Remarkably for a city of such limited population – just over 622,000 at last count – Baltimore has become known as fertile ground for art and artists. The reasons usually given make perfect sense. Combine some of the lowest rents available in any major East Coast city with a relatively large student population, a world class art school in the Maryland Institute College of Art as well as the Peabody Institute, a permanent population of other artists who call the city home, a neighborly, small-town feel along with a welcoming attitude by city and state government, and New York style loft spaces available for little more than a song – and the result is a town that presents art in one form or another nearly around every street corner.
The Baltimore Mural Program can boast of at least 250 murals that have been developed since 1987, and their presence is brightening the landscape all over the city. (The photo accompanying this article is in Little Italy, highlighting their outdoor summer movie nights.) There’s also a map available put together by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts that can show you how to find each one.
As a way of turning lemons into lemonade, the city has embarked on an ambitious program to convert underused buildings like the Bromo Seltzer Tower into an artists’ community, and revitalization-ready neighborhoods like Station North into the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
Now Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced that she’s working with Amtrak to improve the view from the train for first-time visitors as they enter Baltimore, by rehabbing or tearing down vacant homes near the tracks and converting them to green spaces.
Baby steps? Maybe, especially for a city seemingly beset by so much pain and difficulty, not to mention a bad rap via television shows that display the worst of our town. But for the thousands of artists who live and produce here and the many more thousands who appreciate their efforts, we say “bravo.”