Connecting the DC and Baltimore art scenes
Soon after the Busboys & Poets opened at 14th and V in 2005, I went there for a happy hour hosted by someone who was trying to bring together arty people to meet each other. There I met David London. I thought he was strange and kooky. I think he knew he was strange and kooky. In fact, I think he tried to play it up a bit. But I also thought he was one of the most creative and brilliant people I'd ever met and I wanted to be friends with him and we have been ever since.
We've collaborated here and there over the years, and I've really enjoyed watching him grow as an artist and as a person over the years. We've grown a lot together and we've helped each other. But what I really like about him is that he thinks about the art world beyond himself and he thinks about how he can help his fellow artists grow and thrive and how he can contribute to helping the entire art scene thrive. He's in Baltimore now and he is doing just that and he is just great. David is working for an online arts magazine called What Weekly whose mission is to document the Baltimore Renaissance. (We'll find out what that means in a minute.)
I've been thinking a lot about Baltimore and how DC's art scene can better connect to it. There's so much we can learn from each other, plus I feel like there's an opportunity to build a stronger art scene for both cities by joining forces whenever it makes sense, maybe promoting and supporting each other's cultural events and programs. Who knows. What I do know is that David and I have worked out a plan to start posting highlights from each other's cities on our respective websites and to keep working toward finding stronger connections between DC and Baltimore.
The Pink Line calendar now posts events from Baltimore. Each week starting next week, we will start posting highlights from Baltimore on the Pink Noise blog with guidance from What Weekly. David included a few of his picks in the interview below. I'm really excited!
So I asked David a few questions about Baltimore and What Weekly....
Documenting the Baltimore Renaissance. What does that mean?
That is a two-fold question. First, with this public statement we are proudly proclaiming that there is a renaissance taking place here in Baltimore. For many who live here, especially for those engaged in the arts, it is clear that something is happening. There has been an explosion of creativity in the city over the past many years that is quite palpable.
In terms of documenting, we have taken on a mission to keep a pulse on what is going on here. We publish Baltimore’s good news: Photo essays, profiles, and features on the people, places and events that are contributing to the city’s revival and ever growing creative activity.
We also recognize that our work steps beyond documenting; it actually fuels the renaissance. By bringing positive attention to Baltimore’s art, artists, businesses and entrepreneurs, What Weekly helps to push things forward for the city’s makers and doers.
What is your impact on the Baltimore art scene?
In many ways, we serve as a promotional engine for Baltimore arts. We regularly feature upcoming events, provide coverage for events, drive support to local artists, projects and creative endeavors, and offer a common meeting ground for those interested in what’s going on here.
When did What Weekly start? Who are the masterminds?
Brooke Hall and Justin Allen started the publication in early 2010. As the founders of Brooke Hall Creative, they took their web-savvyness and transformed it into the publication we see today. Early on, there was a lot of sweat equity involved as they found themselves out and about, nearly seven days a week. Brooke and Justin remain at the forefront of the operation.
Two staff photographers, Philip Laubner and Theresa Keil, have been an integral part of the project for a long time. In many ways, their photography has been the heart of What Weekly, providing unique perspectives on the goings-on here.
I was brought on earlier this year to serve as the Managing Director, to oversee magazine operations and help take the magazine to the next level.
Over the past 2 and a half years, we have always relied on a long list of volunteer contributors, to whom we are always grateful.
You’ve produced events. Are you planning more? What’s down the pike?
As a web-based publication, we recognize the need for people to gather offline. We have thrown several parties, including the Hoodoo Dance Party, and we are currently planning our next big party for September 15th called The FritzBall. This event will be held at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and feature a Circus of Wonders, open bar, a DJ, and lots of ass shaking!
We are also currently planning a series of financial training seminars for creative leaders called “Mind Your Business” with PNC Bank, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. This will be a series of four hour events providing free information and training for those who want it.
We have several exciting events in the works for 2013 including happy hours, small gatherings, and perhaps even a full-fledged conference.
I first met you in DC and knew you as an artist and worked with you as an artist. What made you want to move to Baltimore? And what made you want to start working with What Weekly?
My simple and stock answer as to why I moved to Baltimore is “more freaks.” The long answer is that Baltimore seems to be more comfortable with alternative modes of expression. There is something refreshing about walking down the street and seeing handfuls of people who look, dress and act in a way that is nontraditional. When outside-the-box thinking becomes the norm, you are pushed even further outside your own box, and “normal” thinking becomes increasingly boring.
A few months after we arrived in Baltimore, we threw an event called The Winter Festival of Wonders, which was a three day celebration of wonder, magic and play. I linked up with Brooke and Justin prior to the event, and started writing stories on some of the artists who were to be involved in the festival. As they became aware that my skill set matched what they needed, they offered me that job. That was six months ago.
Do you feel that you are growing as an artist in Baltimore?
I have certainly found many more similar artists here, which is always inspiring. The performance community is small, but there are some really amazing people in it. I feel like my business has grown here, though maintaining my ties to DC also helps with that. It is fairly easy to draw a crowd to a show here, and experimentation is always welcomed with open arms.
How do you define Baltimore as a city?
Baltimore is a working-class city with a lot of struggle. The working-class element leads to a feeling that many of us are on the same page. The struggle that is felt leads to a feeling of hope. Baltimore is a city with a lot of potential. Most importantly, as a post-industrial city, Baltimore has a lot of available space to live and work in. This makes it easy to make and show work.
How can both Baltimore and DC benefit from being more connected in their art scenes?
I think that Baltimore has a strong DIY spirit running through it veins. One side of this is the “we can do anything” attitude. That is wonderful, but not always very serious. DC tends to take itself very seriously across the board. I think that DC could benefit from more of a DIY spirit, while Baltimore could learn to be a bit more serious.
I think that art fans and lovers from both cities would greatly benefit from exploring the two very different worlds that exist less than an hour apart from each other. Perhaps there is a synthesis that could occur that would help propel both cities to the next level of creative expression.
What are you most excited about in Baltimore arts in the next couple months?
We are wrapping up with the summer festival season here, and as things move towards fall, there’s lots taking place.
That same weekend, legendary artist Johanna Drucker will be presenting a series of lectures, workshops and an exhibition at Load of Fun (www.loadoffun.net).
There are several amazing collaborations in the works, including AKIMBO (http://www.akimbobaltimore.com/), which is a large scale outdoor collaborative dance project taking place at 15 sites throughout the Station North Arts & Entertainment District on September 15th.
As I mentioned above, our FritzBall Dance Party (www.whatweekly.com/fritzball) is also on September 15th and should be a blast!
Mobtown Moon (http://mobtownmoon.com/) is a large scale musical collaboration which re-imagines the songs of Pink Floyd. There is a preview performance at the Creative Alliance on September 8th.
Every October, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and The Arts hosts a month long festival called Free Fall Baltimore (http://freefallbaltimore.com/). This is an entire month of free programming, and a great time to come to the city. Most of the museums have free days during the months, and there is a variety of other amazing free programming as well. You can take free stilt-walking classes with Nana Projects (www.nanaprojects.com), visit the Mushroom City Art Festival (http://mushroomcityartfestival.wordpress.com), and attend a long list of free classes, workshops and shows!
Also, definitely keep an eye on The Theatre Project (http://theatreproject.org/), which has an amazing lineup of shows for the end of 2012 and into 2013, including In-Flight Theater’s (http://www.in-flighttheater.com/) ‘For That Which Returns” which opens November 1st.
That’s just a few of the things that pop to mind, but our event calendar is always filled with amazing things taking place here!
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