Atop a four-feet-high brick wall in Federal Hill’s Robert Baker Park sits In the Garden by Sam Christian Holmes. The artist and educator at Morgan State University and the Maryland Institute College of Art created the sculpture this past year for the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. The association received a 2017 Transformative Art Prize from Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. The 14 feet-tall and 20-feet-wide sculpture illustrates woman and man’s union in the Garden of Eden, with a nod to blacksmithing traditions associated with the African diaspora.
The position oversees all Facilities Staff and provides day-to-day operational, logistical and maintenance to all BOPA facility operations, which includes Top of the World Observation Level, Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, The Cloisters and School 33 Art Center. I am charged with creating and maintaining high quality, visitor friendly attractions that run smoothly, and to fulfill its directive of raising revenues.
2. Tell us about the attractions you manage.
The Cloisters is a historic home on 60 acres of property with charming gardens in Lutherville, Maryland. We have hosted multiple private events including the wedding of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. We have also been a site for extensive film projects including Cry Baby, Absolute Power and most recently House of Cards.
The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower is an iconic landmark in the Baltimore Skyline. The four-sided clock tower is one foot larger than the clock at Westminster, or Big Ben as it is known throughout the world. We host artists, writers and designers, and are home to the largest collection of blue glass in the world. The museum collection is on loan through the generosity of Ernie Dimler.
School 33 Art Center has been a bridge between contemporary artists and the public. Through exhibitions, studios for artists, classes for adults and children, as well as special events and workshops, the center works to insure a vibrant future for contemporary art and artists in Baltimore. The three gallery spaces, multi-use classrooms, permanent, on-site collaborative installations, and an environmentally-friendly outdoor garden fed by a rainwater collection system are examples of School 33’s commitment to maintaining and expanding the potential of our historic building.
Top of the World Observation Level has a spectacular and unforgettable view of Baltimore from the top of the world’s tallest pentagonal building. New exhibits about local landmarks, famous people and “firsts,” and historic events will engage and inspire you to explore more of Charm City.
3. Do you have something that helps your workday? If so, what?
I couldn’t do my job without the Facilities Staff; their enthusiasm, dedication and creativity are what inspire me every day.
4. How does the facilities department create a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors?
Each Facilities Staff member brings their love and appreciation of Baltimore, the arts and history to the experience at each facility. Our visitors experience is the upmost importance to the Facilities Team.
5. How can people rent a facility or an artist studios?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sarah Wilson at email@example.com. We gotcha covered.
6. What must-attend events happen this spring?
- Bromo Museum – a new exhibit All Things Emerson opens on Saturday, April 27, 2019
- The Cloisters – Open House Plus on Saturday, March 9 and Wednesday, April 24, 2019
- Top of The World – always and every day the views are remarkable
- School 33- the exhibitions are always fascinating
7. What work did you do before BOPA?
I worked (and still work on occasion) as a production manager in the music business setting up tours, concerts and festivals all over the world. My clients include Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Dave Mathews and the Rolling Stones. I also worked regionally as a location manager in the film industry. I worked as the assistant location manager on John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented … and my boss was none other than Debbie Donaldson Dorsey, BOPA’s director of Baltimore Film Office.
8. What do you do in your time outside of work?
I swim, teach swimming and raise money for cancer research through swimming through the Swim Across America – Baltimore event. I knit and teach kitting, and in return the new knitters knit scarves, mitten and hats for the DGS mitten tree. I love live music and theatre and attend as many live events as possible …
I’m a Baltimore native. I was born in the Pimlico neighborhood. Well, I was born in a hospital but my family lived in Pimlico. I grew up in Northwood and Harford County. After discovering that I really didn’t like college, I joined the Air Force and off I went. I had a pretty cool career in the military. My best day in the Air Force was spent doing barrel rolls in an F4-E. Embarrassing secret time: I love to fly, and I’m terrified of heights. Terrified of heights and I work in a tower—life is weird, eh?
2. What BOPA events or facilities do you volunteer for?
I spend most of my time at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, and have done so since the 2011 centenary celebration. This past summer, I spent my Sundays at the Farmers’ Market & Bazaar. And my year wouldn’t be complete without Artscape and the Book Festival. I enjoy working with the social media team for all the big festivals—Artscape, Baltimore Book Festival and Light City.
3. Why is volunteerism important to you?
It is interesting that you would ask that question. When I graduated from University of Baltimore, one of my first positions was as an AmeriCorps VISTA. A big part of my assignment was developing and administering a volunteer service program. After the Air Force and AmeriCorps service, it just seems where I belong. And of course I enjoy working with members of our community, especially when it is in an environment filled with fun and creativity.
4. What is the most unique skill you bring to volunteer opportunities?
During my working career, I rarely worked inside my career field or job description. I learned to figure things out as I went along. My skill is that I actually enjoy working that way.
5. What tips can you give people new to BOPA’s volunteer team?
Get to know the people you’re volunteering with. It is a friendly bunch, and you’ll fit in. You will.
6. What do you do when you are not volunteering?
I’m teaching myself to paint, and work on improving my photography practice.
The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) relies on the work and enthusiasm of hundreds of volunteers throughout the year. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at www.promotionandarts.org/get-involved/volunteer.
In my new role as the Festivals Coordinator I am the primary liaison for both our Development and Communications teams. I work closely with both departments to ensure that all deadlines set by the Festivals department are communicated and clear. I manage our branding, signage, décor and environmental treatments for all festivals. I also work on operations and logistics within all of the festivals. Lastly, I work on business opportunities for BOPA such as our banner program.
2. What is a typical day like for you on-site during a festival?
A typical day for me on-site during a festival doesn’t exist! That’s the beauty of festivals! Usually the festivals team is the first on-site so we meet up, grab coffee, settle in, go over the objectives for the day, make sure that our timeline makes sense and that everyone knows the game plan. We then usually have our production assistants that help us with any and everything that we need on-site start on their first projects for the day. Throughout the day I field phone calls, e-mails, questions from random folks that walk by and want to know what is being built, putting out “fires” that arise while on-site, etc.
3. What might people not know about large-scale festival production?
Large-scale festival production is all about making a lot of smaller pieces work together to function as one larger event. People always ask how we can “pull off” these large festivals and are amazed at how they come together but honestly, it just takes planning, a dedicated team and problem solving. All of our events are a lot of smaller pieces that all cohesively work together to make one large beautiful and fun festival! We have an amazing staff of people who are dedicated to their work, their craft, and what they do!
4. What are some of the behind-the-scenes challenges you face in this role?
I think the hardest thing to explain is that festivals and events don’t just happen or “pop up;” they take a lot of hard work and months of planning. I think sometimes as someone that does festivals and events for a living, our job is to make it look easy and fun, which it is, but there is a lot of stress in this job as well. These festivals take MONTHS to plan. As soon as an event ends, we are already looking forward to the next year. My family and friends are always surprised when I start talking about the next Artscape after we just finished breaking down that year’s festival.
5. Where were you before joining the BOPA team?
I started as the Festivals/Events Intern in the summer of 2015. I then left to go back to college in Boston. After graduating I returned as the Lead Production Assistant for Artscape in 2016. I then moved into a new role as the Light City Festival Assistant. I was then hired full time as the Festivals Assistant and was just recently promoted to Festivals Coordinator.
6. What led you to festival/event production?
I was always interested in doing events since middle school. I can remember going to concerts in middle and high school or watching the MTV Video Music Awards and looking at all of the production elements and programming and wanting to be the person that ran those shows. When I went away to college I immediately got involved in our Campus Activities Board, which was the programming board for the undergraduate students. After my internship in the Festivals Department in the summer before my senior year, I was hooked on doing large-scale outdoor events! I knew that this is something I really loved doing and wanted to do after graduation!
7. What is your favorite type of festival or entertainment outside of BOPA?
I actually don’t attend festivals outside of work. As someone that works in the festival world, it’s really hard to attend festivals/events without feeling like you’re at “work.” I always look around at logistical things or I am trying to figure out improvements I would make if I was in charge.
8. What is your favorite thing about festivals and events?
The moment. This is when you’ve put up all of the tents, banners, signs, stages. This is after you’ve put out all of the “fires,” changed the layout of a tent 15 times, helped a partner get their delivery vehicle through the footprint, spoken with countless festivalgoers, all after having five coffees. It’s the moment when you look around and see people laughing, having a great time, kids playing, vendors smiling and selling their books, the Ferris wheel is spinning, and all you can think is WOW… we really did it! The moment when you remember why you do what you do.
As the Arts Education coordinator, I get to facilitate the Bright StARTs program, which places teaching artist in out of school time sites for workshops in various artistic disciplines; the Youth Arts Council, a team of BCPS high schoolers, dedicated to the arts; and the Fred Art Prize, a $1000 scholarship for high school-aged Baltimore City residents, which also offers a showing at Artscape. I also get to be involved in various programming with BOPA festivals and events, and act as the BOPA representative for various educational initiatives in Baltimore.
2. Who is a part of the Youth Arts Council? What are the main goals?
The council is comprised of around a dozen Baltimore City High School students. We meet together during the school year to discuss opportunities for teens in Baltimore City. This past year we were active with the Baltimore Arts Education Initiative Steering Committee (run by Arts Everyday), adding students’ voices to the conversation surrounding arts education policy standards in Baltimore. I like to think of them as the bureaucratic warriors in the battle for equitable arts education. The council members are also involved in programming for Light City and Artscape and are given opportunities to hear about internships and meet with city leaders. I hope that every year the council can grow to reflect the agendas of those involved.
3. Why are programs like the nearly three decades-old Bright StARTS Art Program important?
There is blatant inequality with arts education street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood in Baltimore. Programs like Bright StARTs are a way to offer quality arts experiences in locations that aren’t typically able to host them because of monetary limitation.
4. How do professional artists/educators become teaching artists in Bright StARTS?
Follow this link! All of the information about the position is available. We are searching for teaching artists who have experience working with kids in Baltimore City and who recognize arts education as a form of therapy and healing. This is also an amazing opportunity for artists who wish to expand the educational aspect of their practices.
5. Where were you before joining BOPA’s staff?
I spent a year working for Bloomberg School of Public Health doing administrative work for a children’s research study. I learned so much during my time there, and I learned a lot about scope, and what I’m NOT good at. Before that I have been a teaching artist in Baltimore City Public Schools and various non-profits. Working directly with young people and artistic programming is where I belong.
6. Outside of BOPA, are you involved in the city’s arts and cultural scene? If so, how?
Since graduating Goucher College in 2008, I have been active in Baltimore’s exciting theater arts scene. I have collaborated with multiple theater companies including Submersive Productions, Stillpointe Theatre Initiative, Single Carrot Theater and the Baltimore Rock Opera Society as a performer, dancer and director.
7. How can the arts continue to revitalize the city in the future?
I believe that arts education is the most accessible form of character education. Quality arts education is the most practical solution to address the problems of bullying, violence and issues with communication. Plus, practicing art is fun!
I just finished reading the book “Nothing Stays Buried” by P.J. Tracy, and now I’m starting “Monkeewrench” by the same author. P.J. Tracy is a pseudonym for a mother/daughter duo. I received “Nothing Stays Buried” as a gift and really enjoyed it. I discovered the book is the latest release in a series, so now I’m going back to read first book in the series.
2. What do you enjoy the most about the book?
I love mysteries, so this was a good one. I like that it had several lead characters, and the reader gets to hear from each of them in their own voice. I enjoyed finding out how each of the characters are connected.
3. Why would you recommend this book to others?
Yes, I would recommend this book especially to mystery lovers.
4. What authors are you excited to see at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival?
I’m looking forward to seeing April Ryan with Bill Whittaker. I think that will be a good discussion centering on current events.
5. Can you provide any tips for first-time attendees?
First-time Baltimore Book Festival attendees should be prepared to stay for a couple of hours. There is so much to do. From music to food to literary games, the festival is really a great place to spend the day.
The Baltimore Book Festival returns to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor through Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 11am to 7pm daily. The literary arts celebration features acclaimed local, regional and national authors, readings on multiple stages, cooking demonstrations and samplings, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers, children’s activities, the annual Storybook Parade, live music, and food and beverage. Visit www.baltimorebookfestival.org.
Baltimore-based artist Megan Lewis has been chosen to create new public artwork for the Penn-North Metro SubwayLink station. The inclusion of the artwork, which is intended to focus on the history and culture of the Penn-North community, is part of North Avenue Rising, a project that includes transportation investments across the North Avenue corridors and is supported by a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The North Avenue Rising will improve transit connectivity and accessibility along the East to West North Avenue corridor, while the investment in new artwork will improve the commuter experience within the station and provide visitors an opportunity for self-reflection.
The artwork created by Lewis will be the first new artwork commissioned for the Baltimore Metro SubwayLink system since the stations were built more than 30 years ago, and will be the first artwork by a black woman artist commissioned for Maryland’s transit system. Lewis joins the ranks of artists like Romare Bearden, Patricia Alexander, Paul Daniels, Mary Ann Mears and others who have artwork commissions located along the Baltimore Metro SubwayLink line.
The North Avenue Rising Penn-North Station project is Lewis’s first public art commission. The artist has been an active and well-regarded member of Baltimore’s arts community. A past Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Urban Arts Leadership Fellow, Lewis began translating her work into public murals in the summer of 2015 through Art @ Work, an award-winning partnership between BOPA and Jubilee Arts. Since that time, she has been an Art @ Work teaching artist four years in a row, and has completed seven murals across the city. Her mural, Lady Liberty Please Know Thy Self, located at 1800 Baker Street, made national news when singer-songwriter Alicia Keys visited Baltimore for “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” presented by A+E Networks. The artist will begin designing the artwork for the station this fall, with installation scheduled in 2020.
Meet Lewis and hear about her creative process during an artist talk on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 from 6pm to 8pm at Arch Social Club, located at 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217. The event is hosted by Cultureworks and part of BOPA’s Free Fall Baltimore.
More information on North Avenue Rising can be found at www.northavenuerising.com.