Artscape '91 Art and entertainment fill the Mount Royal corridor


Late July. Traditionally the hottest two weeks of the year, and always a little bit hotter in the city. So how on earth are you going to make it through them?

A visit to Artscape may be just the ticket.

Baltimore's 10th annual festival of the arts kicks off today at 6 p.m. when the visual arts exhibitions, crafts, literary arts and cultural resource tents open up along Mount Royal Avenue, beginning three days of continuous free entertainment.

Tradition is tradition, so you can expect this weekend's temperatures to hover in the mid-90s, and there's a chance of some rain later today. But festival organizers say all events will go on as planned, and nothing short of a raging thunderstorm will send activities indoors. In fact, Clair List, director of the festival-sponsoring Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture, says she expects attendance this year to exceed 1 million, 350,000 more than last year.

Working with a slightly increased budget of $350,000, built up from corporate and private sponsors as well as city agencies, the word this year is variety. A new, broader range of performances highlight the festival, including Jeffrey Osborne and 10 x's BIG this evening, country singer Emmylou Harris tomorrow and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 99 and contemporary California pop artists Lowen & Navarro Sunday. Organizers have worked this year to cover as many musical and performance genres as possible, from R&B; and country to rock and Caribbean, and they also have expanded children's entertainment, outdoor exhibitions and shows for the hearing impaired.

Activities begin today when the visual arts aspect opens at 6 p.m. Located in two large tents at Preston and Cathedral streets, the crafts exhibition and market feature 47 exhibitors from across the country. There also will be five art exhibits in the Maryland Institute's Decker, Meyerhoff and Thesis galleries and in outdoor spots along Mount Royal Avenue. One of the outdoor works is a 10-foot-high, 30-foot-square walk-through maze. The visual arts exhibitions will remain on display through Aug. 11.

If it's comedy you seek, try Shakespeare's Skum on Sunday as they perform "Macbeth in 20 Minutes or Less" and "Tag Team BTC Romeo and Juliet." Or you may catch street performers doing their respective things around the tents, including the unicycle-bound Disorderly Conduct and the Turtle Man's "amazing" turtle races.

There's something for everyone. If you're the bookish type, you can attend one of the many literary readings in the Moot Court Room, or the Artscape Literary Awards ceremony for poetry and short story writers on Saturday. And if you're a child, you have the Art-Ventures Children's Activities Tent, where the theme this year is literacy. Go Global! International Performances for Children will present music, stories and puppets on both Saturday and Sunday.

See, there's no excuse for having another boring mid-summer weekend.

Unless you're weird. If you are, and you find nothing at Artscape to your taste, try "Foodscape," an art exhibit at Mount Royal Tavern. This annual spoof of Artscape, begun after the festival's first year by a group of bitter Artscape rejects, features the works of 10 Baltimore artists and one theme -- food.

Enough said.

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