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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

In a city with some 30,000 vacant rowhouses and lots one sometimes get the feeling that we’re scuttling around an empty shell of a city that was once great. It can be a thrilling feeling, like when you’re up in Floristree with musicians making a lot of noise in an industrial building that was abandoned to the rats and termites –and now has been reclaimed by young, energetic artists with a passion to carve out a vibrant arts culture. Mostly it’s depressing and creepy to wander a block away from home and find rows of unwanted houses and tarred lots with weeds poking up through the cracks. Because usually, you only have to walk a couple blocks before you find one that looks like this.

The city looks ready to tackle the vacants with some new legislation slapping fines on negligent landlords. In the meantime, creative Charm City citizens like the H&H building artists become inspired by the richness of Baltimore history. Using urban life as a muse, they have taken to empty walls, lots, buildings and trails to tell stories. Here are several neat projects we’ve noted in the past couple of days.

Baltimore Love ProjectDuring the 25th annual Sowebo Arts Festival this past Sunday, MICA graduate and longtime Baltimore resident Michael Owen was busy on a ladder painting four silhouetted hands that spell LOVE onto a wall opposite Hollins Market. The mural is to be one of 20–two are up elsewhere in Baltimore–in Charm City to inspire acts of kindness and love between residents. Some say it’s cheesy, but we loved the mural’s simple, graphic appeal, which is markedly different than the colorful back-to-Africa motifs on most city murals. In fact, we bought a t-shirt to support future mural-paintings (you could say, “I put in for the right pinky tip”). (more…)

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HFStival rises from the deadNow that we’ve entered our third decade, the culture lords of my generation have gotten nostalgic for the good old days. We worshiped Kurt Cobain, entered radio contests on WHFS 94.7 and made wicked cassette mix tapes. I remember a time when we taped the radio — BT on Transmissions, anyone? We loved the Nineties. I mean, we totally loathed the nineties, but in an ironic way we relished those days, cognizant of the dissonance… Ahem.

It seems others are feeling similarly wistful for the Clinton years when we unknowingly trashed the planet and beat icebergs back driving SUVs and rocking out to alternative schlock like Live.  Here, just 5 signs we are totally in charge of the culture ship and steering it back into time.

5. The artistic directors of Urban Outfitters has outfitted the Millennials in grunge-era plaid, imitation thrift store t-shirts and Rolling Stones-inspired t-shirts because we still haven’t gotten over seeing Mick Jagger sing Brown Sugar at RFK in 1994. Actually, no one has gotten over seeing Mick Jagger sing Brown Sugar, and that’s how they are selling a Super Deluxe edition of Exile on Main Street for upwards of $100. (more…)

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Matt Roth for The New York TimesThe Baltimore Chop reported this morning that the New York Times “dump[ed]” on Baltimore yet again. The Gray Lady had the audacity to point out that adding a third arts district in the boarded-up Howard Street corridor is fiscally risky and may not yield immediate results–measurable by, at the very least, fewer vacant buildings.

We perked up (being a bit foggy-brained this Friday morning) at this bit of the Chop’s post:

… the New York Times is looking down its nose at us again. They seem to see Baltimore as little more than a source for so-so regional cuisine, a great inspiration for campy Broadway musicals, and a crummy baseball team for the sweeping.

This time around they’re making us out to be a bungling, artless money-pit who is stuck in the Schmoke era and wants to copy Manhattan. We really, really wish the Times would mind their own fucking business a little more, and publish these cheap, quickie drive-by stories about Baltimore a little less.

And they include links to said (sad) articles which do tend to be reported via a helicopter ride in and out of Baltimore (would a Times reporter deign to take Bolt?). However, I would argue that the Times review of that Eastern Shore-inspired Greenwich village restaurant made it sounds pretentious, bland and overpriced, which is reason for a poor review: Maryland, especially in context of Manhattan’s West Village, is none of those things. (more…)

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Painted Screen SocietyHow do we love the Creative Alliance of Baltimore. Where else could we catch a bluegrass band called Smooth Grass, a burlesque show called Hell Cats, and a Painted Screen tour in one week? How would we even know there is a Painted Screen Society of Baltimore? The CA site describes the screen tour like this:

Be the first to take the “Painted Screens Pilgrimage” to see Southeast Baltimore’s authentic treasures up close. Elaine Eff, folklorist and painted screens’ authority, gives a personalized guide on a tour bus with stops from Little Bohemia to Fells Point. Start off with breakfast and screening of The Screen Painter to see how it all began. Tour begins and ends at The Patterson.

Elizabeth Suman from the Baltimore Brew notes that the screens are beautiful but serve another purpose, especially in hot, sticky Bawlmer summers: “The screens allowed people to see out, but not in, granting homes a measure of privacy from passersby on the street.” She notes that a Czech grocer invented screen painting in 1913 to advertise his wares, while letting the harbor breeze flow in to prevent said produce from rotting.

For members this tour is $30, for non-members it is $35.

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Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / May 10, 2010Well, yesterday was a good news and bad news day.

We are now running a $500,000 ad campaign that implores tourists to come, “Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore.” It features a logo design that only a 5th grade teacher just discovering clip art could love. And within 24 hours, Happy has become synonymous with “trigger-happy” or high-as-a-kite-happy–as in just the place for a “thrill-seeking junkie,” as one person posted on the Baltimore Sun web site. The crime columnist Peter Hermann gathered a slew of spot-on comments about the new slogan, including from the former police commander Buz Busnuk:

[Buz] mentioned… The drug dealer named Don Papa who boasted three years ago that he made $180,000 in one night selling drugs on Pennsylvania Avenue. He called the street “a freaking gold mine,” and according to a transcript in a federal court file, told detectives: “This is the heroin capital of America, ain’t no more dope sold nowhere than right there on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“He thought this place was Nirvana,” Busnuk said. “Wasn’t he in a happy place?” (more…)

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Top Ten Signs of the Snowmageddon

Drug corners went un-manned

Drug corners went unmanned

We are soft, lazy creations of east coast slush-snows. We panic at the sight of an icy dusting. So this past week’s blitzkrieg of blizzards has left us dazed and confused. Per Jean Marbella of the Sun, we’re snow-stupid. We’ve gotten 72.3 inches of snow thus far, and the crazy in us is coming out. Here are ten things we noted that were not at all normal.

10. The only man entering the normally-bustling Charles Street subway station–being that the Metro isn’t running anywhere but Mondawmin Mall–is clad in plastic bags and carrying 15 pounds of pigeon food.

9. Restless people are running for distance on snowy streets. One guy was quoted in the Sun explaining that he left his warm apartment on a “whim” to run 6 miles in 45-mph winds down the middle of Charles Street. Obviously, he was a Hopkins grad student. (more…)

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Hat or Mullet? You be the judge

Mullet or Hat?

Protective goggles on, Obama stomped around in a Highlandtown factory yesterday before announcing a $5000 payroll tax credit for businesses that hire new workers. He made his pitch for this plan at Chesapeake Machine, a factory that produces steel containers, machinery for steel plants in Sparrow’s Point.  According to rising Mayor Blake, the factory also makes equipment for solar panel construction and high speed rails.

Highlandtown, a working class neighborhood known for high rates of home ownership, Greek food, and crack cocaine, has historically been home to thriving breweries, butchers and shipping. Many factories have been abandoned; a few struggle on.

In this article, Baltimore Sun interviews the operations manager Joseph Sedlak, who explains that the company has been surviving on Department of Defense contracts. “We’re forced to follow the money,” said Sedlak. Sedlak then revealed to the Sun that Chesapeake was hiring. (more…)

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