For the first time in decades, City Paper was not invited to the V.I.P. Artscape kickoff party. In fact, Bill Gilmore, the head of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, personally turned Jennifer Marsh, our general manager, away from the door at the UB law school, despite a decades-long relationship and two BOPA-related CP covers in a row, focusing on the Sondheim Prize and Artscape respectively.
I normally wouldn’t give a shit—it’s dangerous for reporters and editors to crave access to free food, drinks, and powerful people—but I was on a mission. This might be my chance to talk with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about art. It has been something of an obsession.
“I know, but I’m not interested in that. I’d be more interested in calling Tracy [Baskerville, the communications director at BOPA] an asshole.”
I spent the first part of the hour I was there talking with Neil Feather, who won the $25,000 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize. We joked about how he was one of the rich people now. But, soon I saw my opportunity. “I need to go talk to the mayor,” I said.
I was blown away. She sounded like William Donald Schaefer. I had always thought of SRB as cold, but now she was on fire, showing a real political spark. The woman standing in front of me with both pain and fury in her eyes was not a technocrat. She grew up in politics and knew it was smarter to avoid me, but she engaged anyway. She was a real human and, in that moment, a leader. I loved her.
Strangely enough, a very similar thing happened at roughly the same time, but on a much bigger scale, as David Simon and Governor Martin O’Malley happened to be on the same Acela and, according to Simon’s blog, The Audacity of Despair, the governor said, “Come on, Dave . . . we’re getting to be old men at this point. Sit, talk.”
I still disagree with her often (I really want to ask about her views on the semilegal DIY spaces, which seem to me to be crucial to the development of any scene that will help the city in the ways she thinks art might), but as I went down the elevator and walked out into the Artscape crowd, to make my way over to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I was happy. It is good to be reminded that your mayor is a human. And if I was ever wrong about you, Madame Mayor, I apologize.