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Fixing BOPA: Three local arts leaders on the city agency's future

Bromo-Seltzer_Tower_MD2_photo credit Acroterion, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons_CROP.png
The Seth Thomas Clock atop Baltimore's landmark Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, located at 21 S. Eutaw Street at Lombard St., on downtown Baltimore's west side. Formerly the home of the Mayor's Office of Promotion and the Arts, the Arts Tower has been a major visual and literary arts and events space since the city opened it in 2008. (photo credit: Acroterion, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

We begin today with a conversation about the role of city government in the arts.

The quasi-public city agency known as BOPA, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, came under fire a couple of weeks ago when it announced it was canceling the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade, an event that had been canceled for the last two years because of COVID.

When BOPA issued a press release announcing the parade’s cancelation on January 5, 2023 — less than two weeks from MLK Day — Rep. Kweisi Mfume issued a statement calling the decision “disrespectful” and “disgraceful.” BOPA issued what it called a “clarifying statement” that seemed to put blame for the decision in the Mayor’s office. Within hours, Mayor Brandon Scott was calling for the resignation of BOPA’s director, Donna Drew Sawyer, threatening to withhold city funding if she didn’t leave.

She did leave, a few days later, and the parade did take place on Monday.

There are people who know whether or not the decision to cancel the parade emanated from the Mayor’s office, or from BOPA, but they’re not talking about it. Today on Midday, we’re not going to re-hash what happened with the parade. But we do want to talk about the role that BOPA has played, and should play in the artistic life of our city.

Should promoting the city and serving as an arts council to advocate for creative artists be functions that are combined within one organization? When it comes to events like Artscape and the Baltimore Book Festival, two of the events that BOPA has traditionally produced, how important are they to the cultural life of the city?

Tom's guests today are three arts advocates who have worked to advance the cause of the arts in Baltimore for years.

(L-R) Jeannie Howe, exec. dir. of GBCA; singer Navasha Daya, dir. Youth Resiliency Institute; Maggie Villegas, founder BCAN (courtesy photos)

Jeannie Howe is the executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance… 

Navasha Daya is an internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter, and the founder of the Youth Resiliency Institute...

And Maggie Villegas is the founding director of BCAN, the Baltimore Creatives Acceleration Network.

They all join Tom in Studio A.

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Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Teria is a Supervising Producer on Midday.
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.