Visual Arts Festival Comes To Inner Harbor

Juried Show To Feature Painting And Other Media

Art Scene

August 11, 2009|By TIM SMITH

A month after the annual Artscape drew record crowds to the streets around Penn Station and MICA, the Inner Harbor Art Festival will make its debut, spread out in two areas: the Power Plant near the National Aquarium and Power Plant Live a couple of blocks north. The free outdoor event will be held Aug. 22 and 23.

Announcing the new venture at a news conference Monday morning in front of the Power Plant, Mayor Sheila Dixon described as "phenomenal" the group of 150 artists, regional and national, who will be offering more than $15 million worth of creative work for sale.

Howard Alan Events, the Florida-based company behind the festival, has a strong track record for producing popular art and craft shows around the country over the past 25 years. Among the annual projects are the Las Olas Art Fair in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which will mark its 22nd year in October, and the Chicago Tribune Magnificent Mile Art Festival, which marked its 18th last month.

Like those events, the Inner Harbor Art Festival is a juried show, with participating artists chosen by a panel. Painting, sculpture and photography will be represented, along with jewelry and ceramics. (Quality, of course, can range as widely as the prices at such shows.)

Although the Inner Harbor Art Festival comes close on the heels of Artscape, it is not a last-minute thing.

"Each show is planned well in advance, but it has been our experience that it is best to publicize the event closer to the date so it is fresh in the public's mind," said AnaBelle Dweck, publicist for Howard Alan Events. "In addition, we felt it important to wait to make this announcement because we wanted to avoid conflicts and distance ourselves from Artscape."

Dixon, in a brief interview after the news conference, distinguished it from Artscape. "This is different," she said. "Artscape is not only visual art, but has a lot of live music. This will focus just on art."

The mayor also pointed out the openness of the festival. "Here you can take time with the artists and find out what inspired them," she said.

That's one of the attractions for Monkton photographer Bob Paulding, whose nature-focused work will be included in the Inner Harbor show. "You get a chance to meet people who are buying your art, which is really great," he said.

Jane Andrle Gillete, a watercolorist in Alexandria, Va., has exhibited at several of Alan's shows. "He is genuinely interested in art and artists," she said. "And he tries to integrate his festivals into the community, to take the community to heart. It's not just a mercenary thing."

If all goes well, the weather will not be as oppressive as it was for Monday's news conference.

"This could be a sweltering show," Paulding said, adding with a laugh: "I might be in Speedos."

Zander, Youth Orchestra

The cult status of Boston-based conductor Benjamin Zander is easy enough to understand from his recordings, which reflect an intensely involved and involving style of music-making. It was even more rewarding to experience Zander in person Friday night in a summer treat presented by Strathmore and the Washington Performing Arts Society, leading the vibrant Youth Orchestra of the Americas.

That ensemble, made up of players ages 18-28 competitively chosen from throughout the Western Hemisphere, is as dynamic and strong in technique as you would expect. Even allowing for occasional signs of tiredness (Zander told the audience the musicians had been on a 17-hour bus ride to get there), the playing had admirable cohesion, solidity and warmth of tone, as well as rich expressive nuance.

Bernstein's "Candide" Overture opened the evening at a slightly more relaxed pace than typically encountered; it allowed the prettiest tunes to bloom nicely.

In Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, soloist Gabriela Montero produced limited tonal variety and relied on velocity more than poetry to make interpretive points. Still, her lightning flashes of technique in the finale were certainly impressive, even when the notes blurred into a haze. Zander drew out the orchestral coloring in the score to keen effect.

It's not every day that you get to hear something new and startling in a work as familiar as Beethoven's Fifth, so Zander's refreshing way with that warhorse was alone worth the trip to Bethesda. It wasn't just that he honored the composer's very fast metronome markings, which so many other conductors are reluctant to do (or find suspect). He got his young, eager players to celebrate the liberating force of those tempos, to infuse each measure with import and impact.

It was possible to appreciate, as if for the first time, just how truly revolutionary this symphony is.

If you go

The Inner Harbor Art Festival takes place Aug. 22-23 at the Power Plant, 601 E Pratt St., and Power Plant Live, 34 Market Place. Admission is free. Go to artfestival.com.

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