(Max Garner and J.F Bibeau perform spontaneous theater at Submit 10 Baltimore. Photo by Maurice Morales.)
The process of giving birth is a bit painful and messy but it’s exhilarating and real and in your face. There is a long gestation period , a considerable amount of pain and pushing followed by a powerful thrust and, finally, a miraculous payoff. This is true of any birth including the birth of a creative idea.
When I moved to Baltimore, I was pregnant with creative potential but I was young by the worlds standards and I needed a lot of nurturing in order to bring my creativity to life. I had tried, many times, to realize my ideas but in the environments where I found myself I was more often discourage and dissuaded from pursuing anything that seemed “out there” or far reaching.
In a culture and a country where the arts are undervalued and often short changed, it was difficult for me to justify spending my time writing a play when it was clear I should have been fattening up my bank account or doing some other “responsible” activity. As a result, my creative growth came in fits and starts and was marred by self doubt and a pretty pervasive fear of making a fool of myself.
I’m happy to say that there is no such thing in Baltimore.
Visual and performing arts, music, theater, photography, spoken word and creative writing are all honored here with an open heart and patient, compassionate environment of support and celebration. Everyone is welcome regardless of their training, education or experience. Here it is understood that it takes time to realize a creative vision and that there are many false starts. It is OK to get it wrong because here there is no wrong when it comes to art. Everyone’s efforts are a valuable part of the process.
The Visionary Art Museum is a perfect case in point. While there is a plethora of art to choose from at the Walters, the BMA, MICA or the many galleries around the city, the Visionary is a stand out. Here is a gallery of art made by people from all walks of life and levels of artistic experience who taught themselves how to make manifest their vision. Exhibits include works by the homeless, anonymous alcoholics and mental patients. It is not a museum for formerly trained artists but for artistic souls springing out of whatever body or situation they find themselves in. This makes for an intimate and dazzling display of creative expression that is completely unique.
In Baltimore there are endless opporturnities to get your creative on within an all inclusive community. Where else can a 49 year old who is a bit out of shape and doesn’t know how to swim be invited to join a synchronized swimming performance art group?
In Fluid Movement’s Water Ballet, I learned how to swim as well as how to pinwheel but more importantly, how to be comfortable with my body and how to accept the imperfections in myself and others while joining together to make something fantastically fun. Don’t believe me? Come see the show at Patterson Parks pool this weekend.
Patterson Parks Creative Alliance is a hub for budding artists of every kind. Even novice film makers can test the waters in “The Cage”, a Media Lab where folks can rent equipment and be taught how to use it to make their own films.
The Baltimore Playwrights Festival has been nurturing budding playwrights and thespians for 30 years. The 5 : 10 fiction reading series and the New Mercury Reading Series all provide a forum for fiction and non-fiction writers alike.
On certain Monday nights at the Liam Flynn’s Ale House on North Avenue you can come across some spontaneous theater with the Submit 10 readings which invites the general public to try their hand at reading short theater pieces written by local writers. The idea behind it is that there is no ego in the house. It just isn’t about showing off here. It’s about collaborating to see how incredibly interesting things can be. From Burlesque to the BSO you will find all levels of artists inviting others to join in, to participate, to experiment and to see what happens.
At first I was tentative, shy even, about my writing but Baltimore encouraged me to try and then applauded when I did. Baltimore waited with me while it gestated, encouraged me when it was difficult to get the words out and then helped to push me through the fear that every one feels when they step out of their comfort zone and into the world of artistic expression. The plays and stories I have written and directed since I’ve been here have been wonderful experiences but the truly miraculous payoff has been the transformation in my level of confidence and overall happiness.
Other places may be great for showing off your creativity but, trust me, Baltimore is the place to come to give birth to it.
Nancy Murray is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and the Publishing Arts at University of Baltimore. She is a playwright who as enjoyed full productions of her work at Fells Point Corner Theater, Silver Spring Stage and the Montgomery County One Act Festival where it was selected as The Best of Festival. Most recently she has been enjoying participating in the Submit 10 Series as both a playwright and as a performer.