« Contest #3: Christopher Kimball in Mobtown | Main | Oyster week continues »

October 20, 2010

Artscape moving to single food concessionnaire

artscapeBeginning next year, Artscape will use an exclusive food concessionaire to "provide and manage" all food stands.


Past vendors were notified of this decision yesterday in a letter from Kathy Hornig, the director of festivals for the Baltimore Office of Promotions & the Arts.

The primary reasons given for the change are the critical loss of the Bolton Yards lot in 2007 along with other smaller lots in subsequent years, and the increasing difficulty of managing the festival's sixty-plus vendors.

BOPA has issued an request for proposals for the single concessionaire. The deadline to submit proposals is November 23, 2010.

Next year will be the 30th edition of Artscape, now the "largest free arts festival in the country," according the the promotions office.

The full text of the letter is below.

October 19, 2010

Dear Vendor,

As you may recall, Artscape lost use of the large Bolton Yards parking lot as a Food Court in 2007. The space proved ideal for staging multiple, individual food vendors and their back-of-house needs. Since then, we have continued to lose the use of more flat lots in the neighborhood while, at the same time, the festival’s popularity and footprint have grown. We find that managing 60+ individual food concessionaires has become one of our biggest challenges at Artscape, especially now that the majority of the food stands are back in the street. Communicating with this many vendors is difficult; that issue multiplies as we coordinate important details such as menus, pricing, electricity, water access, sanitation/recycling, grease and gray water, truck parking, vendor fees, deposits/payments, neighborhood impact, overall presentation, etc.

To this end, we have made an important decision for Artscape 2011, issuing a RFP for an exclusive food concessionaire to provide and manage all the food stands. We understand that this approach will negatively affect many food vendors who have participated in Artscape previously, but may not have that same opportunity in 2011. We took that impact into consideration as we weighed this very tough decision, but ultimately decided that an exclusive-concessionaire approach is in the best interest of our festival, moving forward.

We welcome you to review the RFP, which is posted on Please note that the RFP asks respondents to address subcontracting a percentage of stands to Baltimore City-based businesses if they are not a City-based business, and also MBE/WBE participation. The deadline to submit proposals is Tuesday, November 23, 2010.


Kathy Hornig, Director of Festivals

Taste Mediterranean Grill.


Posted by Richard Gorelick at 9:30 AM | | Comments (56)


I thought this past year was a success for food even w/o the old u of B lot. Green food court, hookah lounge from cazbar... One vendor=crap food, less choice and more $$. Bring on Aramark!

This is not a good decision. One of the strong points of Artscape is the variety, in food as in art. Another is that so much content, culinary or cultural, is local.

A single food vendor will harm both of those strengths. Being as Artscape already fights against the weather and parking, as well as the fear of so many who won't go in to Baltimore, this could really decrease attendance.

I don't think this decision will impact attendance, but it will certainly affect the 'flavor' of the festival. It's disappointing that an event based around creativity, DIY ethics, and local culture is moving towards a corporate food vendor with limited choices and higher costs since that's always the way this works. If it truly was impacting the ability to organize the festival, then I suppose it's the right decision, but it's still a shame. It seems like other changes could have been made instead.

Well, this has the potential to really, really suck. I hope that whoever bids on the contract plans to make use of the wide breadth of culinary arts talent in Baltimore, in which case an overarching vision for the festival's food could be a great thing. Alas, it probably just means lots of overpriced chicken fingers and Budweisers.

Excellent!! Good news for all the food merchants in the neighborhood. Good news for all the artists. It should cut down on the folks that just come to graze and give more room to those who want to see the art. The only thing is... we might have to stop calling it Foodscape!

Horrible decision! One of the best things about Artscape was the variety of food options to be enjoyed with the art. I adored the "green" food court... the places you don't see at every other festival around town. We always plan our attendance around meal time so we can enjoy the culinary arts as well as the festival.

Definitely makes the traffic and hassle less enticing for me.

Artscape is just as much about the food variety as it is all the forms of art!! It was so cool being able to sample food from so many LOCAL vendors. But, ahhh, I see it has gone corporate. Maybe we can enjoy the leftover food Aramark won't be serving at Camden Yards this year. Their reason for this is total BS - much like we cannot bring in outside food and drink to M&T Bank Stadium for our "safety"

Typical corrupt Baltimore B.S. What do you expect from the crap capital of the U.S.


Oh, let's just replace all the artists with one cororate entity, perhaps Deck the Walls. It will great, Artscape can feature the largest collection of "Sailor Kissing Girl in Times Square", "Marilyn Monroe over Steam Grate" and "James Dean with Cigarette".

Alas, it probably just means lots of overpriced chicken fingers and Budweisers.
Alas, Mitch, you're probably correct. I wonder what the "toll" is for local vendors to be part of RFP. Probably nothing an actual local business can afford. Taco Bell, Burger King, McD's Panera Bread, Chipotle..... Wonder how long until they start demanding a receipt for the beverage in hand; no more buying at the Tavern, citizen.

