Drawing on Artscape for some inspiration

Creations: The annual Baltimore festival can pique the interest of even nonlovers of art.

Even nonlovers of art inspired by Artscape

July 18, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Artscape attracts different people for different reasons.

For Andrew Shenker, 36, the art festival was a place to look for inspiration. The Baltimore philosophy teacher walked along Mount Royal Avenue yesterday afternoon, peering through a video camera at the throngs of festival-goers, at garbage cans, at a leaking fire hydrant.

Berry Holmes, though, said he was there to listen to music and look at pretty women. "I'm kind of disappointed," said Holmes, 28, of Baltimore as he sat on a street curb eyeing the crowd. "I thought there would be women that were off the hook."

Artscape, the three-day street festival that ends this evening, is the time each year that Baltimore sets aside to celebrate the arts.

Blocks of streets near the Maryland Institute College of Art were closed to traffic, creating a giant venue for all sorts of artists - including disc jockeys, painters, jugglers and poets - to show off their creations to hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Artists came to present their work for free or to sell it.

Kathryn Cornelius, 25, asked only that people contribute a dollar each to help her pay for supplies. The Washington, D.C.-based performance artist, clad in a black bikini, was seated on a platform over a 200-gallon tank of whole milk, calling out to passers-by to try to dunk her.

It was a cinch for Charles Biberman, 38, who hit the target with a softball on his first try and watched as Cornelius plunged into the sour-smelling liquid. "It doesn't look like an art installation to me," the Bethesda resident said as he walked away.

Sitting in a booth covered by a tent, artist Tim Goecke fielded questions from prospective buyers about his drawings of Baltimore rowhouses. Some of the houses were black and white with oddly vacant doors and windows. Others were full of life and color, with painted window screens and people sitting on the stoops.

Some artists took part in the festival not just to promote themselves but also to get others involved in creating art. There were workshops on woodcarving, miming and urban line-dancing. A sidewalk artist provided boxes of colored chalk to visitors, some of whom were happy to get down on their hands and knees to draw and get covered in chalky powder.

Lamont Dixon, a Philadelphia-based poet, helped a small group of children recite a poem about a beetle, as his partner, Warren Oree, gently strummed a rhythm on a double bass.

Songwriter Martin L. Hebron came to check out the Baltimore music scene, which he left years ago when he retired from the Baltimore Police Department and moved to Manassas, Va. Sitting with his electric guitar by a row of artists' tents, Hebron jammed to the sounds of Argentinian blues guitarist Miguel Botafogo, who was onstage nearby.

Artscape had something to offer even to those who aren't art lovers.

Jeremy Hentschel, 18, of Harford County, who said he is "sort of indifferent" to art, found a couple of interesting books at a booth. Trying to get into the spirit of the festival, though, he added, "I figure [I'll] see some stuff, maybe find something I can put up in my room."

Although many visitors came to Artscape with money to burn on oyster fritters or African-American-themed paintings or a $2,000 ceramic fountain, others said they liked the fact that they could enjoy themselves even on a tight budget. Natalie Rice, who was watching a sidewalk performance by a comic juggler, said she has learned over the years how to avoid spending too much at the festival. She and her two children brought portable folding chairs and a cooler of drinks to the event.

"It helps that it's free," the Brooklyn Park resident said of the festival, which runs today from noon to 8 p.m. "You just come here and get some entertainment, instead of staying in the house."

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