Despite the increased instability and loss of income due to shutdowns and canceled gigs, artists and venues are finding creative (and safe) ways to sustain the arts. On March 20, Creative Alliance announced Sidewalk Serenades, an ongoing performance series to keep the music alive, spread joy, and compensate local musicians. For a nominal cost, Baltimore residents can hire musicians to perform a few songs, stoop-side, at a safe distance for family, friends, and neighbors. Although as of Gov. Hogan’s stay-at-home order on Monday, March 30, the series has been postponed, you can keep up with Creative Alliance online.
Prior to going out and documenting a few of these micro-concerts last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. These days, the silence outside is palpable and the streets are empty. One of the first serenades I photographed was the gypsy-jazz ensemble Ultrafaux, featuring Michael Joseph Harris and Sami Arefin, in the typically quiet and residential neighborhood of Bolton Hill. Everyone was inside their houses, except a man in a hoodie and a woman in sweats with a dog sitting on a park bench. It was a beautiful spring day, the birds were chirping, the light was perfect, and music filled the air. I stood on a park bench, pointing the camera straight at the two musicians riffing in front of an empty fountain and their audience of two. I found total symmetry for the hero shot, the light just right, perfect exposure.
I started looking for more shots and other points of view to tell the story. And just behind me, a senior gentleman in a bright yellow jacket was sitting alone in a wheelchair outside of an apartment building across from the park. There he sat alone, eyes closed, chin up and facing the sun with a smile on his face.
This was the kind of visual metaphor I was looking for. This is why we need art and music. It feeds our soul and brings joy to our hearts, it’s an equalizer we can all share. Art is a vital part of the economy that our hearts and spirit cannot afford to lose. Now is a great time to support your local musicians, artists, and arts nonprofits. Social distance does not mean total isolation—we must find ways to maintain healthy habits and celebrate life.
This photo essay features Ultrafaux, Baby Carrots, Letitia VanSant with Baltimore bassist Alex Lacquement, and Katie Long.