Photo Credit: Mark Dennis

Update, April 21: A modified version of this article has been featured in the Baltimore Sun.

In 1971, Seattle experienced the worst recession in its history; Boeing laid off over 65% of their workforce. A sign went up next to Boeing Field that read ‘Will the Last Person Out of Seattle Please Turn Off the Lights?’ It was in this context that 35-year-old Mayor Wes Uhlman established the Seattle Arts Commission (and later that year, what would become the Bumbershoot Festival). People asked Mayor Uhlman why charter a local arts agency in the shadow of Seattle’s worst recession… he said because we had to give people hope. —Randy Engstrom, Director | Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Before COVID-19, Baltimore’s moment was the 2015 Uprising. When it seemed that nothing else could bring the City back, the arts, in the form of Light City, brought people together and gave them hope that Baltimore was going to be okay. Across the country and right here in Baltimore we are facing disasters that are socially similar to the Uprising and as economically challenging as Seattle’s Boeing Layoff. What helped to save us then and will save us now is how we position ourselves for a comeback and a key component is the arts.

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Last month, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts celebrated the incredible talent of young Maryland artists with an art exhibition at School 33 Art Center. The exhibition celebrated the artwork of award recipients in the Maryland Region Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition.

Students, their friends and families, educators, BOPA staff and the community gathered for an opening night to view a dynamic collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, fashion and more.

While the gallery at School 33 Art Center is currently closed, we want to share with you a virtual tour of the impressive work of Maryland’s creative youth. We are working on releasing a full virtual gallery soon. Until then, enjoy this sample of the Maryland Regional Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition from the comfort and safety of home.

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Baltimore’s artistic community keeps our city vibrant and creative with art and performances that can inspire, uplift and spark community change. Like many others at this time, our artistic community is experiencing a devastating economic impact due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis. As Baltimore’s Arts Council, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is  committed to providing necessary economic support and guidance to artists, especially in times like these. As we look toward recovery, we will need our artists’ creativity and commitment to keep us moving forward.

The Baltimore Artist Emergency Relief Fund is a coalition-led initiative designed to provide direct assistance to Baltimore-based artists and creative entrepreneurs who have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis.  

Inspired by the generosity of artist-led relief efforts in Baltimore and across the country, this fund was developed through a partnership between 20 artists and arts organizers committed to working together for the collective good of the Baltimore creative community, and is made possible by administrative and funding support from T. Rowe Price Foundation, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, Maryland State Arts Council, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, Grit Fund and Baltimore Creatives Acceleration Network.

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The One Conference for All the Arts in Maryland 

The Maryland Arts Summit is the first of its kind for the arts sector in Maryland, highlighting the work that is being done through our communities. Dialogue, learning and networking opportunities will focus on the growth of Maryland arts.

The Maryland Arts Summit will be presented by and for the Maryland arts sector, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Arts Advocates
  • Arts Educators & Teaching Artists
  • Independent Artists
  • Arts Organizations
  • Youth
  • Community Stakeholders

The Virtual Convening will now take place on
Tuesday, May 26 through Friday, May 29

Presented by Maryland Citizens for the Arts, in conjunction with The Maryland State Arts Council, Maryland State Department of Education, and AEMS: Arts Education in Maryland Schools 

For questions about the Summit, please email

MSAC has two upcoming Professional Development webinars.

Online Arts Learning Platforms
April 13th, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

This webinar will cover how arts educators and teaching artists can use various technologies for online classes, courses, and short form lessons. The webinar will feature a panel of experts about how to use three specific platforms for online learning (Jumprope, Kadenze, and Canvas.) After the presentations, MSAC will share a crowdsourced list of arts education online resources. Webinar access link here.

Funding Public Art Now!
April 20th, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
This information session is for artists and organizations interested in applying for the Public Art Across Maryland grant, offering up to $10,000 for either temporary or permanent projects. Recent grant recipients will discuss how they have adjusted to the challenges of implementing public projects amid the  pandemic, and why they feel public art is still important. We will also look at examples of projects that can serve to inspire the public in times of uncertainty and social-distancing. Webinar access link here.

Reaching New Heights by S. Rasheem; Photo Credit: Asha Holmes; Art@Work, 2018; 4800 block of Pimlico Rd.

Despite all the bad news we endure during this health crisis, there is some good news. Many are discovering friends and partners have their backs. Individuals and organizations within the community are neighbors helping neighbors. Landlords and creditors are waiving rents and payments, there are food and diaper drives, Baltimore City is ensuring that children are fed and neighbors who never knew each other run errands for those who need support.

We are also joining together to celebrate our strong Baltimore spirit with the arts—vibrant chalk drawings appear on sidewalks, an impromptu choir sings from the front steps of their homes, young artists display their work in the front windows of their homes and yesterday, I even saw a teddy bear dressed to go to the opera. Visual, literary and performing artists are taking to the Internet to entertain and enlighten us. Even though we can’t gather the arts can still amaze and engage.

The arts community is also coming together to support our own. A grassroots movement sprang up to become a full-fledged coalition of arts groups to support artists from many disciplines who lost commissions, contracts, or had scheduled performances cancelled and don’t qualify under the current rules for unemployment or government support. These are the people that give Baltimore its cultural soul. They need and deserve our support for all that they give to enliven our City. The Baltimore Artist Emergency Fund launches this week and BOPA is proud to be just one of the many organizations involved.

You can read more about the fund, the amazing people who brought the fund to fruition and how you can support our community artists in this week’s newsletter or on the BOPA website. This partnership BOPA is privileged to be a part of is not just about the funding, it is about creating an environment where the arts community knows that we’ll always have their backs—not just now but always.

Donna Drew Sawyer

CEO, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts