Many of you may have been following the recent news regarding Mayor Brandon Scott and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA). We hope you will join GBCA in our intention to support a robust strategy for the arts in Baltimore City, and in making sure that we don’t lose sight of securing and increasing funding for the arts.
You should know that GBCA intends to work with the arts community to advocate with the Mayor’s office to ensure that financial support for the sector is not diminished or diluted, and that we all embrace the opportunity to create a sound, actionable, and inclusive strategy. There is a wealth of information at our disposal including what we have learned through commissions on such topics as Safe Arts Space and the Confederate Monuments, as well as the recommendations of the Mayor’s Transition Team on Arts and Culture to determine a productive path forward.
Although the press has been covering the parade, in addition to producing citywide Events, it also serves as the arts council for the City of Baltimore. GBCA has been a long-time partner to the City over the last 21 years and we will continue to make sure that the voices of the arts sector are heard.
BOPA has a $2.6 dollar contract with the City of Baltimore to produce annual citywide events, including Artscape and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Parade. Preceding the most recent events related the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade, City Council members began to question when both events would return following the pandemic pause (Artscape in particular) and how funds allocated during the pandemic were used. These hearings highlighted BOPA’s accountability to the City. Further, as a quasi-city agency and the City’s Arts Council, the executive director serves on the Mayor’s cabinet in this role to be the representative of, and advocate for the arts community.
Secondly, as Baltimore City’s arts council, BOPA “ … provides resources and opportunities to artists and artist organizations to continue to make Baltimore a city for the arts.” That means that BOPA is a designated City Arts Agency and is supported as such by the Maryland State Arts Council. In that role, they are responsible for grants to organizations and artists, the Public Arts Commission and so much more, as detailed on their website. Arguably, this is the most important role and where the city can provide support to organizations large and small. There is room for debate and discussion around the scope of its programming, but it is time to consider separating the two major functions of BOPA as it is currently organized.
Although the focus lately has been on events, BOPA’s role as the Arts Council is of critical importance. One thing is sure, whatever the ultimate strategy, this is a time of great opportunity if we focus on the future, collaboration, and the many amazing artists who make Baltimore their home.
All my best,