Part of the beauty of Artscape is that you can go for an hour and do so much — or go for all three days and never get bored. There's so much to love about Artscape, but b — like everyone else — has its faves. Here are some of our best Artscape recommendations this year. JORDAN BARTEL, B
where: Charles Street Bridge
This corner of the Artscape world is reserved for the eclectic — and hosts exhibits and general tomfoolery we'd never think of. For example, there's a "Kinetic Balloon Arch" and "Balloon Topiaries." We don't know what that means — sounds like something Tim Burton would have a hand in — and yet we're so there. While taking in the alt-carnival vibe of North Charles Street (the scene last year of a human foosball game), check out the Midway Banners, a collection of classic-style and contemporary art created by a group of local artists. There are also games, performances and live radio broadcasting. Now in its third year, the Midway is thankfully here to stay.
The oh-so-hip Baltimore craft crowd returns with dozens of booths to help make you less uncool. There are local exhibitors (including the Baltimore Etsy Street Team and Biggs & Featherbelle) as well as DIYers from around the country (Bunny Butt Apothecary from California, Cutesy but not Cutesy from New Jersey). Want to get in on the crafty action? Try the plaza artist materials workshop tent, which introduces festival-goers to the basics. Friday, there's mono-printing; Saturday, stencils and paper cut-outs; and Sunday, bookmaking and altered books.
ART CAR AND OTHER WHEELED VEHICLE SHOW
where: Charles Street at Lanvale
The art cars have been an Artscape mainstay for 17 years — and with good reason. They're beloved, funky and unique. Saying you hate art cars is like saying you hate Betty White. Don't miss them this year at their new location, curated by art-car artist Holly Klemm. And don't forget the popular art-car caravan. Engines are revved at the American Visionary Art Museum at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and roll through the parade at noon.
'WHAT CITY: CROSSOVERS'
where: Pinkard Gallery in the Bunting Center, MICA
We have high hopes for Baltimore art collective Wham City's first official group exhibition because, well, they're Wham f---ing City. "Crossovers" features group members taking on — and paying homage to — the working styles of other group members. Another major theme: how society is dominated by entertainment media.
FASHION AT ARTSCAPE
where: University of Baltimore campus, Gordon Plaza, Mt. Royal and Maryland avenues
Along with local designers showing their best stuff, there's the annual fashion design competition (semifinalists strut at 7:30 p.m. Friday; finalists at 7 p.m. Sunday) and an ongoing catwalk showcase of innovative designs. Look out this year for freshwater pearl belt buckles, creations influenced by geishas and work from Sewfabulous Sewing School students.
where: Lyric Park, Mount Royal next to the Lyric Opera House
This new interactive video project, designed by installation artists Chris Attenborough and Sean Naftel, features filmmakers shooting short films with festival attendees (check the mirror before you head out). The theme is "Find Your Happy Place," so be as joyful as you can be.
BILLIE HOLIDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT
when: 4-6 p.m. Saturday
where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.
Billie Holiday was, of course, one of the greats. And she spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, which makes her even greater. Artscape has been honoring the icon for 20 years, and this year a group of previous winners of the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition are back to perform. Free tickets (limit: four) can be picked up at the guest services tent the day of the show in front of the Lyric. (Performer Tia Dae, right.)
'NORTH AVENUE PLAYS'
when: 8:45 p.m. Friday
where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.
Run of the Mill Theatre's production has an interesting backstory: Playwrights got on a North Avenue bus Thursday and wrote six new plays. Yes, performed the next day. It's just one of the many free theater and opera offerings over the three days at Theatre Project and The Brown Center (Falvey Hall, 1301 Mt. Royal Ave.) For a schedule and free tickets, head to the guest services tent.
RYAN THOMPSON TAPKID
when: 2:30 p.m. Friday
where: Theatre Project
Thompson is a featured soloist in world-renowned dance company Step Afrika, which aims to preserve the art of stepping, tap and gumboot, an African dance performed while wearing styles of rain boots (it's also Australian slang for sex and New Zealand slang for a condom — thanks Urban Dictionary). A slew of free dance performances are held throughout the festival at Theatre Project and the Meyerhoff.
where: University of Baltimore Student Center Performing Arts Theater, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave., fifth floor
Need your music tinged with the avant-garde? Multiple performers give festival-goers an oasis of experimental tunes curated by the High Zero Foundation. Just two examples of what you'll get: Turquoise Cat's "electro feline minimal electronics" (1 p.m. Saturday) and Nothingberry Plasma's "one-man electronics and drum psychosis" (1 p.m. Sunday).
when: 4 and 6 p.m. Friday; 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday
where: Looping through the festival, passing through the Charles Street and Mount Royal intersection
Everyone loves a parade, right? Grab a drink, find some shade (good luck) and watch as these processionals, usually involving large bird puppets and other mobile floats, make their way through the streets.
where: Penn Station windows
A 60-foot-long glass wall at Penn Station's west entrance will showcase comics, illustrations and graphic novels displayed as one strip. And you can help. A tent on-site will provide drawing materials so you can add your own comic strips to the wall.
where: MICA Main Building, 1300 Mt. Royal Ave.; Male/Female Statue, 1500 N. Charles St.; Target Family Art Park
On the hour, jugglers, dancers, comedy acts and audience-participation confections dot the Artscape landscape. Yes, street theater is often an acquired taste, but it's difficult to resist a dancer/drummer named Tommy Buckets.
when: 7-9 p.m. Friday; noon-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
where: The Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St.
The Maryland Film Festival is behind this special presentation, so expect equal parts thought-provoking and experimental. Highlights include underground legend Mike Kuchar showing a collection of his career works on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, MFF will show five short programs taken from this year's festival.
Photos courtesy of Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts