“I’ll never forget the time someone in Mexico City pulled down their pants in the middle of a restaurant to proudly show me their Divine tattoo, upon hearing that I was from Baltimore,” recalls Michael Anthony Farley, a contributing editor at BmoreArt and City of Artists essayist. “What is it about this city that we export so much culture?”
He’s not wrong, although Baltimore’s reputation does not necessarily align with this vision. Why do so many globally respected writers, novelists, journalists, poets, and screenwriters call Baltimore home? Why do so many visual artists with New York galleries and museum exhibits across the country live here? What is it about Baltimore that attracts and retains so many artists? And why does this remain Baltimore’s best-kept secret? The answer: it’s complicated.
Baltimore tends to resist simple labels and attempts at branding. It’s layered and contradictory, nuanced and multifaceted. This is one of the reasons why we love this city, but also why it’s so hard to change the national discourse around Baltimore’s reputation.
Although it’s not widely known, Baltimore is truly a “city of artists.” It’s a place where independent, innovative people can live and work in community with one another–and succeed professionally, even if most of the market for their work and its infrastructure–the galleries, art fairs, literary agents, and publishing houses–is located elsewhere.
This is why BmoreArt decided to theme its first-ever coffee table book around contemporary cultural production in Baltimore, to take a step back from the space we all inhabit and pay close attention to the movers and shakers in the art and literary worlds who call this place home.
More than anything, City of Artists considers WHY Baltimore offers such a rich context for contemporary art and culture, and does so from not one but multiple voices, perspectives, and viewpoints.