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Thousands brave wet Artscape

Crowds undeterred by rain

By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun

4:49 PM EDT, July 21, 2012

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Undeterred by the wet weather, thousands strolled Saturday among the art displays, the crafts tables and the Italian sausage vendors of Artscape.

"I think it's great," said Jerry Fields, keeping dry under a poncho fashioned of plastic garbage bags. "It's free, the music's still going on. It would be better if it were 75 and sunny, but we're having a good time."

The first full day of the mostly outdoor festival opened under heavy rains Saturday morning, with thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon. But no installations, events or performances were canceled, and visitors simply brought umbrellas and rain gear.

By early afternoon, the rains had given way to a light drizzle, and attendees streamed in. Organizers said the crowd was typical for a Saturday afternoon.

"People are so funny about the weather," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, which produces Artscape. "Usually, the complaint is that it's too hot. Finally we have a beautiful day, it's not too hot, everything is up and running. … It's a lovely afternoon."

A hip-hop beat rattled the booths along Mount Royal Avenue, where artists displayed paintings, photographs and sculpture, and designers hawked hats, jewelry and clothing.

Kelly McCaffrey and Tania Robbins, veteran Artscape visitors, said they drew inspiration from the artists on display.

"It puts it in perspective, how big Baltimore's arts community is," said McCaffrey, an art student at Harford Community College. "And it's a great place to pick the artists' brains."

Robbins, who makes jewelry, said she was getting ideas she could use in her own work.

Baltimore artist Christos Palios displayed a large print of a panoramic photograph of Baltimore's harbor taken from the Broadway Pier, along with works from Paris, Chicago and his father's native Greece.

While he shows his work around the world, he called Artscape "a good show for me."

"People know my work," Palios said. "They know they'll find me here."

Some of the indoor activities might have benefited from the weather: The Koresh Dance Company, a modern dance troupe from Philadelphia, performed to a nearly full house at the Modell Performing Arts Center.

The weather "has not had an impact" on the audience, said Rick Gerhardt, operations manager at the center.

Artscape bills itself as America's largest free arts festival, with more than 150 artists, designers and craftspersons and a full lineup of music, dance, theater and film.

Organizers say the event annually attracts more than 350,000 attendees over three days, for an economic impact on the city of $26 million.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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