Artscape 2023: What not to miss as signature Baltimore arts festival returns this weekend

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Grammy-winning artist Anderson .Paak is scheduled to perform as the character DJ Pee .Wee at Artscape Friday night.

It’s been a long, long dry spell. You’ve been waiting for this weekend for more than four years.

And now that Artscape is actually, positively, definitely, beyond-any-shadow-of-a-doubt returning in 2023, what will there be for visitors to do?


Plenty. After all, Mayor Brandon Scott has declared this week “Arts and Culture Week” in Baltimore. The 39th festival will feature about 175 visual artists, more than 60 musicians and performers and 47 food and beverage vendors.

Artscape 2023 approximate footprint. (Source:

If you’re a bit foggy on the details, it’s likely because the controversies around the planning of what is promoted as the world’s largest free outdoor public art festival have tended to obscure programming details.


But we have your back.

Below, you’ll find a list of six festival highlights (maybe seven), along with some features this year that will set Artscape 2023 apart from its predecessors.

(However, be warned that Artscape is a rain or shine event and this weekend’s forecast leans heavily toward the rainy side.)

See murals, murals everywhere. And a new park.

Baltimore-born artist Maya Hayuk, now living in Brooklyn, is recreating a mural for Artscape that she originally painted in 2011.

Festival organizers have commissioned five murals by artists Adam Stab, Jaz Erenberg and Maya Hayuk to brighten the walls in parking lots, an unused gas station, and other locations in the festival footprint. By this weekend, Artscape Park, a pocket-sized green space at the corner of North Charles St. and North Ave., will have opened.

In addition, the artist Saba Hamidi will wrap five electrical boxes along the Charles Street corridor with colorful vinyl to enhance the environment and deter graffiti.

Tonya Miller Hall, senior adviser in the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, said the projects are designed to permanently improve the neighborhoods where the festival is held.

“It’s one thing to have a festival with a party atmosphere,” she said. “But how are we transforming and impacting the community?”

Celebrate Baltimore-based artists

During previous years, the artists exhibiting at Artscape tended to be divided equally among national, regional and local artists, BOPA officials have said. This year, Artscape “will be significantly more Baltimore-based,” according to Todd Yuhanick, interim CEO of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, though he wasn’t able to provide specific statistics.


A new indoor exhibition, called “B23″, will showcase 25 artists from Baltimore and the region, focusing on the work of Eugene Coles, who created the 1973 cover for Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s “Winter in America” album.

The B23 exhibit will supplement two longtime festival staples: The Artists’ Market and the Emerging Artist Program. The latter provides a free exhibit space, tent and tables to exclusively Baltimore-based artists who are showing at Artscape for the first time.

Watch models walk the red carpet

For the first time in Artscape’s 39-year history, the festival is spotlighting fashion as an art form. The new Project Artscape (modeled on the hit Bravo reality television show “Project Runway”) will take place Saturday and Sunday.

There will be a 40-foot runway located in the parking lot at 1727 N. Charles Street, a deejay, and professional models strutting and striking poses as they show off the fine points of clothing created by 31 local designers.

Fans will be able to vote on Artscape’s social media platforms for their favorite fashion designer, and the shows on both days will be streamed on social media.

“There are so many great designers in this city that more people should know,” Devin Shacklett, senior program coordinator for BOPA, said in a news release.


Maryland has a long history of impacting the fashion world, from the late Frederick designer Claire McCardell, who is credited with pioneering casual, comfortable sportswear for American women, to the influential Annapolis-born designer Christian Siriano, to former Baltimorean Bishme Cromartie, who last week won the 20th season of “Project Runway.”

Take in a sky show

Baltimore’s first-ever drone show will take to the skies over Artscape Friday night and will feature about 300 drones “illuminated, synchronized and choreographed to form Baltimore-inspired icons and animations,” according to a festival news release.

The drones are expected to launch around 7:45 p.m. and will be visible for five miles, according to an Artscape spokeswoman.

