See what I did there?
Baltimore has a vibrant art world and everyone who makes it out, participates, or otherwise lends their time and money is a part of the progress we make in building a stronger arts industry and culture in Baltimore. We need your support to continue doing so.
Why is this important?
Good question, question maker, glad you asked. We started Fringe four years ago after seeing most of our artist friends flee to the four arts corners of the country (Washington, New York, Chicago, and LA).
Did we agree with this?
Of course not! We went to school in the city, grew up here, and love the possibilities (just look, we started a festival). But we understood it. It may be difficult to start your own thing in one of those cities, sure, but there are also seemingly endless possibilities to become a part of something. It is, simply put, currently a challenge to sustain yourself on the arts alone in Baltimore. There are wonderful works being put on by industry pillars Center Stage and Everyman. And the future of theatre is promising when you watch productions by younger up-and-coming companies.
However, just as a town center is made up of more than one shop, a cultural center must be made up of a vibrant landscape of companies of all sizes and varieties. The quality is surely not missing from Baltimore, but what is needed is the concentration and variety. There are the aforementioned "giants," a handful of young companies with a modest staff, and then whole heaps of artists working for free or seeking out their niche elsewhere.
Simply put, we must come together and build on this scene, and Fringe is an important part of shaping this reality. The benefits abound. Young artists and companies are given the opportunity to focus on their art. The festival offers a platform for young companies to kick-start a season, it lessens the financial burden of producing, established companies can workshop a play, and traveling artists can find a home and an audience in a foreign city.
Through the festival, we take the onus off of companies to attain infrastructure. We bolster young companies. And the more young companies that establish themselves in the city, the more young people move to the city. The more young people that move to the city, the more people there are to see and support a vibrant arts scene. This is intensely important to both the creative future of Baltimore, but more so, the continued growth and ongoing Renaissance our city is experiencing.
We would be remiss to leave out the role that the riots and ongoing unrest from 2015 play in moving forward. But that means now, more than ever, we must decide and define our city's future. There are ongoing victories and setbacks in the course to repair our city and our city's image and we are excited to be a part of one of the defining industries. The arts can serve as grassroots PR for any city. It is a near-unwritten rule, joked about by those doing it and taken for granted (if even recognized) by many a policy-maker and businessperson, that artists play a vital role in creating and maintaining vibrant city centers.
However, the fact of the matter is that the power that artists wield as an agent for change in their communities is incredible.* Arts districts were once thought, and continue to be proven, to be powerful tools in catalyzing community revitalization and ongoing economic development. Charm City Fringe aims to augment these efforts by our arts districts** and continue our work to cultivate Baltimore as a hub for the arts. By fostering a sustainable model for producing new works, and drawing artists from around the city, state, and country, Fringe serves as a cultural ambassador for Baltimore.
How You Can Help
These artists, we must stress, are not only the reason for which we exist, but something that everyone should embrace and support if we wish to continue developing Baltimore. If you live in the city, be a part of it. Come out to shows, the Fringe Fest alone runs for 10 days each November. Volunteer! We are a growing organization and volunteering is a great way to have a huge impact, meet likeminded people, and find out what's going on in the arts world. There are heaps of shows by other artists as well - don't know where to look? Follow us on Facebook to see what we like, check out City Paper (I personally prefer the printed version), and talk to your friends and relatives.
On that note, talk to your friends and relatives. If you live in the city, tell them about the cool stuff you're seeing, remind everyone that you're not in The Wire, take them out. If you're a student, venture off campus, pay us a visit! If you don't live in the city, talk to people who do, find out what's going on, make a day of it. We promise you, there's a lot going on, from up-and-coming snack companies to a constant stream of shows, musical and otherwise, art galleries, and so much more.
Like Baltimore, Fringe is developing at an alarming rate. Measuring attendance, production volume, or new programming (Fringe Academy (Spring 2016) and Nights on the Fringe (July 8-9, 2016)), Fringe has anywhere from doubled to tripled each year since 2012. However, we are a volunteer-run business. As such, we need your support to keep doing our part. So please, sign up to be a volunteer today, donate to support our programming, and tell your friends about us!
We've only scratched the surface of everything happening in Baltimore, but collectively we are all Fringe. We owe it to ourselves and to Baltimore to make sure we are a part of seeing our city develop.
-Zach Michel, Co-Founder