'Too Much Fun' Ok At Artscape

Kids Discover Joys Of Drawing And Free Ice Cream Sundaes

July 19, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

The oddest question one volunteer at Artscape heard repeatedly was, "Where's the art?"

Maybe it was his location in the Family Park, where most of the art was hands-on and fledgling. Still, Josh Singer told visitors, "Art is everywhere."

For three days in July, Baltimore turns its Mount Royal neighborhood into Artscape, the country's largest free celebration of the arts. The event has expanded over its 28-year run, still drawing newcomers and those who make it a tradition. Estimates this year could exceed 500,000 or more, given the cooperative temperatures and balmy breezes, Artscape organizers said.

The lack of heat gave Ari Goldberg, 2, free rein in the misting tent. His mother, Gina Goldberg, finally seated him in a stroller and headed off to the exhibits.

"I like that Artscape promotes arts for kids so they can start learning early," she said.

Artscape promises exhibits, concerts, street and stage performances and all manner of food and fun. Where else can you see a woman in a gold leotard, dancing on stilts and twirling a hula hoop? What other festival puts a dental health spa across from a booth that says "It's OK to have too much fun"?

"This is the best way to get art," said Kristin Grey of Charles Village.

One tent in the Family Park offered kids a blank canvas in the form of a small backpack. Instead of a painting, Sarah Walters, 3, went with multihued, diagonal lines.

"It's a line drawing that reminds me of Kandinsky," said her mother, Wendy Walters of Woodberry, who has made Artscape a family tradition.

"It is exciting to see how it expands every year," she said.

Brenda Moore arrived with five children, who insisted the first stop be the free sundae booth. They waited patiently for heaping cups of vanilla ice cream smothered in a choice of thick toppings.

"I come early and stay late," Moore said. "And I will be back tomorrow. I just love seeing all the people."

The line to have your caricature etched was shorter but steady. Louise Jeffries poses for the drawing every few years. "It's fast and cute and you," she said.

The artist sketched 6-month-old Aalliyah Matthews in a bib that read "Love."

"This place is a shoppers' paradise," said the baby's mother, Larissa Matthews. "The art, the jewelry, all the different venues, you just want to buy everything."

Mayor Sheila Dixon, who planned to spend Sunday taking in the festival, said the crowds are what make Artscape great. "It brings so many people out to enjoy so many things," she said.

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