When searching around for schools to apply to, one major factor was location. Sure I could have stayed in St. Louis eating toasted ravioli all day and hanging out with Nelly, but when else in life do you get the opportunity to pick where you want to live and explore life in a whole new city? (Spoiler alert: not often). So when I chose Hopkins, I couldn’t wait to come and find what makes the city of Baltimore so unique with shenanigans along the way. In order to give you an idea of just a few of the things that I love in Baltimore, here are some top 3 lists that explain some of the best parts about living here.
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Morris Louis, Alpha Eta, MICA Brown Center
Morris Louis spent a lot of his career in Baltimore studying, working, and teaching. His work in color field painting shows the influence of artists ranging from Frankenthaler to Noland, while the work itself shows an exploration of raw canvas and the flatness of the paint becoming the subject itself. After Louis’s death in ’62, his widow donated Alpha Eta to the Maryland Institute College of Art where it now hangs in one of their digital art buildings.
Mary Cassatt, Young Woman in Black (Portrait of Madame J), Baltimore Museum of Art
When I first visited the BMA during my first few days at Hopkins, I saw this painting and it really stuck with me. I was used to the subject matter of Cassatt’s that I had seen in the past, portraying pleasant scenes of a mother and daughter, but this work exposed me to a different side of her work. I think that the quiet drama of this painting, as well as the intense daylight against the dark form creates for a work that plays on human emotions at multiple levels.
Andrew Raftery, Open House Series, Baltimore Museum of Art
The BMA’s main exhibition right now is called Print by Print: Series from Dürer to Lichtenstein. The coolest part about this show is that it was organized by Hopkins students in a Museums course last year. It presents a wide range of subjects, styles, and techniques in their entirety from the BMA’s permanent collection. One of the most intriguing works for me was a series by east coast artist Andrew Raftery that explored the common idea of real estate open houses in a way that increased the tenseness of the situation and created a distance between the figures and their environment.
Hopkins is continually adding to their collection of sculptures, while Baltimore is a huge outlet for outdoor sculpture.
George Segal, Woman with Sunglasses on Bench, Johns Hopkins University
George Segal is a renowned sculptor most known for life-size plaster cast works. While his work is widely exhibited -- I saw one of his pieces at the Smithsonian American Art Museum the last time I was in DC -- Hopkins was given one of his works two years ago which was installed in the MSE Library. While the piece is easy to pass up in the bustle of the library, it calmly stands its ground and invites contemplation from the often unexpected viewer.
Tony Smith, Spitball, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden
The BMA Sculpture Garden is great because 1) it’s literally right next to campus, if not on it, and 2) it’s really one of the coolest places in Baltimore. Whether you’re just walking through or coming to check out the dozens of contemporary sculptures, it’s a really calm and exciting piece. As hard as it to pick one favorite piece, I had to go with minimalist sculptor Tony Smith’s work, because the large planes of flat painted steel create really unique shadows while the form changes with the perspective of the viewer.
Baltimore is a great place to be for anyone who loves music, as the local venues and those nearby in DC bring about so many performers every year . These are my 3 favorite bands that all have some connection to Baltimore.
Future Islands -- Balance
Future Islands is an incredible band that plays new wave music that can put you in a delightfully chill mood. Not only are they based in Baltimore but they even played at last year’s JHU Spring Fair. Although I was just one year off from getting to see them, my expectations are high for this year’s Spring Fair lineup.
Animal Collective -- Brothersport
Animal Collective brings back countless high school memories of driving around St. Louis with friends jamming to their eclectic songs. The four members of the group all went to school in Baltimore County where they started out their career. Everything from their progressive beats to their downright kooky music videos, (the one above involving children wearing animal masks and neon water balloons, culminating in casual egg-painting/paint fighting dance party), make this band truly in a league of their own.
Dan Deacon -- Paddling Ghost
Dan Deacon’s experimental, electronic and energetic music is pretty out there, but that’s what makes it so great. His performances are supposedly indescribable (in the best way possible) and since he’s a Baltimore-based artist, he frequently has shows in the area.
Just because you’re on a college budget doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of things to around Baltimore for free.
The Book Thing
I went to The Book Thing for the first time with some floormates and was amazed at just how unique of a place it is. Basically they accept donations of books, shelve them, and then let anyone come and take as many books as they could possibly want…for free. Seriously, I walked out with a book on art history, a french dictionary, Huis Clos, and Candide, all for free. It’s a simple but ingenious concept and puts unwanted books into the hands of those who can use them.
The Baltimore Museum of Art in Charles Village and the Walters Art Museum in Mount Vernon (pictured above) are extremely close to campus and extremely free (if that’s even a thing). The Walters houses ancient to impressionist art, while the BMA’s collection ranges from non-western works to contemporary. The museums hold regular events, lectures, and exhibits, the majority of which are also free to the public.
It’s easy and yes, free, to get to the Inner Harbor to the spend the day walking around or go out for dinner by the water. It’s nice to know that you can always get there (did I mention for free?) and have a fun day off campus.
I’m going to attempt to keep my obsession with food at a moderate level while I highlight my three favorite Baltimore restaurants.
About two blocks away form my dorm is a little place called Carma’s. Personally I think their sandwiches are beyond good, especially the tuna, and they have homemade deserts including blueberry marshmallows. My friend got their meatball sub last time we were there and its been on my mind ever since.
Papermoon Diner is walking-distance from campus and exemplifies quirkiness. I’m a fan of their burgers and milkshakes, but, if you’re not distracted by the jumble of found objects cluttered around the dining rooms, you’re sure to find favorites of your own on the menu.
University Market (Uni Mini)
Uni Mini is, unfortunately for my health, about a block away from dorm and open 24 hours. It’s a late-night favorite at Hopkins from their breakfast sandwiches to hoagies to addicting mozzarella sticks all served up inside a convenience store. I may or may not have gotten hungry while writing this and gotten Uni Mini, hence the picture above.
Now, I really could go on and on about what makes Baltimore so crazy, enjoyable, and special, but why ruin all the fun? Personally, I can’t wait to spend the next 3+ years finding more and more of the things that make Baltimore so unique. Maybe it’s even the aspects that can’t be categorized in a list that make Baltimore so great. From the people you meet to the sense of community, there’s literally so much about Baltimore that can only be understood by coming here. You really can find the charm in Charm City if you’re willing to get out and explore the city, and trust me: it’s worth it.