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all words and photos: Ben Droz

This past weekend, Baltimore hosted America’s largest free arts festival- Artscape. Like Art-O-Matic, Artscape brought art to the masses, showcasing local talent and providing a free festive event, appropriate for anything from a first date to a family outing to a reason to go out of town and visit friends. Unlike Art-O-Matic, however, Artscape spanned across the city, with dozen’s of venues, and entire Avenue’s blocked off right in the heart of downtown. Artscape had a heavier focus on performance art, from dance to theater to acrobatics to street performers.

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One performance brought me to a parking garage across the street from the Charles Theater. I was there for a performance by the Bmore Dance Project, but was having trouble imaging how it would happen in the designated space. The Bmore Dance Project is a collaboration between several Baltimore area dancers, who hope to give the artform of dance more exposure by taking it to different contexts. “Our ultimate goal is to offer free dance classes to people that might not otherwise be exposed to dance…” says co-founder Laura Grossman. Until then, they are using improvisational dance to give new meaning to the music and space that surrounds them. They had performances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, although the Sunday performance was more of a flashmob than a scheduled performance. The net effect of the Bmore Dance Project is a collaboration between local musicians, artists, dancers, and the community, to rethink the way we move our bodies and experience the art of dance. To learn more, contact Lily Susskind at [email protected]

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The Bmore Dance Project was just one of many adventures at Artscape. There were also dozens of booths selling all types of arts, crafts, and fashion. There were quirky installations created by MICA students all along Charles Street Bridge. There was live music, live DJs, impromptu dance parties, and of course, beer. As a matter of fact, once the sun went down, when the performances ended and the art vendors went home, the beer was still cold from the tap. Hundreds upon hundreds took advantage of this opporunity drink openly in the streets.

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My personal favorite of Artscape was a woman I met named Joanna. She was an independent, driven young professional, who was witty and quite friendly. And she was single, and she didn’t like that.
It was her sash that read “Will you marry me?” that first attracted me to her. Then, it was the sign she was holding that said “Will Pay $1-$20”
All she wanted was a decent proposal. A romantic proposal, full of details, like, what I’ll be wearing the moment I pop the question, or, what we’ll eat that night when I take her to dinner (oysters and pumpkin pie, of course). I decided to pleasure her with a drawn out story of our trip to the Bahamas, walking along the beach in the sunset, wading in the shallow clear waters that we’ve all seen in screensavers. I was being filmed, for her blog, so I knew it had to be good. When I was finished, she reflected on our fantasy together.
Then, she handed me a $20 bill.
My heart fluttered like a newlywed’s. I was speechless with joy. My smile radiated. We embraced (for the first time), and I felt like a new man.

As I walked away glowing, I felt surprisingly empowered and accomplished. I had approached her with an open mind, unsure of what to say, but attracted to her and her sign. I decided to make the most of the serendipitious occasion of meeting a stranger, to not let myself become nervous in her presence, and to have fun above all. I enjoyed the time we spent together and was rewarded for both my courage to approach her, and my ability to be confident in myself. She taught me lessons of love I had never known.

And I got $20, which made my day.

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