One of summer's pleasures is to pack a picnic and spend some time improving your mind -- or at least your mood -- at one of many arts programs held in parks, plazas and waterfront amphitheaters.
Free cultural programs and events in the area range from big band concerts to outdoor performances of Shakespeare. Following is a sampling of what the area has to offer:
The city has a summer tradition of municipal band concerts dating back to 1860, when Baltimore became the first city in the United States to fund its own band. This summer the municipal orchestra will perform 14 concerts in various neighborhoods. In addition, the city sponsors big band and Dixieland concerts. Concerts usually run from 8 to 10 p.m. except for the Dixieland concerts, which run from 8 to 9:30 p.m. For details, call 396-7076.
The Municipal Concert Band with conductor George Gaylor will appear on the grounds of Northwestern High School on July 1. Subsequent concerts sites are: Wyman Park, Tudor Arms Avenue and 37th Street, on July 2; Patterson Park Pagoda on July 3; Good Samaritan Hospital Grounds on July 4; Burdick Park on July 5; Jewish Community Center on July 8; Village of Cross Keys on July 9; Fitzgerald Park on July 10; Carroll Park on July 11; St. Matthew's Church, Norman and Mayfield avenues, on July 12; Wyman Park Dell on July 15; Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on July 16; Bethlehem Lutheran Church on July 17; and Herring Run Park on July 18.
Baltimore's Big Band with conductor Gene Walker will appear at Hillsdale and Springfield avenues on July 22. Subsequent concerts sites and dates are: Lafayette Square on July 23; Ashburton Elementary School on July 24; Mount Washington Community, University of Baltimore field on July 25 (this concert will run from 7 to 9 p.m.); 500 block of Cherry Hill Road at Seabury Road on July 26; Coldspring Community, Tamarind Road and Springarden, on July 28 (this concert runs from 6 to 8 p.m.)
The Monumental City Six Dixieland Jazz Band will appear at North Harford Playfield, Berwick and Hamlet avenues, on July 30. Other concerts are at Mount Vernon Place on July 31 and at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum on Aug. 1.
A Thursday night concert series at Hopkins Plaza runs through Aug. 1. Tonight's concert features the Joe Cooper Project, reggae/jazz music, with pianist Lionel Jiggetts opening the program. June 27 Regency offers a cappella music,with the group Neccesite opening. July 11 Uprising performs reggae music with The Busload of Faith, a reggae and jazz group, opening. July 18 Deanna Bogart playes blues and boogie woogie, with Aleta Greene opening. July 25 Mama Jama presents calypso and African Cuban music with Mambo Combo, Caribbean music, opening. Aug 1 the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Orchestra perform, with The Larry Jeter jazz quintet opening. Concerts are from 7 to 10 p.m. For details, call 837-4636.
Harborplace is sponsoring a Summer Sunday Concert Series in Harborplace's outdoor amphitheater through August. The following concerts run from 7 to 8:30 p.m.: June 23 Jeff Order and Company play New Age music; June 30 the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors perform; July 7 the U.S Navy Commodores play a concert of jazz music; July 14 Community bands from surrounding counties perform; July 21 Ed Williams and his Big Band perform; July 28 U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note, Big Band present an evening of jazz; Aug. 4 Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra perform the music of the 1940s; Aug. 11 Aleta Greene performs; Aug. 18 Tim Eyerman and East Coast Offering play jazz; Aug. 25 Zim Zemarel Band performs; Aug. 31 the U.S. Navy Concert Band performs; Sept. 1 concert features the jazz sextet Moon August. For details: 332-4191.
Baltimore County has a free concert series, too. The following programs at Oregon Ridge Park begin at 8 p.m.: Baltimore County Public Schools Summer Music Festival is on June 26; Rendered Senseless perform bluegrass on July 12; Moon August performs on July 13; Zim Zemarel Big Band is scheduled for July 26; Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band perform on July 27; Prevailing Winds, Contemporary are scheduled for Aug. 9. For details, call 887-2757.
The "Towson at Night" series is held at the plaza behind the Towson Courthouse. Performances begin at 7 p.m. This year's schedule includes baritone Joe DiCara on June 30; the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble on July 14; Helicon on July 28; and Zim Zemarel's Big Band on Aug. 11. For details: 825-1144.
The Chancel Choir of Shiloh Christian Community Church will perform an outdoor concert featuring historic styles of black church music from at 3:30 p.m. July 14 in Brewers Park, at the corner of East Lombard and President streets. The concert is held in conjunction with the exhibition "Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Rise of Black Churches in Eastern American Cities, 1740-1877" on display in the Courtyard Exhibition Center of the Baltimore City Life Museums. For details: 396-4545.
All of the museum sites -- Carroll Mansion, 1840 House, Center for Urban Archaeology, Courtyard Exhibition Center, Peale Museum and H.L. Mencken House -- are open free from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
Shakespeare on Wheels, the traveling theater of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, will offer performances of "The Tempest" on its portable reproduction of an Elizabethan stage. The 40-foot flatbed trailer comes to UMBC on July 2 and 3; Howard Community College on July 5 and 6; Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville on July 8 and 9; Leakin Park on July 16; Wyman Park Dell on July 21; Allen Pond in Bowie on Aug. 6; Montpelier Mansion Grounds in Laurel on Aug. 8 and 9; the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore on Aug. 19 and 20; and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Sept. 6 and 7. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. For details, call 455-2476.
Artscape, the city's free arts festival, runs from July 18-21 in the Mount Royal Avenue corridor. It includes music, theater and dance performances, visual arts exhibitions, literary readings and activities for children. For details: 396-4575.
The Columbia Festival of the Arts, June 27-July 7, offers free workshops with such groups as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mum Puppettheatre and Garth Fagan Dance. The Festival also features a community arts picnic at 4 p.m. July 7 in Symphony Woods in Columbia. A free concert by the Columbia Concert Band and Last Chance Jazz Band highlight an afternoon of activities including a children's painting project. For details, call 381-0520.
The Walters Art Gallery offers free admission on Wednesdays and the Baltimore Museum of Art is free on Thursdays. Summer visitors to the Walters can discover the splendors of Hackerman House, its newly opened museum of Asian art. New exhibitions at the BMA include "Mirror Mirror: What Is a Portrait?" through Aug. 11. and "That's All Folks! Bugs Bunny and Friends Present The Art of Animation" through Aug. 25.