Bad idea. I don't think the organizers are in touch with the reason the festival is so popular. A single vendor will jack up prices, lower quality,reduce choices, and otherwise make the experience as scintillating as a cold hot dog at M&T stadium.Competition is what makes this country great. I suggest the organizers find new members who can bring innovative ideas to the group and who have a better sense of why people hang out at the festival in ridiculously hot weather.( Hint- it ain't the art). And.. while they are at it- move it to late September or early October.

What do you expect from the crap capital of the U.S.[?]

Hey! That's the self-congratulatory crap capital of the U.S., hon.

RoCK, that sounds like too much variety. They could streamline the whole event and expedite cross-platform synergies by just featuring the works of Thomas Kinkade, America's most collected living artist.

Good grief, can they find any more ways to ruin local festivals? How about an "approval board" (read: censor) for the artist booths.. Too much thinking required, sorry; your booth has been appropriated to Thomas Kincade.

I had a Kinkade once. Too sweet for an orgy.

Laura Lee, great minds, my friend, great minds. Oh, and Eric Waugh, for non threatening abstracts.

So will this push out all the great local vendors like Taharka Bros and Wheely Good Smoothies?

Why is it that everytime these officials finds something that isn't broke they want to fix it?

Sounds like Kathy and her Artscape employees just doesnt want to do the work anymore.

Terrible decision. They are placing convenience to the origanizers over the desires of their audience. Bad management at BOPA.

That's what I was reading from this Mike. They just dont want to handle all those vendors anymore, and would rather pay someone else to do it. Just make sure you consider City vendors and M/WBE first...

Maybe the music is next? Clear Channel?

LL, I'm not so sure that Thomas Kincade is exactly the artist they are after. Maybe they want Chihuly.

If I remember correctly Artscape has always had a corporate beer sponsor and has almost completely shut out the local brewers. When Kasper had his beer blog many participants complained about the lack of good, local beer. Now the food goes the same way.

Do the organizers really think we are stupid enough to believe this about anything other than the almighty dollar? They must or they would have stated the truth in the letter. Easier on the staff and more money in the bank. Who cares if the experience suffers?

Oh, good. Turnpike food at Artscape. I'll have to bring a bag lunch.

Light rail is already making the day's outing a much less anjoyable experience than it should be. IS BOPA looking for an excuse to discontinue Artscape? Is that what this is really all about??

First they came for the beer vendors, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a beer drinker...

I'm not gonna lie. I've stopped going to Artscape for a number of years (in fact, I try and get the heck outta dodge) - because I realized that it invites into the city precisely the sorts of people that I moved into the city to get the heck away from.

Judgmental? Yes. Elitist? Sure.

Back when it was a friendly little way to tour some of MICA's spaces, maybe see a decent free show, and get my yearly quota of chicken-on-a-stick covered, it was actually pretty fun.

Navigating the immense crush of people and strollers in recent years has become intolerable. Good for the festival.

Knowing that one of the few things that kept me wanting to go, is now gone - I'll just be on a train out of town that much faster.

I ate at Artscape once and only once. It was the most horrible food I ever had and it wasn't cheap. I don't think going to a single concessionaire will change much. It will still be mediocre food at high prices.

Although, I don't support the decision of going to a single food vendor, I do understand the motivations behind it. Managing 60+ food vendors can easily be a job for a a team of 5 people. The logistics of getinng 60 vendors in their place and meeting their operational needs is much larger than most people realize. Perhaps this decision was made in response to staffing changes (RIFs) at BOPA.

My biggest complaint with Artcape over the past few years has been the loss of quality ethnic food. Looks like that will only get worse. Let’s get fatter America. Have another cheesesteak!

I guess BOPA's vendor management system is the problem. It's not like this is a brand new's been happening for almost 30 years, why change now? Sounds like money influencing this decision. Baltimore, a city that prides itself on diversely flavored neighborhoods, is now going to take one of its premier events and make it mundane by using a sole source food vendor. I know where I won't be spending my money that weekend in July 2011.

First, it was Zapp Application for Artscape artists, one huge, controlling, WalMart-esque entity, anybody notice how the Art has gone down hill... fast?

Now a single food vendor so we can experience the best Artscape Organizers can put out there... wow...

Honestly, if Artscape could be one of the premier ARTS Festival out there, lose it's "largest free" moniker, then I think we'd be 10 times happier...

I love the MRT!!!

First, it was Zapp Application for Artscape artists, one huge, controlling, WalMart-esque entity, anybody notice how the Art has gone down hill... fast?

Now a single food vendor so we can experience the best Artscape Organizers can put out there... wow...

Honestly, if Artscape could be one of the premier ARTS Festival out there, lose it's "largest free" moniker, then I think we'd be 10 times happier...

I love the MRT!!!

This is the worst idea ever.

One more reason to skip Artscape...

What next? A single food vendor for the frarmers' market under the JFX?

MAG, your comment literally made me shiver! Someone once thought that corner grocers (like I shopped at in New Haven back in the day) made less sense than a big grocery store.

