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Charm City Fringe Festival seeking artists for expanded event

The Charm City Fringe Festival will encompass more venues and showcase more  performances when it returns in November.

This year, the festival will expand from a weekend festival to a five-day event mainly in the Station North Arts and Entertainment neighborhood. The festival will hold its main productions at the Theatre Project in Mount Vernon and at Single Carrot Theatre, says Co-founder Zachary Michel. He says he expects to attract between 1,000 and 1,500 attendees to the paid performances, and additional guests for the opening and closing parties.
The Fringe Festival’s goal is to highlight performance art in a range of genres, from plays to dance and burlesque. The Fringe Festival is different from other Maryland festivals because of its unique purpose to promote the “fringe,” or works that are not mainstream or well known. Michel says the festival was able to expand this year because it added three volunteers who are in charge of production and marketing.
Also new this year is the system that Michel and co-founder Michael Brush are using to find acts. Instead of booking performances, artists can now apply online at charmcityfringe.com by June 15.
Participants in Charm City Fringe Festival will have access to a performance space as well as promotion and marketing via the festival for just an application and production fee.
The festival aims to foster a community of theater performers, from up-and-coming companies to smaller groups, looking for the opportunity to reach a broader audience. Michel says that he hopes by bringing a diverse audience of established performance artists as well as young artists, the festival will allow new performers to network and establish valuable connections.
“We’re expanding our reach, we’re expanding the amount of artists that we’re taking in, we’re trying to bring more people in and overall just build up the scope,” Michel says.
Those interested in attending the festival can purchase tickets online as well as at the box office.

“I think that [attendees] are going to find that there’s just a lot that they didn’t know was going on and really discovering a new side of Baltimore so to speak,” Michel says. “To new art, to new people, to new rumblings that are going on that are going to be emerging in the next couple years.”

Writer: Daryl Hale
Source: Zachary Michel, Charm City Fringe Festival 

Maryland Film Festival highlights movies with Baltimore ties

Baltimore’s underground band scene and city kids on dirt bikes are among the themes featured in movies with local ties at this year’s Maryland Film Festival. Taking place May 8-12, the festival will host 50 features and 80 short films.
The following movies have local ties:
•  Matthew Porterfield’s “I Used to Be Darker,” which was filmed in Hamilton, Roland Park and Ocean City and has won festival awards in Nashville and Buenos Aires;
• “Hit & Stay,” which tells the story of priests and nuns in Catonsville who challenged U.S. intervention in Vietnam;
• “12 O’Clock Boys,” a documentary about a Baltimore dirt-bike rider, which just won the HBO Emerging Artist Award;
• “If We Shout Loud Enough,” a movie on Baltimore’s underground music scene and the band Double Dagger; and,
• “I Am Divine,” a documentary on the legendary drag icon that features interviews with John Waters.
The film festival added an extra day of movies in response to demand from the audience, says Maryland Film Festival Director Jed Dietz. Many people were turned away from films they wanted to see so festival organizers added more screening times.
Gabriel DeLoach, one of the filmmakers behind “If We Shout Loud Enough,” says the movie highlights the great music coming out of Baltimore.
“There’s a lack of cutthroat-ness and everyone is really encouraging of one another. There’s all these opportunities for musicians to put themselves out there.”
DeLoach lives in Charlottesville and became familiar with Double Dagger and other bands while attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. The band will be present for a Q&A after its Saturday evening screening. 

Says DeLoach, "It's a film made in Baltimore about one of Baltimore's best bands, so I think its only fitting that it screens there."

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Jed Dietz, Maryland Film Festival; Gabriel DeLoach

City tourism group offering 3-D map app on Android devices

Baltimore's tourism bureau is expanding its free app for tourists and convention planners to new platforms and neighborhoods.

The 3-D app of the city, known as BaltimoreInSite, will be available free for Android devices and downloadable from Visit Baltimore's website by mid-2013. The app is currently available on the iPhone. Since it was launched last year, 60 people have downloaded the app. 

The app's map will cover about half the city by this summer and the rest by next year, says Brian Russell, integrated practice manager at Ayers Saint Gross Inc. The Baltimore architectural firm developed the app, which currently covers about one-fourth of the city. 

“We are applying video game technology to telling about the city in a unique way,” Russell says. 

