Josh Kohn, who succeeded Creative Alliance co-founder Megan Hamilton as a director of the East Baltimore arts organization two years ago, loves what the Creative Alliance does for Baltimore. He just wants to see it do even more, and with a wider scope.
"The palette of the artists we work with has expanded," is how Kohn puts it, characterizing his effort to bring a wider range of performers to the alliance's stage — performers not only from Baltimore and the surrounding area, but national and international artists as well. A veteran of some 15 years of booking artists and performers into various venues, mostly in the Washington, D.C., area, he looks forward to using his knowledge and connections to make the alliance an even more integral, and encompassing, part of his new city's arts scene.
"We've had a lot of the same artists coming through, a lot of the same attractions," says Kohn, who recently bought a home in Highlandtown, not far from the alliance's headquarters in the old Patterson Theatre. "How many times can the audience see the same things? I said, 'Let's bring in more artists of national renown, ones that will build the program and build the cachet of artists in Baltimore."
Toward that end, his bookings have included everything from comedian Judah Friedlander ("Our room is awesome for comedy," he says) to Baltimore experimental rockers Horse Lords to D.C.-based Ethiopian accordion player and synthesizer master Hailu Mergia. Plus even more burlesque acts — "a really important part of the Baltimore arts community," he says, "and they look on the Creative Alliance as home."
Kohn also notes that Baltimore has acquired more performance spaces since the alliance opened, yet another reason to widen the venue's scope and pool of potential performers.
Meng Su's resume shows off top prizes at international competitions; extensive concert tours as a solo player and member of the Beijing Guitar Duo with Yameng Wang; well-received recordings of the Duo and her first solo CD.
"When the Creative Alliance opened, they really looked on this space as a main stage Baltimore's arts community," he says. "But there are more formalized spaces now, more competition."
Margaret Footner, the alliance's co-founder and executive director, appreciates the energy and spirit of innovation Kohn brings to his duties.
"Josh curates our stage with a respect for local musicians and performers and also a tremendous knowledge of worldwide music genres," she writes in an email. "He's bringing in a range and mix of performers that you just can't see elsewhere in Baltimore. ... The quality of artistry, the mix of people, the energy in the room — it's as good as it gets!