This weekend, Artscape (you know, just "America's largest free art festival") will bring an abundance of color and quirkiness to Baltimore for the 33rd year. The annual festival will entertain over 350,000 attendees with a slate of free performances, exhibits and activities. We've rounded up five of Artscape's new must-see attractions— ranging from high-flying spectacles to a party game played on a giant pizza — so you can make the most of your festival experience.
Aerial Arts Arena
Up in the air (just a little aerial arts humor) about checking out this lineup of acrobats, dancers and more? Don't be. Curated by Baltimore's Daydreams + Nightmares Aerial (DNA) Theatre, the Aerial Arts Arena takes to the skies for a host of performances and visual eye candy. The schedule includes contemporary circus troupes, comedic magician Brian Kehoe, and a hybrid theatrical/dance/circus production entitled, appropriately enough, "Look Up." "I'm most excited about the diversity that the schedule represents," said Kel Millionie, artistic and general director of DNA Theatre. "The types and styles of aerial performance are exceptionally eclectic and very exciting." Friday-Sunday, Charles and Preston streets.
A collection of games and activities along Charles Street, Field Day embodies the unorthodox creative spirit expected from Artscape. Participants can play a life-size board game, race down an extreme hopscotch course and play "Twister" on a giant pizza (For example: left hand, mushroom.). The installations were curated by Maryland Institute College of Art professor Jason Corace and two MICA alums, Michael Benevento and Andrew Liang. Five of the artists behind Field Day are based in Baltimore. "I personally love playing games, going to carnivals and viewing art," said Lou Joseph, a visual arts specialist with the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. "I think Field Day will be a great mash-up of all of those things, while being really approachable and fun for Artscape-goers." Friday-Sunday, Charles Street, from Preston Street to North Avenue.
The inaugural Fred Lazarus IV Artscape Prize honors the former MICA president's legacy by awarding a local young artist a cash prize and an opportunity to exhibit work in the college's Pinkard Gallery. Winner Malcolm Colvin McClurg, a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts, uses canvas and sculpture to explore the ways in which people and art are understood to exist, incorporating emotional themes such as mythology and gender stereotypes. "I'm excited to have an opportunity for young artists in Baltimore City to present their work in such a public way and such a professional way," said Krista Green, assistant director of cultural affairs at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1300 Mount Royal Ave.
On Friday and Saturday, Artscape's After Hours attractions will light up Charles Street and maintain the festival's high energy after the sun goes down. Food and beverage vendors will stay open late, DJs will take over the Aerial Arts Arena and Station North Stage and LOL@Artscape will showcase regional stand-up comics. It will be hard to miss the 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel with LED lighting, as well as Friday's unveiling of the country's first arts billboard, which will display the work of local artists. "I think it's going to be nothing short of epic," said Kathy Hornig, festivals director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. "Charles Street is going to look like something that the city's never seen before." 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Charles Street, from Preston Street to North Avenue.
Gamescape is newly located in the old Single Carrot Theatre, but will continue to showcase a diverse array of video game innovation from local and international developers. Festival-goers are encouraged to browse and interact with the games, many of which pay homage to influential titles. If you catch this installation Friday or Saturday evening, it will stay open during After Hours and feature live performances from video game music cover bands. "I put together Gamescape so that people would be inspired," said Ben Walsh, CEO and president of the Baltimore-based development company Pure Bang Games. "I wanted to let the attendees of Artscape know that games are being made right here." Friday-Sunday, 1727 N. Charles St.
If you go
Artscape runs 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Satursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday at areas surrounding Mount Royal Avenue and North Charles Street. Free. For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to artscape.org.