Baltimore InSite now covers the Inner Harbor to Amtrak’s Penn Station, including Canton, Fort McHenry and Locust Point. Future coverage will extend to Station North Arts & Entertainment District and the Charles Street corridor along with major institutions and attractions like Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore Zoo and M&T Bank Stadium. The app links to hotels, restaurants, retail and attractions that are Visit Baltimore members.
Visit Baltimore  CEO Tom Noonan says the app has several uses. Convention and hotel sales teams use it to show potential convention customers the layout of the city and its attractions. It is a media planning guide to find restaurants, caterers and venues. Tourists use the app to find attractions and walking tours.
Noonan says the app is an ongoing project.  The web version will link to other websites, and new buildings and attractions like Horseshoe Casino will be added as they open.
The app cost about $40,000 to develop, paid by Visit Baltimore and Ayers Saint Gross, which also contributed pro bono work to the project. 
Sources: Brian Russell, Ayers Saint Gross; Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore
Writer: Barbara Pash

Legislators want to make Pennsylvania Avenue an arts district

Baltimore delegates to the Maryland General Assembly have introduced a bill to create an economic development area to promote the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor in west Baltimore as a place to live and do business.

House Bill 203 designates the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor as an arts, business and cultural district, with tax incentives for developers, artists and cultural groups. The district's boundaries are from Orchard Street on the south to Fulton Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the west to McCulloh Street on the east. It includes the Upton, Druid Heights and Penn North neighborhoods. 
The bill's broad goals are to restore cultural landmarks, preserve and reuse historical buildings, encourage business and job development, establish a tourist destination and enhance property values. It authorizes tax credits for qualifying individuals who own or rent residential property or conduct a business in the district, or who move there after it has been established. Qualifying individuals are eligible for property tax credit and exemption from admissions and amusement tax.
The bill does not specify funding sources for the redevelopment. “You want to establish the district first and the dollars will follow,” says Democratic Delegate Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., a co-sponsor of the bill who represents the district. “There is an array of possible funding that the city and state could use.”
“Some commercial development is going on already on Pennsylvania Avenue but I’d like to encourage other types of development,” says Democratic Delegate Melvin Stukes, lead sponsor of the bill who also represents the district.
Stukes says he wants to encourage the development of the cultural aspects of the corridor, in particular the construction of a new arts center that would house the Royal Theatre and the Arena Players. The Royal Theatre opened in 1922 and was demolished in 1971. It was a major destination for black entertainers, including Cab Calloway and Ray Charles. The Arena Players is currently housed at 801 McCulloh St.
“I see a lot of black history in Baltimore disappearing and I am determined to save as much as possible,” Stukes says.
Mitchell says the district would not be the first such district in Baltimore. That honor goes to the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. 
“It will help not just Pennsylvania Avenue but all the housing surrounding it, from McCulloh Street to Pennsylvania Avenue,” Mitchell says.
Says Stukes, “This not something that will happen overnight. We don’t have preliminary figures for the cost and how long it will take. But we want to begin a serious discussion on having it happen.”

The bill had its first reading before the House Economic Matters Committee last month. To date, a hearing has not been scheduled. If passed, the arts, business and cultural district designation would need approval from the Baltimore City Council. 

Nonetheless, both Stukes and Mitchell say they are optimistic about passage in the General Assembly. “Economic development for the City of Baltimore is viewed favorably,” Mitchell says. “And in terms of revitalizing the arts in the city and that this is an historical area, it bodes well for passage.”
Sources: Melvin Stukes and Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., Maryland House of Delegates
Writer: Barbara Pash

National Endowment of the Arts Awards Grants to Station North Artists

Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. announced the third, and final, round of projects to receive funding for its “Think Big” initiative, which helps artists and musicians advance their projects.  

Station North, at 1800 North Charles St., received a total of $42,000 from the National Endowment of the Arts and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.

"A lot of projects are done on a small budget of $100 or so. With the funding, we could give them $1,000 or so and get to the next level," says Station North Project Manager Rebecca Chan. 

Chan says the funding was about evenly split among the three rounds. A panel of judges chose the winners, aiming for a mix of performing arts, visual arts and community outreach in each of the rounds. "Think Big" funding started in October 2011 and, as word got out, Station North received an increasing number of proposals from which to choose. 

Judging from the first two rounds, "Think Big" also succeeded in bringing more people to Station North and its venues. "We had great audiences at all the events," says Chan. "There was an increasing level of energy and activities."

