Adults, kids get creative at 24th Artscape festival


Monica Wiedel set up her table and her 6-foot fiberglass crab in the grassy area across from the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and invited people walking by to help her make art.

Wiedel, of White Marsh, put a layer of plastic wrap over the fingers of willing Artscape visitors, added a coat of blue paint and told them to "make their mark" on the crustacean she is designing as part of the Crabtown public art project.

She said she lets the people choose where to leave their fingerprints. "I am just kind of trying to let it evolve and see what happens," she said.

The 24th annual Artscape festival, which continues from noon to 8 p.m. today, is an opportunity for visual, performing and musical artists to display their talents. Yesterday, amid a cool breeze, blue skies and lower humidity, attendees had many ways to express themselves.

Children in particular had numerous hands-on opportunities at the newly expanded Family Fun Park.

Jensen Gaither, 3, helped his mother add yellow yarn hair, a green cloth shirt and multicolored buttons to a cardboard doll at School 33 Art Center's tent.

"He was the glue-it guy and he picked the fabric, and I did the cutting," said Jensen's mother, Pailin Hornbeck Gaither.

"We're doing all the crafts we can find," she said. Jensen made a paper crown and drew a self-portrait at the Baltimore Museum of Art's booth.

Jennifer Joyner of Baltimore watched her four sons try out a cello, violin and other musical instruments at the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra's tent.

"It's like a family day," Joyner said. "I thought the hands-on experience would be good for the children."

No additional hands were needed at the Punch and Judy puppet show on the median of Mount Royal Avenue, but the audience was asked to shout a great deal as the puppets teased and hit each other.

Later, the "Hands on Artscape" area, where the puppet show took place, was scheduled to offer workshops on spoken word poetry, line dancing, bebop jazz and other topics.

Audience members at the Mayor's Billie Holiday Vocal Competition, held at the Meyerhoff, were asked to select a People's Choice Award recipient from among the 12 semifinalists.

Bernard Roberson of Pikesville won that honor, while Debbie Poole of Reisterstown was named the winner. Poole, Roberson and three other top finishers will perform today at noon on the festival stage.

One of the best ways visitors help the artists is by taking their work home.

"I'm into big pieces of art that look different," said Marsha Alvarez of Owings Mills. The 3-foot-tall white plastic crane she was carrying seemed to fit the bill.

Alvarez said she decided to bring her granddaughter, who was visiting from Mexico, to the festival. "I'm pleasantly surprised at all the different things that are available," she said.

Terry Manning of Hampstead also was looking for unusual art.

"I wanted to come and find something different," she said. She held up a brightly striped metal and wood birdhouse with a copper flower decorating the front.

"I got this beautiful birdhouse and no one else will have one. ... I know everyone is going to say, 'Where did you get that?'"

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