"In 1982, Harborplace had just opened," Lazarus said.
Nonetheless, the Mount Royal site presented certain advantages. The neighborhood already contained a fledgling cultural district; in addition to MICA, the Lyric Theatre was staging live concerts and performances, and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall was in the planning stages.
Many artworks could be displayed in MICA's indoor galleries. There was room to build two stages for music, and the college agreed to supply the electrical power for the new festival.
The event was renamed Artscape. Schaefer chipped in a $200,000 city grant, and everyone got to work.
"Something that was really crucial in the early years was setting the right image and tone for the arts festival," Lazarus says.
"We wanted a diverse crowd with a mix of races, ages and neighborhoods. We wanted a family-oriented atmosphere, and we didn't want a bunch of kids causing problems. We wanted a mix of national acts and local bands. And we wanted Artscape to be free.
"These are still the qualities that mark Artscape today."
Because he was donating MICA's facilities, Lazarus demanded veto power over not just the art exhibitions in public spaces, but also over all the musical performances.
"When Jody suggested booking Ray Charles as the festival's headline act, I was nervous," he said.
"We needed someone with broad appeal, and I didn't know if he would attract a mixed audience or not," Lazarus said. "Luckily, Jody talked me into it, and he drew just the kind of crowd we were looking for. She was right, and I was wrong."
Meanwhile, nature tried to exercise a veto power of its own.
Arnett's wife, the well-known jazz singer Ethel Ennis, performed at the first Artscape. The couple had planned an ambitious tribute to famous Baltimore musicians, and Ennis shared the stage with a 17-piece band and eight local actors — every one of whom became increasingly colder and wetter as the rain-soaked, hourlong concert progressed.
Ennis remembers envying audience members their umbrellas and lined raincoats. But she also remembers something else: "There was a celebratory atmosphere," she says. "The energy was there. It was peaceful, and people were happy and enthusiastic."
After the first festival ended, organizers regrouped. Among other decisions, future Artscapes were pushed back to July, which usually lacks the steady downpours of June.
In the coming years, the festival would weather other setbacks, including a lawsuit filed by the city in 1989, after Albright was involved in transferring $700,000 earmarked for Artscape to a new, statewide philanthropic foundation. Albright could not be reached for comment.
The courts eventually ruled in the city's favor, and by then, the festival had become a cherished Baltimore tradition.
"During that first Artscape, I happened to be walking down the street behind two African-American teenage boys," Lazarus says. "They'd just happened to walk into one of the exhibits, and they were having this unbelievably passionate argument about a video clip they'd seen.
"When someone has a reaction like that, it tells you you're doing something worth doing."