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A view of the Main Stage from an earlier Artscape.
A view of the Main Stage from an earlier Artscape. (Edwin Remsberg/BOPA / Handout)

Baltimore’s performing, literary, musical, fine and other world-renowned arts scenes coalesce around the Station North and Mid-Town Belvedere neighborhoods July 19-21 for the 38th Artscape festival. Whether you’re a vet looking for the most innovative programming or a newbie wondering what the hype’s all about, we have some tips so you can take to the streets like this:

First things first: what’s Artscape?

Artscape is a free arts festival that the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA), the non-profit agency behind Light City and the Baltimore Book Festival, produces every summer. It was created in 1982 as a way of highlighting the city’s numerous arts scenes and institutions. BOPA chief operating officer and festivals director Kathy Hornig said that Artscape “showcases the best of everything that Baltimore has to offer.”

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“When you think of a streetscape, you think of a city, an urban environment, and I think that’s such a core part of the vibe of what makes Artscape special and fun,” she said. “It’s not just in a generic parking lot somewhere. It’s in the heart of Baltimore, in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, which wasn’t there in 1982 but is certainly such a big part of the arts community - and Artscape - today.”

Admission to the festival is entirely free. Hornig added that an average of 350,000 attendees flock to the area grounds throughout the festival’s three days.

Where and when exactly does it take place?

Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21, along Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street. The festival stays open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, as well as 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday. In addition, Artscape After Hours programming takes place from 9-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The following map shows this year’s festival boundaries, which changed slightly from last year to accommodate construction in the area and allow cars on Mount Royal Avenue:

An illustrated map of the festival grounds for Artscape 2019.
An illustrated map of the festival grounds for Artscape 2019. (Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts)

Anything special or new about this year?

Very much so. This year’s theme, “Discover,” commemorates the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic lunar landing.

To foster discovery, BOPA moved some of the festival’s best-known offerings to new locations. For instance, the Artists’ Market - a juried marketplace and showcase for over 100 local visual artists - was moved to the center of the festival along Charles Street, between Lanvale Street and Mount Royal Avenue.

In addition, the technology-focused Gamescape and youth-centered Teenscape programming blocks will take place at Motor House on North Avenue.

Artscape 2019 also features some new must-see programs and premieres. Squonk Opera, an internationally renowned performance art group from Pittsburgh, returns to premiere a new work, “Hand to Hand," at the Charles Street Theatre Open Parking Lot (1704 N. Charles Street). Artscape’s website noted that this show features “the largest puppet hands in the world.” Based on what Squonk brought last year, that claim might be correct.

What else should I see?

Every Artscape offers so much that you can’t possibly see everything. One of the festival’s greatest assets is its ability to show you something cool that you couldn’t plan. That said, here are a few suggestions:

1) “Sydmonauts.” Originally commissioned for the Sydney Festival, this outdoor art installation by Aussie studio Amigo & Amigo features nine individual sculptures of astronauts (in keeping with the moon landing anniversary) across the festival site.

2) Three music stages. The festival layout pretty much guarantees that unless you’re indoors, you’ll hear some great music. This year’s Artscape is no different, with nearly 50 concerts packed into the weekend. See throwback hitmakers like R&B group SWV and 2-tone ska band The English Beat on the Main Stage. Looking for a new favorite? See local and regional acts on the Morgan State University Festival and John Hopkins University Station North Stages.

3) LOL@Artscape with Baltimore Improv Group (BIG). Tickle your funny bones with stand-up and improvisational comedy throughout the night, courtesy of BIG at their namesake Charles Street theater. You can also catch U-HAHA, BIG’s new mobile comedy theater in a remodeled U-HAUL, outside of The Big Theater at all festival hours.

4) Film at Artscape. Don’t worry, cinephiles, Artscape didn’t forget about you. The Maryland Film Festival will host several screenings, including a series of high school students’ shorts and “Swing Kids,” a musical drama about tap dancers in a prison camp during the Korean War. The screenings take place at the historic Parkway Theatre.

5) Culinary Arts. Food is art, and the numerous culinary options throughout the Artscape grounds - from Filipino-soul food fusion to Baltimore’s signature cocktail, the orange crush - will set you right for a day’s worth of creative immersion.

Well that looks super lit. Where can I find more information?

Visit artscape.org for a full schedule of events, exhibitions and locations.

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