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Maryland: Artful places

Courtesy Annapolis CVB

When it comes to arts and culture, Maryland’s cities offer some of the best museums, performances and events in the state.

There’s something about an urban environment that attracts creative types. In Baltimore and Annapolis, groups will find some of Maryland’s best creative artists, who excel in traditional arts, modern sculpture, music, dance and other performances.

In Baltimore, a trio of art museums give aficionados abundant opportunities to see some of the best and most imaginary works from around the area, and an annual art festival overtakes the city each summer.

In Annapolis, visitors can enjoy performing arts at the Naval Academy and many other places around town.


In addition to a bevy of contemporary artists that make their homes there, Baltimore boasts a trio of strong art museums. The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to the Cone Collection, the world’s largest assemblage of paintings by French painter Henri Matisse.

“The Cone sisters were friends with Matisse and some of his contemporaries,” said Sam Rogers, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Visit Baltimore. “They began buying many of his works, and then donated the collection to the Museum of Art.”

The Cone Collection also features an array of famous impressionist and neo-impressionist paintings.

Another institution, the Walters Art Museum, represents the collection of one wealthy local family. Visitors will find a diverse set of artworks, ranging from pre-dynastic Egypt to Greek sculpture, medieval ivories, art-deco jewelry and 19th-century European and American masterpieces.

For an even more eclectic artistic experience, groups can visit the American Visionary Art Museum, which highlights the imaginative works of people who were not trained as professional artists.

The permanent collection has a variety of whimsical sculptures and mixed media works created with found objects. Currently, the museum has a special exhibition, “What Makes Us Smile,” that was put together with the help of guest co-curator Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons.”

For an immersive arts experience, consider planning a visit to Baltimore during Artscape, a summer arts festival, which will take place this year July 15-17.

“It’s billed as the largest free public arts event in the country,” Rogers said. “There are visual arts on display, performing artists, fashion and photography. It’s a real mixed bag, and it draws up to half a million people every year over a three-day weekend.”

During the “Golden Age of Annapolis” in the mid-18th century, the capital city was also considered Maryland’s capital for arts and culture. Today, a number of art galleries scattered throughout the city, in addition to multiple performing arts venues, make a trip to Annapolis an artistic experience.

“For music lovers, we have Maryland Hall,” said Bill Adams, director of sales for the Annapolis Anne Arundel County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can go and catch a performance there from time to time, as well as performances at different auditoriums around town. We often have performances at the Naval Academy, especially during the major holidays such as Easter and Christmas.”

In the Old Shaw Blacksmith Shop in historic downtown, visitors can attend a performance by Annapolis Summer Garden Theater. The plays take place in open air throughout the summer months, and in the evenings there are feature performances by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.

A number of art galleries give visitors the opportunity to see a variety of historic and contemporary works by local artists. The American Craftworks Collection blends traditional and contemporary handcrafts, made by Maryland crafters and well-known artisans from around the country.

Other local galleries display a variety of painting, pottery, jewelry, glass, candles, sculpture, photography and other artistic media.

“The city is just peppered with small galleries,” Adams said. “Patrons can not only go in and purchase art, but just look at the art and enjoy the aesthetics.”

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Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.