Artscape returns, bigger and greener

Annual festival is set for July 18-20

Arts

June 05, 2008|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun pop music critic

Artscape expands and becomes a little "greener" this year. But the 27-year-old arts festival, the largest, free public event of its kind in the country, maintains a flavorful and eclectic musical lineup. In a news conference at Penn Station yesterday, Mayor Sheila Dixon announced the new additions and musical lineup for this year's Artscape, set for July 18-20.

The marquee names on the Main Stage, at Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, include Grammy-winning R&B sensation Ne-Yo, reggae legends the Wailers, rock veterans Joan Jett & the Black Hearts and the alt-rock band Rusted Root. Because of contract restrictions, another act, the headliner for the opening night, won't be announced until Saturday.

"It's a jewel of Baltimore," Dixon said of Artscape. "It's a great community that's getting bigger and better."

Other musical additions for the arts festival, which expands to the 1400-1700 blocks of Charles St., include two competitions for local acts. At the news conference, Dixon announced that Baltimore rock band Gary B & the Notions won Sound Off!, the competition held on the Artscape Web site last month. The band won a performance slot on the Saturn Festival Stage, at Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues, and a backstage party for 50 of its fans. No one from the group was at the conference.

As a companion to the Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway jazz vocal competitions, the Chick Webb Jazz Combo competition was established. The event, open to jazz ensembles, will be at Everyman Theatre on the Saturday of the festival.

Beyond music, Artscape will offer organic foods this year as an alternative to the deep-fried favorites of the festival. The Green Food Court will be on Charles Street, near Lafayette Avenue. This area will also offer another addition: outdoor movies. The Maryland Film Festival will show films on Friday and Saturday nights.

While Artscape will continue to be based in Bolton Hill along Mount Royal Avenue, the festival will include the Station North Arts and Entertainment district north of Penn Station. Several businesses, clubs and restaurants in the 100-acre stretch are sure to benefit from the influx of festivalgoers.

"We hope by showcasing the district, we will entice people to come back into the city and visit the arts and entertainment district again," said David Bielenberg, executive director of Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc., a nonprofit that oversees the district. "This is a great opportunity to showcase what the arts and entertainment community has to offer."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

Online

Read more coverage of Artscape and see photos of the headliners at baltimoresun.com/artscape

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