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Artscape Festival: No Passport or Ticket Required
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Artscape Festival: No Passport or Ticket Required

Picture of Danai Molocha
Updated: 11 December 2015
The in Baltimore’s Mount Royal area claims to be the largest free arts gathering in America, with several hundred thousands of visitors each year. The 2013 edition, No Passport Required: A Cross Cultural Arts Experience, runs from 19th-21th July and marries, among others, Panamanian mola tapestries and Norwegian Black Metal.

More than 30 countries, from Afghanistan to Jamaica, are celebrated in the 32nd annual Artscape Festival, Maryland‘s all-inclusive celebration of the visual and performing arts. More than 350 thousand visitors are expected to take to the streets of Baltimore over one long July weekend, freely jumping between four open-air stages, art exhibitions and theatre performances, hands-on artworks and after-hours dancing. Artscape is nothing if not a celebration of free artistic expression, a bustling laissez-faire that comes at no extra cost.

Art Has a Prize

The Sondheim Artscape Prize is Baltimore’s most prestigious artist award. Every year (for the past eight festivals) it is awarded to one of the shortlisted artists, who exhibit multi-faceted works for the jury and the festival-goers to equally review and admire. The Artscape Gallery Network, in the meantime, invites visitors to discover noteworthy talent from the region and beyond. More hands-on and a festival favourite, though, is the Artists’ Market, ‘…offering festival-goers the finest crafts and fine arts’. Exclusively featuring work of exhibiting artists and their collaborations, the market accepts over 385 applications each year, bringing graphics, clay, printmaking, 2-D and 3-D, glass, leather and jewellery art for the crowds to simply revel in, or take home with them.

No Passport Required

No ticket or passport is required at any Artscape event, but especially in 2013 the festival’s crossover policy takes up its own section. An answer to old cultures fading to obscurity, or new ones getting ignored in the mass cyber-melange of the internet era, No Passport Required is a sprawling, multi-disciplinary work that delights in cultural differences. Inspiring wanderlust and a fascination for the unknown, it dominates North Charles Street with art exhibitions, large scale sculptures and interactive performances that include everything from Danish modern design to Turkish street culture – while 10-minute plays, by international and local writers, pay tribute to our times’ short attention span. In a separate locale, but in the same multicultural, no-borders spirit, the Kidscape section of the festival teaches the little ones how to decorate chopsticks and make mini piñatas.


The 32nd edition comes with mobile classics that have, so far, made the festival a success. A staple in Baltimore’s urban Artscape, Art Cars now celebrate their 20th anniversary and, just for the occasion, they take up a parking lot all to themselves. Psychedelic artworks-on-wheels also parade through the festival, while the most worn-out visitors take a seat, completely made out of car parts, at Crazy Ray’s Art Car Lounge. The most geared up, finally, will be pleased to know about the festival’s new arrival: the Art Cart Derby’s gravity-powered art carts.

No Less Than 10,000 Brushes

Ten mini-murals require the artistic talents volunteers, and every one of the 2013 Artscape visitors is invited to participate. For the Baltimore Mural Experience, top local visual artists give a helpful hand to budding creatives, who can design their murals on paper, and collaborate with professional muralists and illustrators to transfer their imagination into pre-drawn, artist-designed, mini murals. The project will then travel around the city in the form of little pop-up murals, while all participants will be given the all-appropriate souvenir of a free sable hair paint brush.

Games, short films, and a spectacular no-penny opera

The festival generally has a no-holds-barred attitude to music, from classical, folk and organ sound pieces to the esteemed Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the ever popular Squonk Opera, with its spinning grand piano and 34-foot long monster truck (its GO Roadshow is back in 2013 due to popular demand).

Gamescape continues to blend video games and visual arts. The Maryland Film Festival presents its selection of Shorts at Artscape in the Charles, the official movie theatre of the event. The always vibrant street performances include a drink show and a unicycle lady (hopefully no one performer will combine the two), and the LOL@Artscape makes sure, once again, that nobody leaves the festival grounds without a good laugh.

Traditionally, fans of a good dance move are able to enjoy Dancescape, by day, and Artscape After Hours by Saturday night, when Charles Street turns into one big outdoor club with top local DJs, foods, beverages and laser lights. After all, no party is a good party until it fades well into the night.

By Danai Molocha