Arts and Lights
"Yeah, tomorrow morning I have to attend my little brother's First Holy Communion. I don't think that I ever went to one. My mom also told me that I looked stressed and needed to have sex."
~Victor, resident of the Station North resident
On Wednesday night I biked down to Lexington Market to experience Light Up Lexington, which is an event that keeps Lexington Market open until 9pm and highlights specific local vendors, breweries, eateries, and a few local musicians. Lexington Market is notorious for closing at 6pm, which make it difficult for workers coming home from work to find time to stop by the famous market and cultural landmark. It felt odd seeing the mixture of local African Americans intermingled with predominantly white, bearded hipsters drinking Union Craft beers and eating Jamaican patties as DJ Kool Flash crooned in front of a captivated audience. It was that odd mixture of subcultures in a historic Baltimore fixture, that drew me to come back to that downtown area that is smack-dab in the middle of the not-so-quaint transition from downtown Baltimore to West Baltimore.
The original plan on Friday involved making my way down to the Save Your Soul event at the Lithuanian Dancehall, but instead I stopped by the Copycat Building (1501 Guilford St.) to attend Alloverstreet, which is a monthly open art gallery exhibition featuring local artists' work inside the Copycat Building, the Baltimore Design School, Station North Tool Library, City Arts Apartment, and the Cork Factory centered around E Oliver Street. The most interesting aspect of Alloverstreet, is how the homes of student and community artists are opened up to the general public in order to showcase traditional gallery paintings on canvas, projection-mapped electronica piano performances complete with bongos, and interactive gallery-walks the patron becomes part of an interactive exhibit.
The layout of the warehouse residences and galleries reminded me of the grungy decor and atmosphere of clubs and bars in Berlin. I instantly became enamored by the eclectic mixture of demographics, outfits, and outlooks of both the patrons and the artists in the building. At one point, I ran into one of my old classmates from high school. Of all the places where I could have met him in Baltimore, I did not expect to collide into him during a showing of an "Ass Dance" art film in someone's studio apartment in Station North.
I spent a slightly hungover Saturday following the Kinetic Sculptures on their sojourn from Patterson Park and frequenting the bakeries of Highlandtown. As small as Baltimore is, it's very easy for neighborhood residents to remain insular and stay put in the local area. I decided to break out of the norm for a day, and sunbathed in Patterson Park as moving sculptures ranging from an eyeball hydra to a couch and coffee table bike-fusion muddled through an obstacle course, floated into the harbor, and raced down Lombard Street and ended up at AVAM (American Visionary Art Museum). I remember taking a nap on the hill by the Pagoda, and awoke to a man kneeling in front of his girlfriend as he proposed to her. I instinctively clapped and rolled away so as not to spoil any photographer's pictures with my pale, sunbathing body.
After questioning my own singleness and the meaning of marriage, I biked through the Highlandtown arts district where I pretended to speak Spanish in order to purchase a pastry at Vargas Bakery, and chatted with Julie, the owner and founder of the Y:Art Gallery and Studio that featured the paintings, pottery, rugs, and creations of local artists both local and international. I found myself reflecting on the oddness and quirkiness of the city. A few streets west would have brought me back to Patterson Park, a few streets to the east would have brought me to Greektown, a few streets south would have brought me to the gentrified Canton neighborhood, whereas the surrounding streets were inhabited by Latinos. Yet here I was, listening to an artist talk about how the small orange dots in her paintings of the beach and sea, selling for about $2000 each, made the sky appear more luminous due to the opposite sides that blue and orange inhabit on the color spectrum.
I finished my bicycle ride by sitting down on the slopes of Federal Hill Park, overlooking AVAM. As the Kinetinauts and the volunteers for the race drank their Tröegs Microbrewed Beer and ate their catered barbecue, I sighed with contentment at such an eventful day. As small as Baltimore seems to be, there is always more to intrigue me.