The Artistic Renaissance In Baltimore’s Greektown
By Caryn Coyle
Plateia is a Greek word for open market, and it is the new arena for the Greektown artistic revival. In Greece, plateies are the central places for feasts, celebrations and events.
“We’ve been planning a cultural center for Greektown for a decade,” said Jason Filippou of the Greektown Community Development Corporation.
The Plateia, located on the 700-block of Ponca Street, officially opens this month for special events.
The Greek Festival, the second weekend in June, will take place at the Plateia. In the Plateia’s mini amphitheatre, outdoor concerts and the screening of Greek foreign films and plays performed and created from the published work of Greektown authors, are planned. The Plateia is owned and operated by the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and will also be the site of weddings and baptisms.
“Baltimore’s Greektown is one of the only Greektowns left in the United States,” said Filippou, stressing that an artistic revival is occurring throughout the community. “There are many ‘jewels’ in Greektown, and we want to showcase them. We are hosting a variety of events at least once a month.
Citing the fact that the community’s history rests with the longtime residents, the Greektown Community Development Corporation is digitally restoring and cataloging the photographs taken over the past century by Greektown’s elderly population.
“They will be displayed in Greektown’s galleries, restaurants and bars,” Filippou said.
The publication of a creative arts journal, with submissions from the Greektown community, is also in the works. Cultural events have been hosted by several Eastern Avenue Greektown businesses: a display of Daily Camden photographs, a selection of shots taken every day of the baseball season, is in the gallery of Ikaros Restaurant. A reading by Alan Kaufman, an award-winning editor of several anthologies, took place at the Acropolis Restaurant. Kaufman read from his new memoir, Drunken Angel. At the Baltimore Gallery, “Books, Blues and Baklava” featured desserts from the Greek Village Bakery, readings from Baltimore authors and blues by a Greek musician, Pete Karanas.
“I’m an accidental Greektown resident,” said Karanas, who has lived on Macon Street for six years. The New York native performed more than 2,000 times as a guitarist for the Nighthawks. You can hear him play the first Thursday of each month at the Cat’s Eye Pub in Fells Point with the Pete Karanas Blues Band. At the Greektown Baltimore Gallery, Karanas serenaded the audience with his impressive slide guitar. The ease with which he slipped his fingers up and down the neck of the guitar and the music he created were memorable.
Filippou cited Karanas as one of the “gems” of Greektown. He added, “We are morphing into an arts and cultural community by hosting concerts and literary events. But most importantly, we are engaging the residents of Greektown.”
The celebration of all things Greek culminates on June 9 and 10 with the Greek Festival that will take place for the first time at the Plateia.
Find out more about the Greektown renaissance at www.greektowncdc.org.
Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.