Artscape 2011: First Person Personal
If it is the hottest weekend of the summer: It must be ArtScape. The weather gods spared Baltimore’s signature festival any record-setting heat this year.
ArtScape is the nation’s largest free arts festival, supported by 30 sponsors, 173 exhibitors, and 300 volunteers. 2011 marks the 30th year that Baltimoreans have taken their art to the streets. For the record, that is 12-city blocks worth of taking it to the streets – not to mention the juried exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances.
For the first few years after I moved back to Baltimore, my engagement with ArtScape was dropping in on the literary arts tent to pick up my year’s worth of Baltimore Review and spinning past the Art Cars. The rest of it was just too crowded to deal with. A few rounds of “oh how corporate” seem to come to mind. That changed three years ago. I volunteered.
I volunteered at GameScape, one of the new exhibits, this year. There are gamers and then there are Gamers. Neither of those categories includes me. I had my fill of the gaming experience after one turn at some unknown-by-me arcade machine. Chatting with art school game designers was more my speed. You know the type: More interested in the idea of games and gaming than the coding behind it all. In between visitors who needed directions to the nearest ATM or bathroom, I had a lot of time to simply watch.
Is gaming a culture or part of the culture? Never mind that there is no “the” culture. Tucked away in a corner gallery were a couple of digital art pieces that captured my curiosity and imagination. In looking at them I was transported not to some real place, rather it was some place that comes in a dream. In that sense the place was incredibly real. Real in the way that only the unreal can be. The artist, William Niu drew them as part of a video game project. William’s Japanese upbringing informs his sense of architectural space. An aspect of one culture morphs into another. He says in his artist statement that, “In many Japanese cities, buildings are jumbled together as tightly as possible to make the most out of the limited space and growing up in this environment, I learned to love the sense of culture, history, and compactness.”
On one side of town students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) explore graphic art in the context of culture. On the other side of town students at Morgan State University explore a culture of conserving space by building it. In “Light Box” students convert a shipping container into a living space.
Sustainability is about making connections. Art and culture are about making connections. Get ready to start making some!