It's worth celebrating

February 13, 2003|By Doreen Bolger

THE VIVAT! St. Petersburg festival shines a spotlight on Baltimore and its cultural riches.

From today through March 2, the festival offers Baltimoreans more than 150 opportunities for entertainment, education and inspiration. And the city's astonishing range of art, music, theater, opera and film provides a compelling reason for visitors to come to our city.

Conceived by Yuri Temirkanov, music director of both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Vivat! St. Petersburg commemorates the 300th anniversary of one of the world's most important capitals of art and culture and celebrates the wealth of artistic accomplishment and talent in Baltimore.

Vivat! is the result of unprecedented collaboration between the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association and the city's five leading arts organizations - the Baltimore Museum of Art, the BSO, the Baltimore Opera Company, Center Stage and the Walters Art Museum.

This is the first time Baltimore's cultural arts community and hospitality industry have worked together on such a grand scale, and the benefit to the city is substantial.

Usually less happens to attract visitors to Baltimore during this cold and snowbound time of year. The Travel Industry Association of America reports that cultural tourists spend more than other American travelers because they take longer trips, participate in more activities while traveling and stay more often in hotels and bed and breakfasts. The arrival of these out-of-towners will offer the city a welcome financial lift.

Eleven Baltimore hotels contributed directly to the sponsorship of the event, the Downtown Partnership produced a restaurant guide and 33 restaurants have added Russian-inspired cuisine to their menus. The city is decked with Vivat! banners, colorful ads are running in cities from Washington to New York and Vivat! is being celebrated on radio and television.

Vivat! was selected as one of the Top 100 events in the United States for this year by the American Bus Association and featured in National Geographic Traveler and the Los Angeles Times' travel section, and there's more to come.

Beyond the tourism benefits to Baltimore, Vivat! has created a spirit of cooperation that affects how we and others perceive the city. Baltimore and its businesses and foundations that generously supported the festival did so knowing we could create a model for future collaboration and generate more excitement for our community.

This is a great city - a city to believe in - but to get that word out we need to continue to come together and seek recognition for Baltimore's many strengths. For a reminder of just a few of the reasons why you live here, visit Vivatfest.com.

Doreen Bolger is the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

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