Braving heat, throngs enjoy Artscape 1995

THE BALTIMORE SUN

After singing "Tropical Love" at Artscape 1995 yesterday afternoon, Angela Bofill, dressed in a flowing purple pantsuit, called out to the crowd: "How you doing, Baltimore? Is the weather tropical enough for you? I mean, really!"

Temperatures hovered above the 90 degree mark, but that did not keep a lawn full of people from sitting outside to hear her music. And it didn't keep Susan Meyers, 47, from standing up and shaking her hips to the Latin rhythms of another band, Groupo Latino Continental, which performed salsa in Spanish.

Those performers were among the many facets of music, art, food and entertainment featured from Friday through today at Artscape 1995, Baltimore's annual summer street festival, which has attracted thousands of people this year.

Most visitors found plenty of ways to keep cool. One boy made a hat out of a wet washcloth, other children crawled under large sculptures to find shade, and 13-month-old Nicole Hansen delighted in her diapers as her father, Rick Hansen, 39, squirted her with a green plastic water pistol.

"She was dressed, but we just took it off," Mr. Hansen said of a red and white shirt that adorned her stroller. "She was getting sweaty."

The Baltimore Health Department set up a van for health emergencies, and reported that, at midday, two people had seizures and others had stopped in with blisters or to get pain relief medication.

At least 45 police officers patrolled the event. Public works employees made sure there were enough garbage cans and Spot-A-Pots. With all those precautions, the event seemed to move smoothly, despite the heat and an overcast sky.

It was cooler inside the air-conditioned Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where children lined up in the lobby to experience the

concert hall's version of a petting zoo. Youngsters could try to play a violin, harp, cello and other symphony instruments.

Kristen Allen, 4, of Towson got a shot at a violin and a cello, and called the experience "exciting."

The streets were awash with excitement, too. Moving through the crowds on foot, in-line skates and wheelchairs, festivalgoers sampled fajitas from Nacho Mama's, vegetable samosas from Bombay Grill and jerk chicken from Cajun Gourmet.

They spent plenty of time yesterday admiring art exhibits in booths lining streets, driveways and parking lots near Mount Royal Avenue.

Artisans from as near as Baltimore and as far as Georgia displayed their wares in booths that many paid $150 to use. Joyce Boyer, an art teacher at Baltimore County's Old Court Middle School, said that she made up that investment Friday selling the beaded earrings and bracelets she made in her spare time.

Not far away, Michael Jones displayed his wire-based sculptures. He bought the wires at a hardware store, and after covering them with a ceramic substance called sculpty, he fired them in his home oven. By mid-afternoon, he already had sold two sculptures, which he says are "ideas about history, religion, love and peace, stuff like that." His prices started at $50, but, he said, "if someone really wants one, and they have some money, we can talk."

Marcus Lee's artwork was more pricey. A painting he made of a jazz singer, to which he added such 3-D touches as a string of pearls and a flower, was going for $600.

Other booths sold leather goods, stained glass, pottery bowls and tie-dyed clothes, which prompted 22-year old Brian Oxendine to say, "A lot of the booths are too crafty. They should call it Craftscape."

Nonetheless, coming out from Owings Mills to Artscape with his brother beat sitting around at home, Mr. Oxendine said.

In addition to the art for sale outside, there were exhibits inside. One installation in Decker Auditorium featured a white floor dotted with holes. Walking by, a confused boy asked, "What are the holes for?"

An older companion replied, "It's someone's expression of art, I guess."

There also were literature readings, films and performance artists in nearby buildings.

Sheila Kasey, 46, found all the forms of expression informative.

"Overall, it brings the community together," the Baltimore woman said. "It opens our eyes as far as other cultural backgrounds are concerned."

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