The drone show is being sponsored by the University of Maryland Medical Center in honor of its 200th anniversary and will wrap up with “a heartfelt message” from the hospital. The show will serve as “a love letter to our great city,” according to a social media post from UMMC.

Venture North of North

Artscape 2023 Charles St. detail. (Source:, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts news release)

The festival is expanding its footprint this year from its traditional locations in Bolton Hill and Mount Vernon north of North Avenue and into the Station North Arts District.

Programming in the area will include The Parkway Theatre, which will reopen Saturday and Sunday for a free, mini-festival of student films. Though movies have been part of previous Artscapes, Yuhanick said this year’s showcase took on added significance. Earlier this year, the Parkway, which operates the Maryland Film Festival, ceased all operations and laid off staff.


“The Parkway is at a crossroads,” Yuhanick said. “It’s nice to be able to reactivate it.”

The Station North Arts District also will feature the North Avenue Artists’ Marketplace, which will take place in the historic market between Charles Street and Maryland Avenue. For sale will be handmade gifts and decor created by artisans living and working in the arts district.

North of North also will include a pop-up stage presented by Queerscape. Visitors can view a cabaret show plus drag, dance and burlesque performances on Friday and Saturday and family programming on Sunday.

Hear DJ Pee .Wee, Muni, Dr. Madd Vibe and more

Artscape 2023 Mt. Royal Ave. detail. (Source:

The musical lineup at this year’s Artscape has been shuffled more times than a deck of cards.

But with just hours left until the festival opens, the headliners appear to finally be set: Friday will feature two Grammy Award winners: the rapper Anderson .Paak, performing as the character DJ Pee .Wee, and the singer-songwriter Muni Long, a.k.a. Priscilla Renea Hamilton.

Saturday, Angelo Moore, the lead singer and saxophonist for the Los Angeles-based ska and funk metal band Fishbone, will perform under his stage name, Dr. Madd Vibe.


Sunday will feature a headliner of a very different sort: Jonathon Heyward, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, will conduct a free community performance inside Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

With the exception of Heyward, the performers listed above will appear on the Mt. Royal Station Main Stage, 1400 N. Cathedral St.

But other musical entertainment will be presented on three additional stages spread throughout the festival footprint: on the MICA Stage at Mosher Street and Mount Royal Avenue; the Station North Stage at Lafayette and Maryland Avenues, and the North of North Stage at N. Charles and W. 20th streets.

Enjoy the early fall temperatures, but pack an umbrella. And leave the car at home.

Weekend Watch


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Technically, the weather probably doesn’t qualify as a festival “highlight.”

But this is the first — and perhaps last — year that Artscape will be held in the early fall instead of mid-summer. High temperatures are forecast in the mid to upper 70s instead of in the 90s as is typical of Baltimore weather in July.

Even though heat stroke no longer is a danger for Artscape 39, the National Weather Service is following a potential subtropical storm that could bring steady rain and wind gusts this weekend. As of Thursday, forecasters were predicting a 70% chance of showers Friday night, a 90% chance of showers all day Saturday and a 50% chance of showers Sunday. Plan accordingly.


And do not even think about driving to Artscape, because there is a good chance you won’t get anywhere close. There’s a lot going on in Baltimore this weekend in addition to the festival, from a Baltimore Ravens home football game to the Broadway tryout of “The Wiz” to Parents’ Weekend at the Maryland Institute College of Art. There’s going to be about a zillion road closures and snarled traffic on the arteries that remain open.

Instead, take public transportation. Everything — from buses to light rail to MARC trains will be free Friday through Sunday, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Yuhanick has said that BOPA plans to announce dates for the 2024 Artscape in a few weeks. The staff is assessing potential weekends between July and October, he said, and will attempt to avoid conflicting with religious holidays and other legacy events.

If you go

Artscape runs Friday through Sept. 24 in the Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon and Station North neighborhoods. The hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For details, go to