Back Story: Arts patron revives outdoor festival in Druid Hill

Barbara Shapiro's love affair with Druid Hill Park dates to her childhood, when she passed through it daily on the way from her Ashburton home to old School 49 on Cathedral Street.

And even when construction of Druid Park Lake Drive in the 1940s and the Jones Falls Expressway in the 1960s removed many of its grand entrances, Shapiro never lost her affection for the park.


"I do think construction of the Jones Falls did separate the city from the park," Shapiro, 78, said the other day.

She also recalled attending the city's annual one-day Baltimore Outdoor Art Festival during the 1950s until its demise in the 1970s, held on the periphery of the Druid Hill Park Reservoir.


She missed the event, and after a nearly 40-year hiatus, decided to resurrect it a year and a half ago. She rechristened it with a new name, Art Outside, and it will open at 11 a.m. Sunday and continue until 4:30 p.m.

"Rain or shine," said Shapiro, a longtime Roland Park resident. She and her husband, Sig, are well-known patrons of the arts.

She wanted to couple the juried art show, which was founded in 1953 by Baltimore artist Amalie Rothschild, with a celebration of the 650-acre reservoir, completed in 1871 and featuring a 119-foot-high earthen dam.

During the show's heyday, it wasn't uncommon to have 300 artists displaying their work as crowds of upwards of 40,000 strolled through the exhibition.

Shapiro is reviving Rothschild's idea of the Paris or New York sidewalk art exhibition so that artists can hang or lean their work against the railing that rings the reservoir.

"I knew that people had warm feelings about the show," said Shapiro, who connected with the Parks & People Foundation and began to raise money for the event.

A whirling dervish of energy and ineffable good cheer, Shapiro did concede, "I had no idea what I was getting into."

So she did what any fundraiser does, and started writing letters to everyone she knew —friends, banks, corporations and foundations — asking for donations.


"My enthusiasm was pervasive, and I wasn't going to give up, so what did I do? I wrote another letter," she said.

"I started getting a lot of checks and eventually received more than $70,000. I never thought it would blossom like this," she said. "It all came from local people and foundations."

Shapiro allowed Parks & People to be her fiscal agent, drafted assistance from the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, got WYPR to agree to be media sponsor, and hired DLR Marketing to be the event's logistics manager.

She said she did not want the event to compete with Artscape.

"I wanted family and friends to come up and peruse the art, maybe even buy some, and remember how lovely Druid Hill Park is," she said.

"I also wanted to bring promising young Maryland artists to the show, celebrate the anniversary of the reservoir, bring people back to the park and celebrate the city, and this is the way to do it," she said. "I think we're on the cusp of great changes in the city."


She has convened a convoy of food trucks. Live entertainment will change every hour and include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids, Peabody Jazz Quintet, Booker T. Washington Golden Voices, Rachel Winder Quartet and others.

There will be wandering jugglers and magicians to liven up the show, and several Baltimore museums will provide entertainment for children.

"It's going to be a real neighborhood fun thing," she said.

There will be a Distinguished Artists booth that will celebrate Baltimore artists of the past who participated in the original festivals, including Rothschild, Aaron Sopher, Betty Cooke, Reuben Kramer, Herman Maril, Jacob Glushakow and John Waters.

More than 50 artists, who paid a $50 entrance fee, will participate in the juried show, whose categories include ceramics, clay, drawing and painting, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, photography, textile and wood.

As of midweek, Shapiro was still scurrying around putting last-minute touches on the event.


"Right now, I'm waiting for a callback from someone who might get 1950s automobiles to the event. Now that would be great," she said with her characteristic ebullience.

Those planning to attend Art Outside are directed to the western side of the reservoir, where there will be free parking at the intersection of Swann and Mansion House drives.

More information on Art Outside and a schedule of the day's events can be found at