Great cities have great art and Buck Jabaily wants to share Baltimore's greatness with the world
J. Buck Jabaily's idea of a perfect day is going to a film festival at 2 p.m., the symphony at 7 p.m, and end with a trip to an art gallery.
It's fitting for the 25-year-old who took over as executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance in January after founder Nancy Haragan stepped down.
Although he's only been in Baltimore a handful of years, Jabaily has already made a mark the city's cultural scene. He's one of the founders of the avant garde Single Carrot Theatre, based in Station North. The nine member company has won accolades from the City Paper and Baltimore Museum of Art Director Doreen Bolger. He's also held positions at Everyman Theatre and CenterStage.
Jabaily's enthusiasm and vision about building an arts audience was a big part of why he was hired to lead the nonprofit, Haragan says.
Leaders in the arts community expect him to continue Haragan's work advocating on behalf of the city's museums, theaters and other arts organizations. Jabaily says he wants to make the case for how the arts can improve the quality of life in Baltimore.
He describes his gig at the GBCA with an analogy. Haragan, Jabaily says, like Christopher Columbus charted the organization's course through the arts community as it set sail. Jabaily is taking over that role and now must guide the GBCA now that it has landed ashore.
OK, Jabaily wants to make clear he is not taking over a country.
"It's the second step of a great journey of raising the profile of the Baltimore arts community," Jabaily says. From East to West and back again
The arts, however, weren't always so readily accessible to Jabaily, the youngest of four children who grew up an hour from Denver, Colo.
His father and mother, from Boston and Cleveland, respectively, headed west moving to Colorado to raise their four children. They were inspired, Jabailly says, by the pioneering spirit of 19th century writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.
Jabaily remembers a quote on his father's dresser.
"Eastward I go by force, but westward I go free."
The family's Mountain State setting offered many things, it wasn't brimming with many of the cultural amenities easily found along the East Coast.
So, the family traveled to larger towns to see art films. And as a kid, Jabaily and his siblings would make their own theater by performing the annual nativity scene during Christmas. Theater struck a chord for Jabaily, who majored in it at the University of Colorado. A warm reception
Three years ago, Jabaily and a handful of his classmates chose Baltimore to start Single Carrot. They chose the city after scouting 50 cities, including Austin, Texas Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, because of the warm reception of the arts community.
One of his initial contacts in Baltimore was Haragan who was eager to see Single Carrot come to Baltimore and succeed.
"People were so excited about the arts in Baltimore and our company moving to Baltimore," Jabaily says. "The took time out of their day to talk to us."
His role in launching Single made him a good fit for his current job, says GBCA board member Tom Hall. "He has proven with Single Carrot that he is a good builder of organizations," says Hall, a WYPR radio host.
Selecting Baltimore as the home of his new theater makes him a credible arts advocate who can raise the GBCA's profile, Hall says.
"The [GBCA] board was impressed that he did a thorough survey of places around the country and decided Baltimore was a perfect place."
"Buck is going to be an important advocate for all of those goals," Hall says. Art is a beautiful business
Proving that art exhibits and theater play a vital role in the city's economy is a top priority, Jabaily says, especially as all arts organizations face the continued threat of losing city and state funding in a recession.
This week the GBCA will release the results of a three-year study that will show just how the arts generate money for Baltimore. Conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the GBCA has been tracking financial data submitted by arts organizations throughout the state.
"I hope it gives people a greater appreciation of the benefits the arts provide," Jabaily says. "The arts enrich the life of an city. Sometimes people don't see the greater economic impact the arts have on their community."
Another important question is how arts organizations will survive, Haragan says, when money is dwindling from donors, foundations and the government.
Jabaily wants to help Baltimore stake its claim as an important arts center in the East Coast, but without trying to cheapen its quality in any way.
"You can overhype your own art. I hope that the arts will be a source of pride" to residents. The GBCA can "help people who have lived in Baltimore all their lives appreciate the great art that is happening here."
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Photos by Arianne Teeple
1. Buck Jubaily, Executive Director Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance
2. Buck Jubaily, Executive Director Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance
3. A sculpture in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore, MD
4. Buck Jubaily, Executive Director Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance