The Unbelievable Artistry of Baltimore Crankie Fest

That’s a wrap! The 2023 Baltimore Crankie Fest came and went and in its wake, nearly 1,000 audience members from around the world were moved and thrilled by the hand-scrolled panorama known as the crankie. Above, Alex and Olmsted showcase their unique “Bread” crankie, one of the nine storytelling pieces featured during the Fest.

A crankie is a simple storytelling tool. But in the hands of the brilliant artists at this year’s fest, it took us on journeys to the heavens and deep into our own souls. One first-time attendee described the diversity of the artistry on display as “truly unbelievable… there were drawings, paintings, multimedia collages, puppetry, singing, dancing, music, jokes, costumes, and such imaginative storytelling. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Jamaal “Root” Collier of the Beatbox Dads (right) and artist Jes Raschella on stage during Crankie Fest (photo courtesy Heather Keating).

This year, CCV supported the creation of (perhaps) the first Ethiopian crankie, performed by Melaku Belay. Melaku flew in from Addis Ababa just for this event and told the story behind one of the most famous Ethiopian dances known as “Eskista.” He also collaborated with beat boxers and old time musicians and even spent some time with students in the Baltimore County Schools as part of CCV’s World Culture in Context program.

Melaku Belay on stage during Baltimore Crankie Fest 2023 (photo courtesy Heather Keating).