1. Tell us a little about you.

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.

1. What are your responsibilities as Festivals Coordinator for BOPA?

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.

1. What do you do as an Arts Education Coordinator for BOPA?

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!

1. What book are you currently reading?

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.

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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.

Image credit: Jeff & Aisha Butler of Jazzy Studios

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.

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More information on North Avenue Rising can be found at www.northavenuerising.com.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I just finished Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. It’s a graphic novel memoir described as a “Family Tragicomic.” The book documents the author and artist’s relationship with her family as she grew up focusing on her father and how his personality and temperament affected her and the household. As Allison discovered she was a lesbian and came out of the closet to her parents, it uncovered a family secret that her father was also gay.

2. What do you enjoy the most about the book?

I really appreciate the ways great cartoonists can shape a story and the mood they are conveying through the combination of drawing and narrative. Allison conveys this extremely well. I think the story felt very personal to me for a number of reasons, but it is also a very universal experience to grow up and find out that your family or parents are far more nuanced and less black and white, right and wrong then they seemed when you are a child.

3. Why would you recommend this book to others?

We had given this book to my sister-in-law as a gift. I borrowed it back from them because the book has been turned into a musical and it is coming to Baltimore Center Stage in January. I bought tickets for the family and that was a great reason to finally read the book. It’s so exciting that this production is coming to Center Stage and I’d recommend anyone read the book and go see the show while it’s here.

4. What authors are you excited to see at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival?

I’m always excited to see what unexpected authors I meet or run into at the Book Festival. Some of my children’s favorite YA authors are people I’ve met working at or perusing the festival. There is so much talent that comes through, from the programmed tents to the self-published authors. If you go with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed.

5. Can you provide any tips for first-time attendees?

If something catches your eye or your ear don’t be shy, meet the author, ask questions about their work and take a chance. It’s wonderful to discover new artists and authors through direct interactions.

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The Baltimore Book Festival returns to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Friday, September 28 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.

1. What book are you currently reading?

Oh gosh, that’s a complex question. I’m normally a person who reads a lot of books at one time. The book that has my attention the most right now is definitely Good Girl Revolt by Lynn Povich. It is actually the book that inspired the Amazon Series by the same name.

2. What do you enjoy the most about the book?

The book is about the 1970 Newsweek Trial, where the women of the magazine sued based on sex discrimination because women could not become writers or reports. They were commonly pigeon holed into the research position though they had the same credentials as their male counterparts. The thing I enjoy is that it sheds light on some of the problems with 1960’s and 1970’s feminism and highlights that intersectional feminism really has become popular in this third wave of feminism.

3. Why would you recommend this book to others?

If you are in anyway interested in media I feel you should read this book. The story of the women of Newsweek has been a forgotten story but it truly changed media and the role of women in magazines, newspapers and journalism as a whole. I’m surprised this book isn’t taught in classrooms all over the United States or at least it wasn’t when I was in school.

4. What authors are you excited to see at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival?

I’m really excited to see Nic Stone talk at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage! She’s an amazing author who writes such great stories that are really true to the time we are currently living in. It’s a treasure to have her at the Baltimore Book Festival.

5. Can you provide any tips for first-time attendees?

Come hungry! We don’t call ourselves “A literary feast with gourmet eats” for nothing! There is such amazing food at the Baltimore Book Festival! I cannot wait to get a crab cake, a cup of coffee and buy some new books for myself to also devour!

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The Baltimore Book Festival returns to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 11am to 7pm daily. The literary arts celebration features hundreds of award-winning and best-selling 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.