Doing some chit-chatting…

April 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm (Reporting)

This week I had the opportunity to chit-chat with Catherine Pancake, the person behind the Transmodern Festival and get a little backstory and ambitions of the festival.

There is a lot of hope and good-will in the Festival’s “mission statement.” Initially it formed as a way to showcase the female avant-garde artists in the mid-Atlantic area.

Pancake was impressed by this year’s festival and many of the exhibits that were installed. Its attendance had grown from around 150 in its first year to around 2000 people this year. She mentioned the Human Foosball table, which was a huge success compared to the budget it was given.

As it continues to grow, she said she’d like to find more intellectual connections with the festival and its exhibits/performers. Overall, she looks forward to watching it unfold as it and trying to understand it herself as it continues to take on new forms and meanings.

I also asked one of the performers, Shana Moulton, some questions.

Moulton was one of the performers at the Transmodern Festival’s opening ceremony. She is a visual performer who examines different aspects of life and communication in a quirky way.

Her performance at the Transmodern Festival was about women, and showed her influences of hypochondria and negative body image. Even with its “heavy” content, Moulton’s performances are light and enjoyable – tending to one of the messages she tries to convey through her work: “Don’t take anything too seriously.”

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Reporting

April 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm (Reporting)

This week I talked to Derek Morrell from Rams Head Live! and Josh Atkins from the Hexagon. Both have their issues with running the venues and their current situation with City Bill 08-0163.

According to Morrell, the bill is just another attempt for the city to earn money. And Atkins also has money problems with the Hexagon. Granted, that’s a pretty obvious problem for everyone right now, a number of potential fees and taxes added on to the ones currently instated is a pretty terrible situation.

I also made my way to the Community Work Session held by the City Council in order to hear the complaints from the stablished performance space, restaurant and tavern owners.

What I found intersting was that the City Council claims to be working for the interest of the arts community, but the chairperson was unaware of Wham City. As I’ve mentioned many times, Wham City one of the main reasons Baltimore was named Best Scene by Rolling Stone. It was pretty clear that he did not know what it was when he asked Adam Endres, who represented the collective on Thursday’s meeting, what the group he was representing was called.

It was enriching to hear the interests of the community compared to the ones I’ve read on the internet. Aside from the licensing fees, moral character and the noise complaint radius, I begun to understand both sides of the argument of the bill. The venue owners were concerned about the safety of the venues and stationing uniformed policemen there, the wording of the bill, the status of the scene and the zoning, among other things. They also shared their appreciations.

There’s going to be one last meeting at the Federal Hill Preparatory School on April 23.

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Reporting: Module 3

April 12, 2009 at 11:45 pm (Reporting)

Thank goodness we got an extension here, although I have a little bit of an angle shift to deal with. So far I’ve been working on the actual progress of the Live Entertainment Bill. Now, I’m going to be working towards talking to venue owners and focus on the challenges of creating performance spaces.

The Live Entertainment bill is still going to be part of the story, as one of the challenges of creating venues in Baltimore. The interesting thing is that it creates a challenge, although it’s intent is to help.

So far, most of my e-mails have concerned the bill itself. The only respondent so far has been Derek Morrell, the manager of Rams Head Live!. His feelings are that the bill is really set on making more money for the city. He gave me a nice overview of how the taxes affect his business and his customers, and how it would be difficult to put even more money towards the business. This is surprising because Rams Head is one of the bigger venues in Baltimore.

I am going to be adventuring though North Avenue at the Windup Space and the Hexagon, hopefully chatting with the club owners about how they went about opening up their spaces. I’ll be asking if they had any issues, how they might advise anyone wanting to begin a performance space and possibly how they foresee this changing were the bill to go into affect.

I haven’t yet contacted Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. With the due date being pushed back, I have been given the opportunity to attend the Community Work Session on Thursday evening. I’ll be going there and I plan on doing a lot of interviews with venue owners, managers and supporters. I will also be attempting to talk to Rawlings-Blake.

I think I’ll try to post a re-working of the story tomorrow with the new angle.

I also have been working on contacting members of the Transmodern Festival, which I am hoping to cover in Module four.

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Module Three: Step One

April 2, 2009 at 7:45 pm (Reporting)

While artists and musicians may be flocking to Baltimore for it’s vast and supportive artistic scene, but that may not be the case for long.

Baltimore’s City Legislation is preparing to vote, May 6, on a bill regarding live entertainment venues. In place of the current zoning plan, venues will be required to apply for licenses, which they will have to reapply for every year. This is supposed to make it easier to open venues in Baltimore.

Unfortunately, venue owners and proprietors aren’t seeing eye to eye with City Council President, and the bill’s sponsor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (I intend to interview her this/next week). In fact, a group consisting of artists, performers and live arts supporters has formed calling themselves the Baltimore Live Arts Business Association (BLABA). The group has been gathering at the Hexagon on Charles Street, and is making appearances at the Community Work Sessions that are being held in the weeks leading up to the Council’s vote on the bill.

Bill 08-0163, which is still being is proposing that a licensing fee of $1000 dollars or more, be incurred, which is bad news for smaller venues that are bringing a lot of attention to Baltimore. Additionally, the bill will call for a code of “moral character” that will be checked on randomly in addition to the idea that venues licenses will be re-evaluated if there are 10 complaints within 10 block radius during a year.

As many see it, the passing of this bill will be the death of a good thing. Baltimore’s small venues, which house growing communities of artists and performers, will be forced to close, simply because they cannot afford the licensing code.

I think I’m going to talk to Adam Endres again, along with owners of other clubs in the Baltimore area, members of the community and some representative from the City Council. Additionally, I’m wanting to get some back story on the venues to add to the story.

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I forgot to mention…

April 1, 2009 at 10:44 am (Reporting)

Last week, I also talked to Ed Schrader, Adam Endres and Tara Megos.

All of them had similar and different takes on Wham City and Baltimore as a whole.

Schrader and Endres moved to Baltimore, while Megos is a Baltimore native. Schrader found Baltimore very welcoming and is happy with the shift in direction that Wham City has diverged into with Baltimore. Endres (runs the Zodiac) was a little more sarcastic, but helpful nontheless. He provided a comic tone (although Schrader’s the performing comedian) to everything despite, and can come off as a jerk, but he’s a good guy, I promise.

Megos (Zodiac’s bartender), had a very uplifting and hopeful tone to her answers. She loves music and art. She loves Baltimore. And she loves the Wham City community. She provided an interesting outlook to things in terms of city officials, which unfortunately, I did not get to use in my story.

Perhaps, I can use them for my next story, which I think I’ve finally figured out.

Last night, I went to the Zodiac – they were screening Ghostbusters, and Endres came in in a huff. He’d just been to the community meeting (which I’d wanted, but didn’t have time to go to). There they were discussing a bill that’s been put on the table regarding regulations for venues.

According to Endres, the bill’s intent was to make it easier for venues to open, but it came with a bunch of re-zoning and a new “moral” code. From what Endres was saying, it sounds like, someone (an official of sorts, I believe) can walk into a venue, and if they don’t like what’s happening inside, they can shut the place down.

I think that would make for a REALLY interesting story.

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