MICA Mondays: Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones is a senior at MICA studying painting. His art, inspired by his love for sports, draws on experiences from himself and other athletes to include perseverance, injury, defeat, and triumph.

MICA Mondays is a project of the UB Post (University of Baltimore) showcasing the talent and work of students and alumni of the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) released every Monday during the fall and spring semesters.

Produced by: Benjamin Kahn and Jeff Dominguez

Host: Benjamin Kahn

Edited by: Jeff Dominguez

Does a fee subvert the Circulator’s mission?

Charm City’s Circulator might charge a fee in the near future.

Students of UB may be familiar with the Charm City Circulator. Started several years ago, it’s a free public bus system with stops in different Baltimore neighborhoods, predominantly in Mount Vernon, Fells Point, and the border of Federal Hill. For the budget-conscience student and city resident, the Circulator is a welcome alternative to having to pay for the MTA transit system. However, recent developments may be taking away the “free” part of the circulator in coming months.

The announcement of a potential fee for the Circulator was a part of the City Council calling for a study into the bus system’s situation, citing a desire to know who rides it and at what economic cost. Currently, the Circulator requires $7 million to operate its four routes and boasts a yearly ridership of over 4 million people. The announcement itself was met with sharp criticism from the public. This reaction in turn prompted the council to renege on the fee aspect of the study, with Councilman James Kraft stating that he would like more transparency on the matter.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that she wants the service to remain free, but echoes the city council on why the study is essential to the long- term operation of the Circulator. To spearhead the study, the city will pay Louis Berger Water Services Inc. $130,000 to examine the Circulator’s funding, locations, ridership, and future route extensions. Rawlings- Blake told The Baltimore Sun: “The longevity of the program depends on us getting it right. It has to work within its budget.”

The aforementioned lack of transparency for the Circulator comes from mostly the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), who have remained quiet on the system’s finances. Adrienne Barnes, the spokesperson for the DOT, hasn’t responded to requests for the numbers behind the Circulator, as well as rumors that it’s operating at a deficit to the city’s budget. This impasse may also be one of the reasons, other than finding interested investors, why the calls for potential route extensions haven’t progressed within the past several years.

These route extensions would greatly enhance the ridership of the Circulator, but the DOT would have to begin a discussion with the city’s officials and organizations (such as the Downtown Partnership), on what the limits are for the Circulator. The Partnership views downtown Baltimore as a rapidly growing area that greatly benefits from the Circulator, but insists that the system isn’t a replacement for the city’s extensive MTA system.

Vice President of the Downtown Partnership, Michael Evitts, feels that the Circulator can be a better- implemented public transit option, once the current lack of transparency is done away with and maybe an “advisory board” instituted in the future. The study is slated to begin during the summer of 2015.

Baltimore welcomes theater project on Howard Street

Nowadays, North Howard Street in lower Mount Vernon isn’t much more than the Phaze 10 restaurant and lounge, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the Eubie Blake National Jazz and Cultural Center; Antique Row is mostly a shadow of its former self. But recently, a theater redevelopment project has been approved for several neglected buildings on Howard St., hopefully spearheading the revitalization of the block.

The Walt Disney Theatre on Disney Dream. Photo courtesy of Bhaskar Peddapati under a Creative Commons license
The Walt Disney Theatre on Disney Dream. Photo courtesy of Bhaskar Peddapati under a Creative Commons license

Baltimore is home to a rich and diverse performing arts scene. For example, Center Stage’s 2014/2015 season features several plays such as the Tony Award winning Amadeus (a musical look into the life of Amadeus Mozart) Next to Normal and the stage adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life closing out the year. The Everyman Theatre begins the season with The Understudy (a black comedy about the egos of actors), as well as Grounded (a drama about a female fighter pilot’s reluctant, but necessary transition to drone piloting in light of an injury and family responsibilities). Everyman will also see the work of playwright Lynn Nottage performed within its walls, with the play “Ruined.”

The theater hub project will cost an estimated $7 million, which will be used to acquire three abandoned properties and convert them into a hub. This hub will consist of three performing spaces, each with a marquee, offices, meeting rooms, and, finally, a café for refreshments and beverages to quiet the appetites of future patrons.

Reaction to the project’s approval by City Hall has been nothing but enthusiastic, with comments ranging from abundant joy to measured excitement. The lead developer for the theater hub, Ted Rouse, was quoted by The Baltimore Sun as saying, “We are very excited to get to work […] our innovative co-working spaces on the upper levels, we have the small, but important, goal of reinventing capitalism so that it works for all residents of Planet Earth, not just the upper management of large corporations.”

Further excitement about the theater project also comes by way of the EMP Collective, a local group of young artists that run and manage a multi-use arts space downtown. The Collective is one of the groups that spearheaded the project from its inception and its artistic director, Carly J. Bales, is excited for the project and the further expansion of the city’s small but impressive arts scene.

In an interview with Maggie Villegas, also of EMP said, “This neighborhood has a lot of underutilized properties that have been in disrepair for so long, that the city is taking a chance on the DIY theatres. We hope that through this project, we can lay the groundwork for future artist-led developments. Baltimore should keep giving artists with big ideas a chance—that’s why we’re all here.”

The theater hub project is an endeavor which could signal the revitalization of the once-booming Howard Street corridor, providing another area of attraction outside of downtown neighborhoods and outlying counties for both citizens and tourists.

Photo Credit