The city’s Board of Estimates voted Wednesday to restore $581,334 to the beleaguered Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts two weeks before the scheduled relaunch of Artscape, the city’s marquee public celebration of the arts.
Without discussion, the Board of Estimates approved what amounts to funding for the second quarter of the 2023-24 fiscal year, which began July 1. The board is expected to meet again in December to consider releasing the third-quarter installment.
The Baltimore City Council will decide at a future meeting whether to ratify the board’s recommendation.
On June 14, the City Council voted to withhold $1.7 million from BOPA until the agency could demonstrate that it was addressing concerns raised by city leaders. Their criticisms ranged from complaints about how BOPA was being governed to the controversies swirling around the planned relaunching of Artscape, which is billed as the nation’s largest free outdoor public celebration of the arts.
Artscape is scheduled to return Sept. 22-24 for the first time since 2019.
A brief public summary of the recommendation to restore funding said that “the Administration and City Council have determined marked progress has been made in these areas” and that “BOPA has complied with the requested actions of the City Council.”
The agency appears to have achieved a measure of internal stability since the June 1 appointment of Todd Yuhanick, a public relations executive and film producer, as interim CEO. Nevertheless, BOPA and Artscape have continued to be pummeled by a barrage of negative headlines.
In late May, city officials learned that two years previously, BOPA leaders had attempted to trademark the name “Artscape” — an effort slapped down by the city lawyers.
In July, four major cultural institutions located within the festival’s expanded footprint wrote a letter that they were being left out of the planning process and expressing concerns that Artscape, which was pushed back this year from July to September, could disrupt activities from college classes to concerts.
Last week, musical headliner Kelly Rowland dropped out just three weeks before she was scheduled to perform.