Enjoy Summer by Binge Watching Movies and Reading a Baltimore-Born Beach Book

Saturday was the first day of summer and already it’s “Back to School” season!  From appalling media reports we learned that retailers are rolling out supplies for the fall.  Just be sure your kids don’t grow over the summer, or they may be mighty uncomfortable in that new pair of school jeans come September.
While we’d like to slow things down here a little, everyone in the cultural community is full tilt into fall 2014. Seasons have been announced, exhibition schedules are locked in, and yes the gala/fundraising calendars for as far ahead as spring 2015 are being booked. Make sure you take a look at GBCA’s upcoming events schedule to keep up with summer fun and see what’s in store for the rest of the year.  In just a few days, GBCA will unveil a complete facelift of the BaltimoreFunGuide.com.  On Thursday when it lands, you can be among the first to explore our new highly searchable, responsive, and comprehensive guide to the region’s extraordinary cultural offerings.  More to come!
In the meantime, enjoy summer by binge watching a little Barry Levinson, Matt Porterfield and John Waters.  The nostalgic Ping Pong Summer is up and available on Netflix. Also, break out those Baltimore-born beach books. Looking for some excellent summer reading?  Check out Baltimore area writers from the serious to the comedic –Jen Michalski, Wes Moore, Taylor Branch, Marion Winik, Laura Lipman, Sujata Massey, and Michael Salcman, just to name a few.
And speaking of books, congratulations to CityLit who celebrates ten great years at its anniversary event tomorrow evening.


“Culture is not the icing on the cake, it’s the sugar and the eggs—you really can’t make a decent city or cake without it.”

I was heartened to see the Mayor’s comments following the recent dust-up over city-funded murals on vacant properties in Baltimore.  Art is often ephemeral and that quality can be used as a powerful means to communicate with audiences.  Murals in cities around the country have provoked dialogue about the impact of absentee landlords, dilapidated properties, and the physical degradation of communities.  But they have also focused light on the value of neighborhoods, home, and people who live with a scarcity of resources and respect.  Thank you to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for believing in the “…transformative power of art in our community.”   Given how little public funding is available to the arts and the amazing (documented) return on these scant funds, we should rise above the false argument that somehow money spent on culture is money not spent on public safety, housing, and other basic human needs.  Culture is not the icing on the cake, it’s the sugar and the eggs—you really can’t make a decent city or cake without it.

Although it was City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young who took issue with funding the murals, it is great to see that he has so quickly turned his attention to the important matter of support in public schools for both the arts and physical education (which also should not be considered a luxury).  His commitment to bringing attention to these issues is a step in a great direction.

In an exciting development this year, Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced the revival of the Creative Baltimore Fund and publicized the first round of grantees today.

Speaking of grantees, last night Creative Capital visionary Ruby Lerner joined Deutsch Foundation visionary Jane Brown and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to present the first round of Ruby grantees.  We couldn’t be more proud of these amazing artists and excited to watch the development of their projects.

Last week, I attended a reception for the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program that brings nationally known writers into public high schools.  The 2014/2015 program in Baltimore receives funding from the Maryland Humanities Council.  The PEN/Faulkner Foundation will host 45 author visits, working with 14 teachers and 550 students in Baltimore City Public Schools.  The program includes donated books and is free to schools and their students.  Wow—thanks to MHC for helping to make it happen!

Remember, it’s not the heat – it’s the humidity,

P.S.   Howard County is “bringing it home” with the Columbia Festival of the Arts.  Be sure to check out the amazing offerings of this two-week long event.

Liz Lerman’s Incredible Impact on the Arts, and Our Thanks to GBCA Membership and Development Manager, Melanie Robey.

This past week, Liz Lerman’s Healing Warswent into production at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.  As the Washington Post reports, “The show, which is at Arena’s 200-seat Kogod Cradle through June 29, is a cornerstone in the ambitious, Lerman-inspired National Civil War Project, with partnerships between universities and arts organizations in the District, Baltimore, Boston and Atlanta poised to yield a dozen newly commissioned works.” 

Liz continues to have an incredible impact on the international arts scene incorporating science, social justice, medicine and so many aspects of humanity into her work.  We are so fortunate to have her living in Baltimore while working and engaging in partnerships throughout the area.  She has and continues to be a tremendous asset to GBCA and particularly the development of the Urban Arts Leadership Program.
Many of you know Melanie Robey, Membership and Development Manager for GBCA, and will be sad to hear that she is leaving GBCA.  Melanie joined the GBCA team in May 2012 and has played a critical role in the organization’s growth and development.  With a steady hand, Melanie has overseen GBCA’s growth in membership from 80 to over 300 organizations and individual artists.  Happily, Melanie is leaving for a wonderful job in Washington and will continue living right here in Baltimore.  Please join us in both thanking Melanie, and congratulating her on her new position!
All the best,

Our Wonderful State-Designated Arts Districts

Maryland is home to 22 wonderful state-designated arts districts administered by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). In the Baltimore region alone there are districts in Annapolis, Bel Air, Havre de Grace, and three in Baltimore City including Station North, Highlandtown and Bromo Tower.  Have you ever wondered what it means to be an arts district and how the districts work to “develop and promote community involvement, tourism and revitalization through tax-related incentives that attract artists, arts organizations and other creative enterprises.” (MSAC)?
Rebecca Chan, Program Manager for Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc., has a great overview in the most recent Create Equity blog post. Among the things Rebecca discusses: “naturally occurring” versus purely designated arts districts, benefits, and the extent to which artists and cultural businesses are actually availing themselves of these benefits.  Through recent advocacy by Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) and support from Governor O’Malley, Maryland appears to be ahead of the curve in increasing the value of these benefits to working artists.
Recent legislation expands the definition of a “qualified residing artist” under the state’s Arts & Entertainment (A&E) District law. Previously, the law restricted the income tax subtraction modification benefit to only artists who lived in the county/city where the A&E district was located, and could only be applied to art created and sold in that same district. Now ANY Maryland resident may take advantage of this credit on work created and sold in ANY of Maryland’s 22 A&E districts. This should be a great boost for all of the A&E districts for further revitalization and certainly helps working artists from all over Maryland who may now choose to create and sell their art in any A&E district in the state (MCA).
Good news for artists and great news for communities.
Happy Tuesday,

It’s the Season to Go Outside and Play!