I live and work in a culture whose two most often heard phrases are (in this order) "We've never done it that way before!" and "We've always done it this way!" Whatever the "it" is turns out to last as long as the founders, and maybe a few younger acolytes, can make it work. It's about a generation ... about 30 years.

Maybe this is an early sign of the end of Artscape, and maybe that's okay. Once its gone, something different will arise, not so much to take its place, but because there is someone with a vision that gets other folks excited enough to give their precious time and energy. Some in City Hall will complain that "we've never done that before." And 25 years later someone will offer a suggestion that will meet with the response, "But we've always done it this way."


Down with Artscape; bring back the City Fair.

Seriously, this is a terrible decision. Someone should set up an online petition.


Just have to say that I can't imagine any one vendor providing a wide range of appealing festival food. Yes, managing a large array of varied (and oft temperamental) vendors is a challenging task, but one with great rewards if handled correctly. Someone noted the well-remembered City Fair - we hosted a great number of local restauranteurs who took pride in being a part of the event, and they were managed by a small group of volunteers. It took a great deal of work and ongoing hassles, but we always felt the result to be worthwhile. Hopefully, I'll be proven wrong, but my fears are that Artscape will suffer badly by this choice.

The last couple of years, I've perused the food vendors and was really unimpressed. Ended up getting something to eat at a restaurant in the neighborhood. I think this is a good thing for nearby restaurants.

I apologize for the repeated posts - efforts appeared to not go through. Unable to find if one can remove their own comments posted in error? Administrator help, please?

This is not a good idea. That means the price of food & beverages will cost as much as going to an Oriole or Ravens game. You ought to speak to all of the restaurants on Charles Street and see if they be open and serve their food at a nice cost. And sell beverages to go walk around the festival.

Do not bring back the City Fair, it was just a haven for the city thugs & gang members to create havoc at.

BOPA welcomes comments from festival-goers as we make our way through this process. We are pursuing a consolidated approach because Artscape needs an improved and more sustainable food operation. 60+ food vendors come with 60+ trucks, sanitation and power needs, menu overlap, etc. Getting all the vendors to recycle their grease has been just one of our challenges behind-the-scenes. You can read the details of the RFP on It encourages partnerships with Baltimore City businesses, asks for MBE/WBE participation and explains that we’re open to any and all creative ideas. Kathy Hornig, BOPA

Think next year's going to be bad? Check out the picture I took after jumping into my time machine and visiting Artscape 2012:

Kathy Hornig wrote Getting all the vendors to recycle their grease has been just one of our challenges behind-the-scenes. Well, if that doesn't whet your appetite, I don't know what will!

Along with the MBE/WBE goals are there prevailing wages?

Dahlink, I remember reading this article in the Wall Street Journal about ten years ago. Do you really want to know what happens to restaurant grease?

I have now read the RFP and discovered there are no MBE?WBE or local participation goals only a reference to encouraging the inclusion of the same.

Three things I found very interesting are the reference to BOPA possibly entering into an Official Soda sponsorship, the discussion of food products being donated to Artscape for its backstage and hospitality areas and the lack of a living wage clause. I thought arty folks were all for raising the standard of living for working class.

The site visit for bidders is November 1 at 3:00 pm incase anyone wants to give their ideas directly to the bidders.

Uh, Laura Lee--how about a poem instead?

1) BOPA--like Livebalt and the other booster organizations--sucks in many ways. Their goals do not, in any way, align with the goals of the citizens of Baltimore.
2) Whether MBE/WBE is "encouraged" or required--well, as soon as you stick the MBE/WBE clause into a contract you need to realize you'll essentially be dealing with unsuccessful subcontractors. Any business that can keep its assets under the financial threshhold isn't a great business--and if they're inhibiting their potential growth strictly because of the MBE rules, that's a warning sign too. I am a pinko commie union-supporting Quaker died in the wool liberal, okay, and I think the state MBE system is the worst idea ever. Trust me, I've dealt with state contracts. It does not encourage the best possible outcome for all involved.
3) Other states have "Taste Of" fairs (like "Taste of Minneapolis") and I always thought Artscape was like that. Food is part of our art and culture. Refer to #1: BOPA is retarded.
4) Artscape's sucked for a long time. I agree with the earlier poster who said something like maybe its time is coming to an end. If BOPA has its way, that end isn't far.

I am confident that the organizers or Artscape have the festival's best interest at heart.

Ah, but which festival's best interest, Festival Goer?

Artscape keeps getting more watered down every year.Way less diversity in the music and in food options,with fewer local restaurants getting involved.How can we be proud of a festival that has less and less to do with the people of the city?Time to start organizing more "local" festivals that involve and support the local people and businesses..

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

Top Ten Tuesdays
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Restaurant news and reviews Recently reviewed
Browse photos and information of restaurants recently reviewed by The Baltimore Sun

Sign up for FREE text alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for dining text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Food & Drink newsletter
Need ideas for dinner tonight? A recommendation for the perfect red wine?'s Food & Drink newsletter is there to help.
See a sample | Sign up

Stay connected