in which all members are well served -- not just physically, but civically, socially and culturally as well. At the same time, we found that Baltimore's cultural institutions are looking ahead with uncertainty. While the 1970s and '80s are remembered as decades of optimistic expansion, the 1990s are already marked by a mood of sobering reappraisal. So sharp is the contrast in attitudes that occasionally during our visits it seemed as if we were hearing about distant eras, not neighboring decades.

Still, the substantial accomplishments of the past have not been lost. We heard frequently of the renewal of the city -- new roadways, the Inner Harbor, the aquarium, the increased spirit of cooperation among the city and surrounding government[s]. All of this has left a legacy of support for art and culture in the region, and we are persuaded that the 1990s can and must be a decade of renewal -- another time of renaissance. This can surely be accomplished with Baltimore's current vigorous leadership and civic vision . . . We urge all sectors of society -- government, business, education, philanthropy and the arts -- to work together to strengthen the region's cultural institutions and, in so doing, strengthen community as well.

The first priority: The civil leaders of the Baltimore area should officially affirm the arts as vital to the building of community and to the region's quality of life, and should expand support for art and culture.

Greater Baltimore, like all great metropolitan areas, faces painful choices. Government officials are encountering intense pressure to support only "essential" services. But it is precisely in times like these when people need to be reminded that a truly vital community is more than a gathering of strangers held together ** by police protection, sewer lines and roadways. What is needed is spirit that strengthens common bonds, and this can happen only if the arts, too, are defined as essential services.

As the first step, we urge that Baltimore City officials take the lead in affirming, even proselytizing, this position. Specifically, we recommend that the mayor and the City Council officially affirm the arts as essential to the city, acknowledging formally that the arts can serve as powerful unifiers, bringing community together. . .

The second priority: Baltimore area schools should strengthen arts education at all levels and establish close connections with the region's art and cultural institu- tions. . .

For years, the city's art and cultural institutions have served older, more affluent citizens. What's been left out of the equation are the children, especially those from minority communities who often view Baltimore's major arts organizations as beyond their world, irrelevant to their lives. If this sense of alienation is permitted to persist, both the future of the arts and the quality of the community are at risk. . .

We recommend . . . that the Baltimore area school systems define literacy in the arts as an educational objective for every student. While separate arts subjects may be required, it is our recommendation that the arts should be taught across the curriculum, incorporated into all instruction, with special emphasis on primary education . . . We also recommend that all schools in the Baltimore region establish at least two Art Days a year -- one in the fall semester, another in the spring -- a time when each school would have an arts celebration, featuring projects and performances by students and teachers. We further urge that outstanding participants from each school in Greater Baltimore meet in an annual Student Art Festival. . .

The School for the Arts should not be an isolated institution that stirs envy instead of inspiration. Rather, we recommend that this school become a resource for all schools. Specifically, we suggest that talented art students from throughout the region be permitted to attend the School for the Arts for short-term apprenticeships. Such a program would enrich the lives of students and reinforce the point that Baltimore's School for the Arts is truly a resource for all schools in the region. To further such collaboration, we urge that students from the School for the Arts be featured in assemblies and classroom seminars in the schools in Greater Baltimore, thus putting a human face on this important institution. . .

The third priority: Public and private financial support for Central Maryland's art and cultural institutions should be increased, with special attention given to strengthening emerging institutions. . .

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