Ben Stone, executive director of the community-based nonprofit, says more than 40 applications were received for the third round. "A lot of the [grant recipients], like theater companies and dance companies, have regular events so people can come back again,” says Stone. “More and more people see Station North as a destination.”
He says winners highlight the artistic talent and diverse venues in the Station North District. They include:

“Vacation,” works by 11 artists, curated by Elena Johnston, at the Pent House Gallery in Station North District, through August 30.

“Submit 10 Baltimore,” created/produced by Rachel Hirshorn, writers present short segments of current works, Monday evenings at Liam Flynn's Ale House.

Mosaic Makers’ mural at 201 E. North Ave., site of Project PLASE’s men’s shelter.  

“Akimbo,” professional dance series organized by Nicole Martinelli and Sidney Pink, on Aug. 31, Sept. 15 and Sept. 19 at Station North.

“New Lens” video screening and panel discussion about youth employment, Sept.29, 10:30 a.m. at Charles Theatre.

”A Drop of Water” by Sarah Doherty, sculptural transformation of a vacant lot on the 2100 block of Charles St.

Hosted at the The Load of Fun/Gallery, “Speaking” with Johanna Drucker, lecture, workshop and exhibition on weekend of Sept. 7 and 8.

Baltimore Rock Opera Society “Pitch Party II,” vote on next productions, Sept. 29.

High Zero Foundation/The Red Room Collective screening of experimental film and video, 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Charles Theatre.

Organized Sky Space Project’s Nights Lights, star-gazing and arts event, organized by Rachel London, 9 p.m. on Aug. 24 and Sept. 7.

Source: Ben Stone and Rebecca Chan, Station North Arts & Entertainment
Writer: Barbara Pash

Historic Baltimore Tour Gets a Following

Baltimore Heritage, a historic preservation nonprofit, says several hundred people have downloaded its new app for touring historic neighborhoods of Baltimore.

Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritages' field officer, says that he hopes the growth continues as it adds more neighborhoods and features. These include the neighborhoods of Mount Vernon and Franklin Square, neighborhood churches and other sacred landmarks. 

“The idea is to explore historic neighborhoods in a fun and informative way,” Pousson says.

The free app, which can be used on Android devices and iPhones, is available on its newly redesigned webiste or from the app store. 

The app is built on an open source platform developed by Cleveland State University that has already been used to create similar apps in Cleveland, St. Paul, New Orleans and Miami. Baltimore Heritage is using material it already had researched along with new material that was created for the app by students at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“We don’t intend to commercialize it. That’s not our mission,” Pousson says. Baltimore Heritage works in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The app has historical photographs, short essays and oral histories about different Baltimore City places. Users can select from different options for self-guided tours of neighborhoods like Station North Arts and Entertainment District or Bolton Hill, or for thematic tours, such as a War of 1812 tour.
Source: Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritage
Writer: Barbara Pash

Vehicles For Change Debuts Art Van

Vehicles For Change, a nonprofit dedicated to providing vehicles to the disadvantaged in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, is launching a new Art Van. The organization hopes the combination exhibit and ongoing art project on wheels will raise awareness for its program. 

The Art Van is a work in progress. Initial painting on the van's mural was done by the residents of the City Arts Apartments in Station North. After finding out about Vehicles For Change's desire to have an art car of their own, Danny Stuelpnagel, coordinator of the art cars exhibition at ArtScape, stepped in to coordinate the development of the Art Van.

Vehicles for Change will be taking the Art Van on tour this summer, visiting festivals and events around the state. The Art Van will be making appearances at the Annapolis Arts & Crafts Festival, Columbia Festival of the Arts, ROOTS Fest, and ArtScape.

At each stop, festival visitors will be encourages to explore the Art Van's interactive features. Festival goers will be encourages to contribute to the ongoing art project by taking up brushes to further embellish the Art Van. Visitors will also be able to interact with the Art Van by playing a game with the magnetic pieces attached to the van. The game is designed to raise awareness about the challenges faced by low-income families without cars.

Vehicles For Change has donated more than 3,500 vehicles to the disadvantaged in the area since its inception in 1999. The Art Van is being underwritten by Precision Tune and PNC Bank. The festivals at which the Art Van is appearing have waived exhibitor fees for the community outreach project, and local merchants have donated the prizes used in the game.

