Baltimore's arts extravaganza is more and less than its usual self ARTSCAPE 1995

July 16, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Arts Critic Sun Pop Music Critic J.D. Considine contributed to this story.

It's time again for Artscape -- the mega-festival that draws more than a million people on a summer weekend to partake of everything from opera to fried dough, outdoor sculpture to puppet shows, rhythm and blues to poetry readings, African dance to decorated cars.

Every year, something's added. This year it's a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert July 22 -- free, like everything else at Artscape. But there's a subtraction, too: Instead of last year's five visual arts shows with more than 100 artists represented, this year there will be four, with only about 60 artists (even if you include about a dozen students working on one project).

Clair Segal, president of Baltimore Festival of the Arts Inc., which organizes Artscape, insists that art is not being de-emphasized. The cutback was not Artscape's choice. "We couldn't get the third floor of the Fox Building; the Institute needed the space," she says, referring to one of the Maryland Institute, College of Art's galleries where a show has been held in past years.

Segal says this year the fine arts marketplace will be expanded. "There will be about 90 artists, vs. 40 to 45," she says. The marketplace is an outdoor area where artists will show their works, though not in one of the four organized exhibitions.

Those exhibits -- two gallery shows, an outdoor sculpture show and a car show -- will remain three weeks past the Artscape weekend, and will have a full catalog with checklists and curators' statements.

Musical offerings

Musically, the pop offerings at Artscape '95 put the emphasis on jazz and R&B. Pianist Ellis Marsalis -- head of the noted New Orleans jazz clan and father of Wynton, Branford and Delfayo -- gets things off on the right foot July 21, with a 7 p.m. performance on the Fox stage. Saxophonist Carl Grubbs and his combo will be on the Decker stage at the same time.

Other jazz artists on tap include fusion stars Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour, July 22 at 8:15 p.m. on the Decker stage. The guitarists, each of whom is equally at home with jazz and pop, will be performing material from their current album, "Larry & Lee."

There will also be a host of jazz singers on hand, including Angela Bofill, best-known for her 1979 album "Angel of the Night" (July 22, 2:15 p.m., at the Decker stage); local legend Ethel Ennis (July 22, 6:45 p.m., at the Decker stage); and Robin Rouse, this year's winner of the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition (July 22, 1 p.m., at the Fox stage).

July 21 will be the big night for R&B fans, as Peabo Bryson and Patti Austin perform on the Decker stage at 8:15 p.m. Bryson is easily the better-known of the two, with a string of hits dating back to the late '70s, as well as a recent Grammy for "Beauty and the Beast." Austin, on the other hand, is better known in studio circles and was one of the guest vocalists on the last Quincy Jones album, "Back on the Block."

Those old enough to remember when "Love Potion No. 9" was a hit will enjoy seeing the Clovers (July 23, 7 p.m., at the Fox stage), while gospel fans can look forward to the charged, blues-inflected sound of the Holmes Brothers (July 23, 2:30 p.m., at the Decker stage).

Rounding out the weekend's pop content is Celia Cruz -- an original mambo queen, and a major influence on Gloria Estefan -- with Jose Alberto & His Orchestra (July 23, 8:15 p.m., at the Decker stage); Cajun fiddler and country singer Doug Kershaw (July 22, 3:45 p.m., at the Decker stage); and the zydeco band L'il Brian and the Zydeco Travelers (July 23, 5:15 p.m., at the Decker stage).

Classical music also gets a boost at this year's Artscape. In addition to opera (Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti") and chamber music (Baltimore Chamber Music award winners), the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be on hand the afternoon of July 22 in Meyerhoff Hall. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the lobby there will be a "petting zoo" of musical instruments, with musicians present to explain the instruments to children. Then at 4:15 p.m. the orchestra will give a family concert.

Art exhibits

Artscape's outdoor sculpture show will have 14 works in it -- more than usual -- and its theme of "future relics" sounds interesting. Artists were invited to create something that would give future archaeologists an idea of what life right now is like.

Naturally, some of the works are critical of our time. "Gary Jameson has a monument in Styrofoam cups," says curator Sarah Tanguy, "and Betsy Damos has a heap that alludes to trees torn down and animal limbs stacked up after over-harvesting."

Allyn Massey is the curator for "Jump," a show of installations in Mount Royal Station's Decker Gallery. "The show has to do with the kind and quality of jump that occurs between our sensory experience of the world, and the sense the intellect tries to make of it," says Massey.

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