Promotion and arts agencies merging

Reorganization: Combined office will oversee city's cultural arena from Pier Six to Artscape.

January 11, 2002|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN ARTS WRITER

The two city offices responsible for the Baltimore Book Festival and Artscape, a popular outdoor extravaganza of visual art exhibits, literary readings and musical entertainment, have merged into a new organization that will be the overseer and voice of Baltimore's arts community, the mayor announced yesterday.

The city's Office of Promotion has absorbed the Mayor's Advisory Commission on Art and Culture. The merger comes five months after the resignation of Clair Segal, who headed the commission for nearly 15 years.

"These two organizations are a perfect match because they both strive to enrich the quality of life, as well as stimulate economic development for Baltimore," Mayor Martin O'Malley said in a written statement. "The new Office of Promotion and the Arts will be a more efficient, innovative and stronger agency."

The new, larger organization will be headed by Bill Gilmore, who since 1989 has served as executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion. "It means increased awareness for the importance of art and culture in Baltimore," he said. By merging, "the activities that we do and they do can only get stronger."

The Office of Promotion, a quasi-governmental agency, organizes city events such as the Thanksgiving parade, the Waterfront Festival and the New Year's Eve and Fourth of July festivities. It also manages the Farmers' Market, Inner Harbor Ice Rink and Pier Six Concert Pavilion.

The arts commission's most visible program is Artscape, an annual event with a budget of about $600,000 that has drawn as many as 1.7 million people to the heart of the city.

The commission also oversees the School 33 Art Center; the Cloisters children's museum; a public mural program and the Bright Starts program, which provides free arts instruction for city schoolchildren at Saturday workshops in libraries, churches and community centers.

A division of cultural affairs - responsible for arts advocacy, program development and grants administration - will be created within the new agency, said Gilmore. A search for a director of cultural affairs is under way.

In addition, an arts advisory committee will continue in a yet-to-be-established form.

"What the legality or formality is, I don't know, but we are committed to having a cross-section of community involvement," Gilmore said.

"This is a good plan," said Peter Dubeau, director of School 33, a nonprofit center that provides exhibition and studio space to local artists and art classes for adults and children. "We're happy all of our programming is going to stay intact, and we look forward to being part of a larger agency. I think the combination of Bill's staffs and the people at MACAC is a strong one."

So far, Gilmore has no plans to change Artscape substantively. "It will change because events change every year, but the concept and the entire event will be the status quo," he said.

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