Author: Amy McNeal

Source: Robin Yasinow, Vehicles For Change


Barclay/Old Goucher Neighborhood to get $85M Makeover

The first phase of a major redevelopment initiative in Baltimore's Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood got underway last week. The innovative $85 million dollar redevelopment plan for the neighborhood was developed by community residents, neighborhood organizations, local developers, neighborhood social service providers, and city officials, in collaboration with urban/housing developer Telesis Corporation. The redevelopment plan will provide a range of housing opportunities including market rate and affordable housing, offered both for sale and for rent, in addition to new parks and community facilities and services including a Youth Safe Haven.

The first phase of the redevelopment will provide 72 units of affordable rental housing, 35 units of for-sale housing, and neighborhood jobs. Construction of the affordable rental housing, with a mix of new construction and rehabilitation, started in June 2010. In partnership with Healthy Neighborhoods, Telesis secured a $4.7M allocation of Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funds from the federal government, which will be used to rehabilitate homeownership properties. Construction of the homeownership units is scheduled to begin in late 2010. 

This redevelopment initiative is part of a larger, multi-party effort to redevelop the Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood and bring new opportunities and a better quality of life to the community. Deteriorated housing and high vacancies have left their mark on this architecturally sound neighborhood with committed community leadership.

In June 2007, Baltimore Housing and key community partners created the Barclay/Old Goucher Redevelopment Plan, strategically identifying redevelopment locations in the neighborhood. Telesis Corporation was awarded 268 parcels from Baltimore Housing, to be redeveloped in four phases that will complement the community investment initiatives, both underway, and recently completed. While Telesis focuses on the awarded parcels for redevelopment, many nearby organizations are contributing to the neighborhood revitalization by improving community gardens, rehabilitating privately owned homes, and establishing after-school programs for at-risk children. The result of this major, ongoing redevelopment effort will be a safe, stable, mixed-income community with a range of housing opportunities and community services.

Source: Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore's vital signs looking good says report

A new statistical analysis of Baltimore shows that the city has made important improvements in areas central to the city's improvement, including crime, housing, and education prior to the recession. Other social conditions, such as the number of teen births and the number of children with elevated levels of blood lead, have also improved according to the latest "Vital Signs" report by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute. However, the report shows that while there have been significant improvements in a variety of economic and social indicators in Baltimore, not all neighborhoods within the city have benefited equally.

Available on the BNIA-JFI's new website, analyzes data from nearly 80 indicators provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs, created by the Baltimore City Department of Planning, are clusters of neighborhoods organized around Census Tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don't always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

"This latest edition of 'Vital Signs' will help us access how our neighborhoods are doing and what we can do to help improve outcomes," says Janice Hamilton Outtz, senior associate for Civic Site and Initiatives at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "I am excited about the new report."

The 8th edition of "Vital Signs reveals the following important trends currently impacting the city:

  • The city's population declined by 3 percent, from 651,154 in 2000, to 631,815 in 2008. While a handful of neighborhoods lost population, several more, including downtown (22 percent), Loch Raven (8.4 percent) and Northwood (9.9 percent), experienced a growth in population.
  • Median sales prices for homes in the city increased by well over 100 percent in the past eight years, although the pace of that increase has slowed considerably since the start of the recession.
  • Both adult and juvenile crime has decreased in Baltimore City. In particular, Baltimore City's Part 1 crime rate has declined from 106.0 incidents per 1,000 people in 2000 to 78.3 incidents per 1,000 per people in 2008.
  • The number of residential properties receiving rehabilitation investment is climbing, and may be continuing as the recession lingers and more homeowners choose to stay in their current home.
  • Baltimore's high school completion rate is on the rise, while its rate of truancy in elementary, middle school and high school (including students who drop out of high school) is in decline.
  • The teen birth rate dropped from 83.3 teens out of 1,000 in 2000 to 66.1 teens per 1,000 in 2008a decline of 17.2 percent.

Other measurements, such as the larger number of Baltimore residents visiting local emergency rooms for non-emergency diagnoses and treatment, expose a city that continues to be constrained by larger trends such as rising health care costs and a lack of adequate medical insurance.

"While Baltimore City has made significant improvements in areas such as crime and education, we appear to be hampered by many of the same things that have struck other urban areas in this recession," says Matthew Kachura, program manager for BNIA-JFI at UB. "But we also are seeing some resilience, such as the increase in home prices, median household income, and an impressive number of small businesses based in well-established city neighborhoods like Edmonson Village and Greenmount East, and by the growing number of city residents who claim at least some higher education in their backgrounds."

