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An Artist’s Tour of Baltimore

The Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore is a favorite destination of local sculptor Alessandra Torres.
The Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore is home to local sculptor Alessandra Torres. Photo © Jennifer Walker.

Sculptor Alessandra Torres says that Baltimore, a small city with a strong arts community, is a place where artists can make a name for themselves. Torres, a sculpture professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, counts Gallery Four, Area 405, and Silber Art Gallery at Goucher College among her favorite galleries. But she also loves Baltimore for its festivals, its food, and its haunts that “aren’t too cool and aren’t too fancy.” Visit her favorite neighborhoods, attractions, and festivals to experience the best of Baltimore in the summertime.

Tour Bolton Hill’s architecture among locals.

Now a resident of Bolton Hill, Torres says that the stately homes—one of which is the abode of Frank and Claire Underwood on Netflix’s House of Cards—are “like dollhouses.” In the summer, she likes to wander around the neighborhood, taking in the beauty of the homes, the gardens, and the churches.

Bolton Hill also has several gems worth visiting, including die Botschaft 1628: Art & Culture, “a beautiful, intimate gallery” on the main floor of a row home. Nearby is the charming b Bistro, where Torres likes to sit outside for dinner and drinks during the summer. “The street is so quiet and tucked away,” she says. “You feel like you’re in Europe.” The low-key Mount Royal Tavern with its Sistine Chapel-replica ceiling is a haunt that “has just the right amount of neglect,” she says. There’s a long, quiet bar that gives patrons space while drinking, and snacks are available, such as chips and pizzas.

Wind through Patterson Park to feel like you’ve left the city.

To escape the sometimes sweltering city sidewalks—Baltimore is quite humid in the summer—Torres likes to go to Patterson Park. Here, she has come upon a lake, a marshy grove, and a beautiful, hidden boardwalk. “There’s areas that are really remote, so you’re on your own,” she says. “It’s these little moments when you can’t believe you’re in Baltimore.” For food, Torres, who grew up in Puerto Rico, likes to grab an “inexpensive and very good” taco from Taqueria el Sabor del Parque or a coffee from Patterson Perk, which is also known for its breakfast sandwiches. On Sundays or Tuesdays, she grabs a seat on the hill by the pagoda to listen to the Friends of Patterson Park’s free concert series; this year’s lineup includes the reggae band Jah Works and the blues group Nadine Rae & the Allstars.

Scope out Artscape for dance, music, and art.

In July, Torres always stops by Artscape, Baltimore’s three-day outdoor arts festival. There have been some incredible shows highlighting dance styles from experimental to flamenco at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric, as well as performances by Mt. Royal and Celebration, two local bands that are both fronted by singer Katrina Ford. Visitors can tour the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize exhibitions; the semifinalists’ work is displayed at the Decker and Meyerhoff galleries at MICA, while the finalists’ exhibition is at the Walters Art Museum. It’s a huge, overwhelming event, though, so Torres recommends grabbing a schedule ahead of time to plan your visit.

Dine outdoors on crabs, brunch, and tapas.

Torres recently discovered a great place to eat crabs: The Crab House at Captain James Landing, an outdoor, waterfront shack on the border of Fell’s Point and Canton. “You sit outside, and there’s just paper on the table. It’s not fancy,” she says. For brunch, she loves the beautiful outdoor space at Woodberry Kitchen in Clipper Mill, where she also raves about the changing dessert selection. “The cherry pie is to die for,” she adds. On Friday nights, you can sit outside at Tapas Teatro in Station North, where Torres says that some of her favorite young Baltimoreans work, including Michael Lowry, the touring drummer for local band Future Islands. “It’s just insane to have this kind of talent, and just hang out with them while they’re at Tapas.”

Detour to WC Harlan any time of year.

Walking into the atmospheric WC Harlan in Remington feels like entering a painting, says Torres. That’s not surprising after hearing that co-owner Lane Harlan’s friends, many of whom are artists, contributed to getting the space ready. The off-the-beaten-path bar without a sign outside—there’s simply a black door with the word “Enter” written in chalk—has many seating options, from a large picnic table to a long bench beside a piano to a private, romantic nook. “You can make [the place] your own,” Torres says. “You are the show; you are the spectacle.” She recommends ordering the cheese plate and a domestic absinthe. This is a bar built by artists, after all.