Even as the sun begins to set, people filter into the festival. A couple walks north down a back alley towards the edge of ArtScape on the final night in Baltimore. 

For over thirty years, ArtScape, the largest free arts festival in the U.S., has taken place over a three-day period in mid July, centered in downtown Baltimore between Penn Station and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Most vendors and performance stages are located on either Charles St. or Mt. Royal Ave. The event annually draws more than 400,000 attendees, despite very hot and humid weather.  Both local and national artists are drawn to the festival resulting in a diverse display of art and performance.  Highlights include the main performance stage by the Maryland Institute College of Art and an extensive menu of international food served around the festival.

Even as ArtScape winds down with its final day on a mid-July Sunday, people from all over the country flock to the festival. Visitors pictured flood north toward the intersection of the two main streets, North Charles St. and Mt. Royal Ave, that artists and performers line. 

Always held in mid-July, ArtScape is plagued by high-temperatures that are compounded by Baltimore’s consistently high humidity. Multiple cooling stations offered at the event combat highs that in past years have reached triple digits. 

With a microphone in hand, connected to a large speaker in a shopping cart, a man interrupts the general unity of ArtScape in downtown Baltimore with homophobic speeches as he walks around the final day of the festival. At one point a heated argument occurs between the man and passersby which he had deemed sinners based on their appearance and dress.  Uncommon dress and costume is quite normal during the three days ArtScape takes place. 

A young boy plays on a bicycle wheel turned hi-hat as part of a larger informal non-traditional instrument band, consisting of ArtScape visitors in front of Penn Station in Baltimore. This informal musical expression is a common theme at ArtScape, with multiple areas dedicated to passersby generated music. 

Four roller-skaters talk amongst themselves while preparing to dance on skates at ArtScape in Baltimore. 

Two men dance on roller-skates on N. Charles St.  in the Station North area of Baltimore for ArtScape. The arts festival, which  usually attracts more than 400,000 people over the weekend, is located partially on the Maryland Institute College of Art’s campus and Station North, a large center of gravity of the arts in Baltimore. Both areas are home to numerous other artistic performances and galleries throughout the entire year. 

Though there are many scheduled performances by artists on multiple stages over multiple days, many local musicians simply play amongst the crowd on the sidewalk for tips. This saxophonist played for those taking a break to eat by a group of food trucks on the final day of ArtScape.

Members of the Capoeira Angola Baltimore chapter perform near University of Baltimore on Mt. Royal Ave. at ArtScape on the festival’s last day. ArtScape commonly features performances by many different groups, usually with great diversity and variety.   

 Each year the main stage at ArtScape draws large crowds that come to listen to the free music, even if generally most have never heard of each group before. In 2015 the headline act was Michael Franti & Spearhead on Saturday. Here, the audience lines the hill of the old Mt. Royal Train Station where the main stage is located to see the final performances on a Sunday night in July. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.