Baltimore is known as charm city, but beyond the kitschy neighborhoods and brightly colored row houses, is a city rich in artistic culture.
The Visual Arts:
The venues to experience the visual arts in Baltimore are endless. There is the Baltimore Museum of Art located adjacent to the Hopkins campus housing an impressive collection of works by Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir, and the largest collection of Matisse’s in the country. Like the impressive sculpture garden next to the campus, a great place to study and see contemporary outdoor works, admission is completely free. Down the road from Hopkins is the Evergreen Museum which is owned by the University. The mid-19th century home, an example of a classical revival in architecture, has been renovated into a museum which boasts an incredible private library and art collection, including pieces by Picasso and Degas. The Walters Art Museum in Mount Vernon is another free art museum holding collections ranging from antiquity to the 19th century, while The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is dedicated to displaying the craft of those who have not undergone any type of artistic training. It has unique exhibits such as kinetic sculptures and works of both practical and conceptual ideas. For those who want a more intimate setting, there are numerous local art galleries throughout the city.
Baltimore’s got theater, too! The Hippodrome, now part of the France-Merrick PAC, puts on large productions every year, commonly hosting theater companies touring the major stages in the US. Smaller plays are all around the city as well. Venues like the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre will commonly put on local plays. Centerstage Theater aims to engage theater-goers in thought-provoking and intellectually challenging ways through productions of both classical and contemporary pieces.
Baltimore’s music scene is quickly coming out of the underground, with local artists like Rye Rye, Dan Deacon, and Animal Collective gaining loyal followers and steady press. With such a diverse musical offering, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone Magazine voted Baltimore the best music scene in the country.
The sheer number of venues is a testament to Baltimore’s thriving musical culture: 8×10, the Ottobar, the Talking Head, and the Hexagon (a peer-run venue that also showcases local and independent artists and filmmakers) have a steady stream of new musicians and events. Even smaller places like the Copycat and the G Spot serve the needs of those looking for some local, more underground shows. As a popular stop for college radio favorites and more mainstream acts, Baltimore’s Sonar and Ram’s Head Live have hosted everyone from pop acts like the Ting Tings and Passion Pit to rappers Wale and Clipse. First Mariner Arena downtown offers bigger acts like Muse and top 40 radio favorites like Alicia Keys.
As the semester winds down each Spring, the Sweetlife Food & Music Festival includes multiple headliners just minutes outside of Baltimore. The artists range in genre but guarantee an unforgettable festival focusing on both music and local food, appeasing both the music lover and the foodie inside us all.
For those of you who prefer Bach to the Black Keys, you need not look farther than our own backyard. The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, America’s oldest music conservatory, regularly offers performances ranging from individual and ensemble recitals to full orchestra and opera concerts performed by students, faculty, and local musicians. The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall hosts classical music performances by the amazing Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which include hefty student discounts.
If you like movies, Baltimore is the place to be. The Maryland Film Festival, an annual 3-day festival in the Station North area, takes place each year. Students can get discounted tickets to individual films for only $8 a show.
If you just want to catch a movie though, there are plenty of places to do just that. The Charles Theater boasts an offering of first-run specialty films in addition to Hollywood movies, foreign films and cinema classics. Other locations include the Rotunda and Senator Theaters which are very close to campus. Landmark – Harbor East is a luxurious, newer addition to the group providing amenities like digital and film projection and a full bar. In addition, The Hexagon and The Patterson offer less mainstream cinema options. There are always screenings around campus, too; The HOP has weekly showings of a wide range of movies, while the annual French Film Festival and other events hosted by the Film & Media Studies Department constantly provides Hopkins students with the opportunity to find their inner movie buff.
Finally, if all of that is not enough, Baltimore hosts the largest free arts festival in the country every summer: Artscape. It features 150+ artists, fashion designers and craftspeople, including DIY/new wave crafters; visual art exhibits on and off site, such as outdoor sculpture, art cars, photography and the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize (Karen Yasinsky, a Hopkins professor was a finalist for the $25,000 fellowship in 2009). The festival also features incredible live concerts on three outdoor stages, a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theater, fashion, film, experimental music and performances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and family events such as hands-on projects. North Charles St. and Mt. Royal Ave. were packed last year with over 350,000 people and traffic in the middle of the city came to a standstill for the weekend. This is definitely something to check out when you’re in Baltimore for the summer.
The Arts Beyond Baltimore:
A Hopkins student should never forget that D.C. is just a short train ride away. During the week, a ticket is only $4 one-way. D.C. is loaded with great museums, including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian museums which are all free. Many musical artists perform in DC, so it’s just a short trip away from campus.
So whatever your style and taste, you can bet the Baltimore arts scene has something for you, at student-friendly prices to boot. So get off campus, check out the scene in Baltimore and appreciate all the art the city has to offer!