Memorial Day is behind us and thank goodness it’s ok to start wearing white! It’s also the season to go outside and play. Get out there and enjoy your local farmers’ markets, the waterfront and Baltimore’s many neighborhood festivals. Visit Baltimore even has a helicopter tour of Monument City on its website. Over the Fourth of July weekend, catch GBCA member the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Oregon Ridge.

Of course we are all looking forward to the summer’s biggest arts festival, Artscape. GBCA and its members will be there promoting the area’s amazing arts and culture scene AND the relaunch of the new and improved cultural calendar.

Even after summer ends, Maryland will celebrate a Star Spangled Spectacular including a weekend of events at Fort McHenry and the Inner Harbor complete with fireworks. The line up starts on September 10th and runs through the 16th.

Speaking of outside, last week Howard County government and The Howard Hughes Corp.  announced an agreement that will result in the $19 million renovation of Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavillion. According to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the outdoor concert venue leverages more than $30 million in arts and culture funding. Once the renovation is complete in 2019, Merriweather will be turned over to the nonprofit Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.

Looking forward to seeing you in the great outdoors,


Be an Informed Arts and Culture Voter

The Maryland gubernatorial primary race is heating up and you are probably eager to know where the candidates stand on arts and culture issues. Fortunately, Maryland Citizens for the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland have both invited all candidates to answer questions about support for arts and arts education.

Maryland Citizens for the Arts received responses from Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Charles Lollar, and Heather Mizeur to the following questions:

1. For over 20 years, Governors and legislative leaders have shared a goal with Maryland Citizens for the Arts and the arts community throughout the state to fund the Maryland State Arts Council’s budget at a level that enables the sector to maximize its impact in the state. What is your position on public funding for the Arts and, if elected Governor, how will you express that position in the state’s budget?

2. Arts and cultural organizations in Maryland contribute immeasurably to the quality of life in our state. In addition, the arts in Maryland have a major positive impact on the state’s economy, supporting over 12,000 jobs, generating nearly $48 million in state and local taxes, and creating an overall economic impact of over $1 billion dollars. What role can the arts play in Maryland’s economic growth and vitality? How will you commit to including the arts sector in critical planning conversation about the future of Maryland?

3. The Maryland State Board of Education has adopted the goal that 100 percent of Maryland’s students will participate in fine arts programs that enable them to meet the content and achievement standards established by state standards for the arts. While Maryland has excellent arts education programs in many schools there are schools, particularly in high poverty areas, where programs are non-existent, which is in violation of State regulation (COMAR 13A,04.16.01). On September 16, 2013, the Governor’s P-20 Leadership Council established a Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools and gave it the following charge: Recognizing that a task force on arts education will be a powerful conduit for conversation and action in our state, the arts education task force is an important step to maintaining the arts as a major instructional focus for creativity, imagination, and innovation. The task force will create an action plan that ensures a quality arts education for all Maryland students. Please explain your position on arts education and share your thoughts on the current P-20 Leadership Council’s Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools.

Young Audiences received responses from Anthony Brown, David Craig, Doug Gansler, Ralph Jaffe, and Heather Mizeur to the following two questions:

1. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities made five recommendations to reinvest in arts education (included in the full report, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools”). Two of them are expanding the in-school use of teaching artists and developing the field of arts integration, the practice of using the arts as a tool to teach other academic subjects. Do you agree? If so, how would you, as governor, move these recommendations forward?”

2. We are concerned both by the cuts in arts education and that our standardized testing model does not recognize the full set of capacities needed to ensure that Maryland has a thriving workforce and a civil society. As governor, how would you address our concerns?

Be an informed arts and culture voter AND let your candidate know where you stand!


Artscape 2014 and a New Online Cultural Calendar

In Artscape news, for the first time the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) will be participating with a tent to promote its more than 150 organizational members.  Thanks in part to support from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, GBCA will create a venue with information and performances that highlight the rich and diverse arts and cultural offerings of the Baltimore region.  If you are a member, watch for an e-mail inviting you to participate.  Not a member?  It’s not too late to join.

In order to capitalize on the area’s thriving arts and culture scene, residents, tourists and students all need a way to navigate the many events and attractions available on a daily basis.  Likewise, a thriving arts and culture community lives on its audiences and requires tools that will drive patrons to their venues. In short, Baltimore needs this highly visible and comprehensive online arts and culture calendar.

Since 2004, GBCA has managed the online cultural calendar, BaltimoreFunGuide.com and has built both an audience and track record of success.   However, the site has not been significantly upgraded since 2008, leaving a lag in technology, usability, and responsiveness to the evolving cultural climate.  All of that is about to change.  For the past year, GBCA has been working on the redevelopment of the calendar and its website.  When the new sites are rolled out in late June, they will more broadly represent the cultural community, strengthening the marketplace for artists and arts organizations alike.

Watch for more to come on both these exciting fronts,


P.S.  Remember, Thursday night is ArtWalk at MICA.