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the "Vital Signs" report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

BNIA-JFI's latest product is a new Web site, www.bniajfi.org, which provides a wide variety of data, maps, and information for the City of Baltimore and its neighborhoods. Anyone interested in how Baltimore measures up can find easy-to-use statistical analyses, maps, reports and links relevant to the city.

This information is reflected in the latest "Vital Signs" report. For example, Edmonson Village reports the city's highest percentage of successful small businesses (69.2 percent), while a total of 50.9 percent of all city residents reported some type of college attendance as of 2008.

"These trends of educational attainment, lower crime and rising housing prices may not lead to a total revitalization for the city," Kachura said, "but show that many neighborhoods are improving and these improvements paint both a better and a realistic picture of Baltimore. The larger question is whether these trends can be maintained and translated into long-term improvements for Baltimore and its neighborhoods. For the most part, though, they are good news for the city."

Source: Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

City Arts housing development expected to create 168 jobs

Work has already begun on the City Arts, artist residence located in Baltimore's Greenmount West neighborhood. The project is part of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and will provide affordable housing targeted to artists, a gallery and performance space.

Homes for America, Jubilee Baltimore, and TRF Development Partners Baltimore are partnering to develop City Arts. The energy-efficient development is slated to bring 69 transit-oriented rental apartments and 8 for-sale townhomes to the neighborhood.

The rental portion of the project is being financed using $2.6 million from the Tax Credit Assistance Program, part of the federal stimulus funding, and the MD DHCD's Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The tax credits generated an equity investment of $9.3 million from Bank of America syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment. Bank of America is also providing bridge financing and a permanent loan of $1.3 million. MD DHCD also provided the project $135,000 through its Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability Program.

The project is expected to create or retain 168 jobs. The building construction began in December 2009 and is expected to be available for occupancy by January 2011.

Source: Jubilee Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Artscape, Book Festival have more than $30M impact on city

Baltimore's biggest festivals brought in major loot in 2009. Artscape, America's largest free, arts celebration and the Baltimore Book Festival, an annual celebration of the literary arts, had a combined economic impact of $30.48 million on Baltimore City, according to a study by Forward Analytics, a Pennsylvania based market research firm

Artscape, which takes place annually the third weekend in July, attracted an estimated 350,000 residents and visitors and had a total economic impact of $25.97 million with $7.02 million in direct impact and $18.95 million in indirect impact. Direct spending by out-of-the area festival-goers generated $350,950 in sales tax revenues for the State of Maryland.

More than 35,000 attendees traveled to Maryland for Artscape and 163,800 came from beyond the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Hotels in the area raked in $257,699, while the city picked up $20,677 in tax revenues. Festival-goers spent $9 million with Artscape vendors of which $3.5 million was spent on art from the exhibitors and $4.3 million on food and beverages.

The Baltimore Book Festival had an economic impact of $4.51 million, of which $1.22 million had a direct impact while $3.29 million was indirect impact. Book vendors earned $651,908 in sales; food and beverage vendors made $620,252; and other retailers gained $42,880 in revenue.

Baltimore Book Festival attendees spent $134,177 at area hotels and generated an estimated $10,108 in tax revenues for Baltimore City.

In 2010, the 29th annual Artscape festival takes place July 16, 17 & 18 in the Mount Royal Avenue and North Charles Street area of Baltimore City. The 15th annual Baltimore Book Festival takes place September 24, 25 & 26 at Mount Vernon Place located in the 600-700 blocks of North Charles Street.

Source: Baltimore City Office ofPromotions and the Arts
Writer: Walaika Haskins

New $500K grants program from City and NEA seeks to help artists keep their jobs

In an effort to assist with job retention for members of Baltimore's cultural community, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA) are seeking applications for the new National Endowment for the Arts/Baltimore City Job Retention Grant.

Funded by a $250,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and matched by Mayor Sheila Dixon and the Baltimore City Council, the grant program offers $5,000 to $25,000 to support full-time, part-time or contractual positions in the arts.

Non-profit 501(c)3 cultural organizations serving the Baltimore City community that have not received economic stimulus awards through the Maryland State Arts Council, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation or directly through the NEA are eligible to apply.

Applications or the grants are available at the BOPAwebsite. The deadline for applications is Friday, September 25, 2009.

Writer: Walaika Haskins
Source: Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts
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