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Slate: The Rust Belt Theory of Low-Cost High Culture

From Alec MacGillis writing at Slate:

One Friday evening this past summer, my friend and I arrived at Joseph Meyerhoff Hall, home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, for an all-Beethoven program. But we didn’t go straight in. First, we stopped at a stand outside for some Duckpin Ale, an excellent pale ale made by Baltimore’s Union Craft Brewing. We had trouble deciding which of the five food carts to sample, but finally settled on the Smoking Swine. We polished off our plate and drinks just in time for the performance, though the latter was not necessary: Signs outside the concert hall announced, “At this performance, drinks are allowed into the theater,” and indeed, many in the diverse, nearly full-house crowd carried their cups in with them.

The beers cost $3 each. An order of ribs cost $9. And each ticket for “Beethoven and Brews,” in which one of the better orchestras in the country played the composer’sFidelio overture, his third piano concerto, and his seventh symphony (“Pastorale”), cost all of $15.

I’ve come to expect this sort of affordable cultural opportunity in the year since my family and I returned to Baltimore after five years of living in the suburbs of Washington. In fact, Baltimore’s strikingly affordable arts scene is one of the many reasons why we decided to move back, even if it was going to mean a longer commute to our jobs in D.C. Soon after returning, my wife and I signed up at a booth at Artscape, the annual downtown arts festival, for a subscription to the city’s premier theater, Center Stage. The cost for each of us attending all of the season’s seven productions? $100. Soon afterward, I snagged two subscriptions to the symphony’s regular season at a special rate for 40-and-under patrons, for which we (just barely) qualified. The cost to attend a nearly unlimited number of concerts, most of them featuring Marin Alsop, one of the most dynamic conductors in the country? $75.

Read the rest of the story at Slate.

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