Getting in on the Baltimore Scene
By Katie Killon
When Elena Johnston graduated from MICA in 2006 she moved to New York City to pursue fashion illustration. Johnston landed a job at a designing event production company working 60 hours a week doing studio work and installations for movie premieres. She said that although it was fun it wasn’t her “ideal situation.”
In addition to her job in New York, Johnston was working on “Paper Kingdom,” a book compiling Baltimore concert posters, when she decided to move back to Baltimore. She was given a grant and was able to work with artists and musicians from Baltimore, which she continues to do.
“After I graduated I sort of branched out in terms of like seeing what was actually happening in Baltimore as opposed to like my small MICA group,” said Johnston. “And I saw that there were a lot of awesome artists, visual and musicians doing things and that there was a really active art scene. So I decided to see how I would fit into that or see how I could learn from it.”
Johnston is one of many artists working in the Baltimore arts community, which is continuing to grow. The scene is alive with festivals, new galleries, local concerts at the Zodiac, Floristree and the Ottobar; and events around different neighborhoods like Hampden, Highlandtown and Charles Village.
Megan Hamilton, program director at The Creative Alliance, a center for creative production in Highlandtown, cites The Baltimore Book festival, AVAM’s sculpture race and the Creative Alliance & Nana Projects Great Halloween Lantern Parade as “Baltimore’s astonishing annual cycle of performance and festival gems.”
“They are all warm, intimate, accessible and unique events, like Baltimore’s whole scene,” Hamilton said.
Despite the fact that Baltimore’s art scene has been featured in Spin and Rolling stone’s BEST lists it’s still one of the cheapest cities to live and work in. The small community of Baltimore makes for a supportive working environment.
“[It’s] really inspired. Everyone is sort of doing their own thing and keeps each other afloat,” Johnston said.
Baltimore also offers live/work spaces to artists like at the H &H arts building which contains several live/work spaces (Nudashank, The Whole Gallery and Gallery Four)
According to Seth Adelsberger, co-owner of Nudashank and H&H resident, “the H&H building has been the epicenter of underground Baltimore art, music and theater events for over a decade.”
This year the building hosted the 7th annual Transmodern festival, a unique arts festival lasting from April 15-19. Each gallery had a show, while the top floor of the building, Floristree held live performances.
Despite the weakened economy, artists are still making a living. New artists hoping to work in Baltimore can look to illustrator, Elena Johnston for advice.
“The way that I [got involved in the scene] was going to shows and meeting people and really seeing what other people were into and being open to that, but at the same time not stopping what you were doing” Johnston said. “There is a balance, keep doing what you’re doing but allow yourself to be open to other things. If something doesn’t work out for you try something else. Keep working and keep growing, you don’t have to be like one certain thing.”