It was around March 12 or 13 that Josh Kohn, performance director at the Creative Alliance in Patterson Park, realized the landscape had changed.

“We didn’t know how long [the pandemic] would last,” he says. “We had to start immediately canceling programs.”

Naturally, Kohn was concerned about the implications of the cancellations for the organization. But he was equally concerned about the artists and the financial burden they would face due to the cancellations. But he needn’t have worried.

“We came together almost immediately to converse about what it would mean to [operate] without the use of our building,” says Kohn. “How could we create a safe way for our community to enjoy music and to support local musicians?”

The answer was CA’s “Sidewalk Serenades,” a series of “close but not-too-close personal concerts.” For a small fee, CA sends popular local musicians to perform brief concerts outside of ticket-buyers’ homes. The program, which began March 20 with performances by Ken and Brad Kolodner, is currently entering its third round.

“To date, we’ve had 291 ‘serenades’ in Baltimore City and put $36,000 in the pockets of musicians,” says Kohn.

Ironically, he adds, “We’ve spent 25 years as an arts organization trying to get people to come to our building. We never could have dreamed that in three to four days we’d be taking Creative Alliance all over the city!”

Artist Alina Poroshina’s painting “Beneath the Surface”
Artist Alina Poroshina’s painting “Beneath the Surface” — was part of this year’s Big Show at Creative Alliance. (Provided Photo)

Despite the pandemic, “The Big Show,” CA’s annual visual arts exhibition, opened its 25th anniversary season on July 18. The exhibition can be viewed online, but is also open to in-person visitors on Saturdays at Creative Alliance on Eastern Avenue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sept. 12. A maximum of 10 people are permitted in the gallery at one time, and masks must be worn. Reservations are strongly suggested.

“This year’s show ended up being the biggest show ever,” says Kohn.

In addition, CA has many other projects in the works, including its “Tianquiztli” street markets that include live music, artisans and traditional Latin American food.

CA will present a “Black Artists Matter” virtual festival on Sept. 26. The all-day Facebook Live event will encompass arts workshops, live-streamed presentations by community healers and a performance that celebrates Baltimore’s Black artists and communities.

CA is known for its “Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival.”

“This is an event that typically attracts 10,000 people,” says Ari Pluznik, CA’s community arts liaison.”We can’t do that [this year], but we still want to bring joy. We’re playing with the idea of having floats and bands on trucks that slowly drive by like a Happy Halloween funeral procession.”

Instead of having onsite lantern-making, CA plans to create take-home lantern-making kits. This year’s parade falls conveniently on Oct. 31.

As for the future of the organization, Kohn admits, “It’s super-concerning. We talk about it all the time. “On the positive side, even without arts organizations, the city is still creating great art — visual, music, across the board. We exist to support artists and the community. Our core audience knows that we’re still here.”

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