Baltimore City Paper

2015 Resolutions for Baltimore: By Kwame Kwei-Armah

New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, D.C.—these are the established and well-known cultural centers on the East Coast. Great artists, having to pick and choose where to produce their art, often overlook Baltimore for the cities with more lauded reputations. Our city, however, is laying a foundation to rise and rejoin the ranks of these established cultural centers.

This year alone, the progress that has been made to create the world's largest art park, a new film center, and a collection of new theaters speaks to the visionary cultural vibrancy found in Baltimore. It's a vibrancy found in the legacy of establishments such as the 100-year-old Baltimore Museum of Art, the Lyric Opera House, and American Visionary Arts Museum, to name only a handful of our cultural attractions.


For 2015, Baltimore should embrace being a cultural destination, a place that attracts world-class artists, as well as a place where world-class art is made. I know from personal experience that when people actually make it to Baltimore, they're surprised by how thriving the arts scene is—both the DIY initiatives and more established arts organizations. Center Stage was the first American theater to put on my play, "Elmina's Kitchen," and the remarkable experience of being a part of this artistic community was a major reason why I decided to join Center Stage as artistic director. I could, and still can, feel a growing energy here that's prime for an arts boom. That potential was, and is, too exciting not to be a part of.

When I was asked to write the first musical based on the life and work of  Bob Marley, I said I wouldn’t do it unless it could have its world premiere in Baltimore. This production is a significant undertaking, and I want Baltimore to feel and experience that. I want people to start thinking of Baltimore the way I do, as a city full of people who are producing excellent art and who appreciate excellent art. 

I'm biased, for sure, but I'm proud of the art we've been able to create at Center Stage, where productions are built in-house—sets, costumes, props. I'm also proud of the incredible actors, directors, and designers we've brought to Baltimore audiences. I'm hoping "Marley" is a production that Baltimore audiences are proud to have here and that also draws people from around the nation and world to our city.


Just as important as high-profile art such as the Open Walls mural project, Star-Spangled Spectacular, and celebrated TV shows is the buzzing DIY arts scene. Local artists creating innovative theater, dance, art, and music is one of the great creative forces of our community.

This year, let’s support every facet of our cultural community, so we can continue to grow into a world-class cultural destination, as unique and as special as this city we love. 
Kwame Kwei-Armah is the Artistic Director of Center Stage.