The city's 12th annual ArtScape provided diverse visions for thousands who flocked yesterday to Baltimore's Mount Royal neighborhood -- and a bonanza for the MTA's light-rail system.
All you needed to enjoy the day -- and the arts that ranged from the visual to the performing -- was an open mind and a good pair of walking shoes.
tTC If you went by light rail, which runs through ArtScape's festivities, you had to have a little patience, as well. A record number of people took the often lightly used trains -- leading transit officials to extend today's riding hours.
Once at the festival, virtually no one could miss one piece of art -- a light blue, 30-foot, five-level walk-in tower with hundreds of drawings of
smiling open mouths plastered across its surface.
Called "The Tower of Babel: A Chance Encounter and a Lot of Yakity Yak and Blah, Blah, Blah," the artistry of Baltimore's Laure Drogoul drew baffled looks from some and smiles of delight from others.
About a block away, Ray Parris, a third-year art student at the Maryland Institute, was asking as much as $300 for a drawing of Bob Marley or for an abstract checkered painting of Malcolm X.
Art, he said as his collection of African art cubism lay sprawled on grass, can be misunderstood. "Art is something that deals with everyday life. I try to take a spiritual vision. People really don't understand the value of it."
Jane Valery-Davis, spokeswoman for ArtScape, said that by late yesterday afternoon, the day's estimated attendance had surpassed Friday's estimated crowd of 125,000 people. Organizers expect attendance today, the last day of ArtScape, to be at least as high. ArtScape resumes at noon and runs until 10:30 p.m.
The event covers a 12-block area bounded by Lafayette Street on the north, Preston Street on the south, Howard Street on the west and Maryland Avenue on the east.
ArtScape, organized by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture, is paid for with grants and donations from private sponsors.
About 4 p.m. yesterday, drizzle scared away some festival-goers. But harder rain held off, and the activities continued without interruption.
Yesterday's entertainers included a colorfully dressed Korean Dance Company, California country music from the Desert Rose Band and African children's tales from Paul Kengmo and Company.
Baltimore's John "KinderMan" Taylor used picture cards and a ++ keyboard to sing children's songs, before leading dozens of watchers in the "Achy-Breaky" dance.
Mike Rosman, of Federal Hill, performed his "Amazing Feats of Comedy," enchanting the crowd with acrobatic and juggling antics while riding on a unicycle.
"It was a beautiful day for it," said Stephanie Eddens, a Loyola College student from Missouri.
"It's unbelievable," said Earl Henderson, a West Baltimorean who has attended ArtScape each year. "This seems to be one of the better ones."
In all, 48 craft booths, 35 art exhibits, 26 food vendors, 50 music and dance performers and nine street-theater performers graced the festival grounds.
Children got a chance to show their creativity in a "Building With Blocks Workshop" in the Lyric Opera House. The Pine Street Police Station, the Old St. Paul Church and other landmarks of Baltimore were re-created with Lego blocks.
Up to 9,000 people used the light-rail system to get to the festival yesterday, with most boarding at the Cromwell Station in Glen Burnie and the Timonium Park-and-Ride, mass transit officials said.
That figure was far more than the 3,000 to 4,000 who use the rail during Orioles games and slightly more than the previous record, on All-Star Game night, when about 7,500 ticket-holders rode the rail, said Dianna Rosborough, an MTA spokeswoman.
Light-rail service today will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., instead of until 7 p.m., and trains will run every 15 minutes, instead of every 30 minutes, Ms. Rosborough said.