Artscape Baltimore 2004 kicks off this Friday, and organizers expect more than 500,000 people will converge on the Mount Royal Cultural Area for the three-day event.
"It has been growing every year," said Tracy Baskerville of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which organizes the free festival, now in its 23rd year. "And we're trying to make it bigger and better every year."
To that end, Artscape will feature more than 200 artisans and craftspeople -- representing musical, spoken and written arts -- a new entertainment stage, the inaugural appearance of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a tour of Baltimore murals and a new series of workshops to give festivalgoers a "hands-on" experience with the arts.
Artscape, which begins Friday and ends Sunday, also will feature such hip-hop music acts as Wyclef Jean, De La Soul and Arrested Development.
"They're a little bit different, a little edgy for Artscape," Baskerville said of the hip-hop acts. "They're not edgy for Baltimore, but they're new for Artscape." These acts will perform on Artscape's main stage -- now called the Value City Cultural Stage, after its sponsor, Value City Department Stores Inc.
Other top performers this weekend include Isaac Hayes, The Commodores, Violent Femmes, Mindy Smith and Paul Kelly. The BSO performs Friday at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
The second stage being sponsored by Value City is the DJ Cultural Stage, which will feature live and recorded music by a variety of artists. The stage has been moved to Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street.
"It started two years ago in a small area, but it's been very popular," Baskerville said. "Last year, people were dancing in the streets, so we said, 'They needed a bigger stage.' "
This year features "Hands-On Artscape," which includes 31 workshops that will introduce people to storytelling, ballet, guitar, clowning, street-chalking, beading and stage combat. Artscape will provide the supplies and instruments, Baskerville said.
"We saw it as a way of getting people to participate such that you're just not watching artists or buying things," Baskerville said. The workshops are open to all ages.
The mural tour, which will take sightseers on the Baltimore Mural Program Minibus, will be given on Saturday.
Artscape also has changed its hours this year, opening two hours earlier on Friday -- at 4 p.m. -- and closing two hours earlier on Sunday -- at 8 p.m.
Vendors were arriving earlier on Friday, Baskerville said, and as for the Sunday change, "People were leaving because they are getting ready for work."
The festival also includes performances and art exhibitions at many of Baltimore's cultural institutions, including the Lyric Opera House, Maryland Institute College of Art and Walters Art Musuem. For more information, call 410-522-7300 or click here.
Other events this week include: