The past month has been busy for our three Arts & Entertainment Districts. The Bromo Tower, Highlandtown, and Station North A&E Districts have selected their artists from Austria, Spain, and the United Kingdom for our 6-week long European Artists’ Residency this spring and summer. Bromo Tower selected the Social Design program team at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (Austria) for their TRANSIT residencies. One professor, Barbara Holub (also of the Transparadiso group) and three students will be arriving this summer. Along with the Viennese design team, Bromo Tower is going to collaborate with a number of local arts groups, as well as merchants, social service providers, the University of Maryland and other stakeholders. Highlandtown has chosen the Spanish artist group mmmm…, and is currently discussing the timeline and project outline. Mmmm… intends to create a new, iconic bus shelter for the Highlandtown neighborhood. Highlandtown is also seeking an artist to partner with the Spanish artists. Jeremy Stern, Creative Alliance’s Exhibition Manager is currently in the process of selecting the best artist to assist them while they are in Baltimore. Station North has chosen The Urban Playground Team (UPG) from the United Kingdom for its European Artists’ Residency. The UPG Team will invite young people to play the Penn Station Plaza through a residency combining elements of functional architecture and design with Performance-Parkour, street dance, street based arts and sporting disciplines. Right now, Station North is working through the process of finding local fabricators, performance artists, and others who can work with UPG to transform Penn Station Plaza.

A-Day-in-the-Life-Prodigal-Theatre-cMatthewAndrews2011

(Image: A Day in the Life Photographer: Matthew Andrews)

This coming spring is going to be full of opportunities for artists and the public to engage the plaza in Station North in play- and meaningful ways. Station North is looking forward to some thought provoking temporary installations and interactive performances. They are grateful for the cooperation and all the activities that are happening in the three A&E Districts, both directly connected to TRANSIT, as well as other programming and projects occurring within each neighborhood. The discussions have highlighted the strengths and assets of each district, as well as ways that they all can work together for the remainder of TRANSIT and in the future to overcome obstacles.

Bromo Tower received much positive press this month. The A&E District was not only featured in the February 2014 issue of Baltimore Magazine (not yet available online), but also in the AAA World magazine. The article by John Lewis in the Baltimore Magazine is entitled “Westside Bromide”, and features Jeff Daniel, President of Hippodrome Theatre as well as quotes from Vinny Lancisi, Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre, and Priya Bhayana, Director of the Bromo Tower A&E District. The AAA World magazine published a profile on the Bromo Tower District, entitled “A Towering Achievement Revitalized”. Bromo Tower also highlights the great opportunity of TRANSIT to better connect the three A&E Districts. They look forward to shaping further projects in ways that foster more collaboration and strengthen the city’s arts & cultural community as a whole.

And last but not least: Highlandtown. The Southeast CDC has announced that the owner of Baltimore’s  “Alewife”, Bryan Palumbo, will be opening another restaurant in Highlandtown in first floor of the Southeast CDC headquarters. The new establishment will be a farm-to-table restaurant with a focus on microbrews located at 3323 Eastern Avenue (the corner of Eastern & Highland Aves). The Southeast CDC is working closing with the bank across the street to jazz up their parking lot, which will be used for restaurant parking. Using recommendations from residents and merchants for this area from a Placemaking workshop, Highlandtown is studying the design of a mural, signage and lighting to promote walkability and safety between the lot and the business. Check out the article here!

Moreover, Southeast CDC, Creative Alliance, and the Painted Screen Society are working together to install a 2-story painted screen in the East Avenue-facing window of the Creative Alliance. The screen will be designed and painted by Highlandtown artist Monica Broere. The largest of the window screens measures 7′ x 7′; with the entire design reaching over 23′ high! This painted screen faces the corner of High Grounds Coffee, which, through Placemaking efforts, is adding a seating area, mural, lighting and an improved facade. Additional projects will be happening through spring 2014, including permanent outdoor seating, completion of a new mural, and improved lighting to Conkling Plaza!

Highlandtown’s lesson learned this month is: If it’s broke, fix it! Within the first month of being installed, one of their 6 new goose-neck lights was damaged by ice. They immediately called the contractor and had it repaired. So always keep in mind to have a maintenance plan before adding permanent improvements!

This past month community members and visitors to Highlandtown A&E District enjoyed a month of fun, free events. Outside, Santa waived from his Santa House and took pictures with visitors, children and families walked through Candy Cane Lane on their way to explore the Highlandtown Train Garden at the local fire house. Overall, 4000 visitors came to the district! Highlandtown has also begun work to create a sidewalk seating area next to High Grounds Coffee on Eastern Avenue. Overhead new lighting was installed that illuminates the seating area, nearby bus stop, and future mural site, which has received excellent feedback from the community.
Additional projects will be happening through spring 2014, including permanent outdoor seating, completion of a new mural, and improved lighting to Conkling Plaza. It has been a good month for Highlandtown: 6 new gooseneck lights were installed, and the mural artist was selected for the mural at East & Eastern Avenues.
The simplest projects can make a big difference. When planning the mural/lighting/seating area at East Ave & Eastern Ave, the most practical part of the project was the lighting. Although it was difficult to predict the impact it would have on the space, especially since the other components weren’t completed yet, the community has really taken notice and given many positive compliments. Since, the owner of High Grounds Coffee submitted a facade grant application to fix up his building. This project should be completed later this spring!

The Bromo Tower A&E District has received a lot of press coverage on the artistic crosswalk installations that were created last month and described in more detail in the blog post from November 2013, such as The Atlantic Cities’: Baltimore’s Got Some Playful New ‘Hopscotch Crosswalks’,  The Architect’s Newspaper Blog: Baltimore’s Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus, and Fast Company’s: Hop, Skip, And Jump Across The Street With New Artist-Designed Crosswalks. Moreover, the grant process has been so helpful in allowing the Bromo Tower A&E District to identify and continue to refine its desired outcomes – and also the incredible potential – of this project. Additionally, bringing its arts advisory committee together to discuss the value that will hopefully derive from this project has been a very important exercise and community-building activity that facilitates a sense of ownership for each group over the outcome of the project.

Preparations are well underway for the spring TRANSIT project at Penn Station Plaza in the Station North A&E District. Though things may seem quiet, there is a flurry of work in the Station North offices as they work on a communications and marketing plan to maximize the project’s reach, order paint for test sampling, work through the many practical logistics of the project, and lay the groundwork for our community outreach strategy once the residency begins in full. The project will be officially announced in the coming weeks… stay tuned!
Station North feels very fortunate to have a number of partners that support the work at Penn Station Plaza. Representing a range of sectors and interests, these partners have lent their professional expertise and resources to the project as planning gears up.  These partnerships will help extend the impact of the project. Station North is confident that they will be helpful to engage new audiences in the district, and strengthening the bonds with its existing audiences.

Though the cold weather has arrived in Baltimore, Station North A&E District is full of activity.  The most recent programming at Penn Station Plaza is the Bmore Flea market.

Photo credit: Bmoreflea

Bmore Flea is a juried selection of arts, crafts, antiques, vintage clothing, jewelry, hand made products, food and bar.  Just in time for the holiday season, Bmore Flea takes place every Saturday in November from 10am-4pm at Penn Station Plaza, at the foot of the Man Woman Statue.  The market is free and open to the public. Bmore Flea is another example of the ways in which public space can be temporarily activated with minimal alterations to the physical fabric of a given site.  The market also shows the networking opportunities for small businesses and artists made possible through small repetitive events.  With more than fifteen vendors each week, there is a wide selection of goods for market goers to peruse.  To keep things fresh, the Bmore Flea organizers rotate vendors to mix up the selection, and to encourage vendors’ individual followings to attend the events, building the larger Bmore Flea audience.  The diversity in vendors is also beneficial in that by having vendors from the Station North businesses as well as businesses from other areas of the city, new retail opportunities are delivered to shoppers, and vendors are able to extend their own professional and client networks.

Since hiring Director Priya Bhayana, the Bromo Tower A&E District is on its way toward building and strengthening its identity. The Bromo Arts District sent out its first e-newsletter on November 8th, representing an important step in creating a more robust promotional strategy for the district and the many organizations and individuals it supports. Creating a centralized location for information about events and opportunities in the district will generate interest in visiting the Bromo Tower District, foster a sense of community and cross-promotional efforts, and highlight the district’s diverse range of cultural offerings.
Three landmark intersections in the Bromo Tower District will soon receive customized crosswalks (one being installed today!) designed by local artists, thanks to a project coordinated by the Mayor’s Office, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts and the Department of Transportation.  Intersections and mock-ups below:

Eutaw and Lombard
“the hopscotch”, designed by Graham Coreil-Allen to be installed in front of the Bromo Seltzer Tower

Eutaw and Baltimore
“the monster”, designed by Nolan Cartwright and Carly Bales adjacent to the Hippodrome and Everyman Theatre

Eutaw and Fayette
“the zipper”, designed by Paul Bertholet being installed today in front of the Hippodrome Theater

In real estate news – two buildings, 407 and 409 W. Baltimore St – spanning 12,500 sf – were purchased in early November with a planned investment of $1 million to redevelop the properties for retail and residential use. Interest in investing in these properties was fueled by the successful redevelopment of other along the now high foot-traffic block, and proximity to the Hippodrome, Everyman Theatre, and University of Maryland. Read the full article here!

Next year Transit plans to bring three European artists over to Baltimore for a 6-week-long residency from January to June 2014 to work together with the local community. Highlandtown A&E District has selected mmmm…, a group of artists from Spain, for the artist residency in its district. Mmmm… has been selected based on their intensive work with communities here in the U.S., plus the interactive, playful quality of their previous projects, which reflect the values and goals of the Highlandtown A&E District to create a vibrant community where neighbors feel safe to communicate with each other and have fun at the same time. A first conversation with mmmm… already took place via skype about how mmmm… might work with the Creative Alliance and Southeast Community Development Corporation. The basic idea is recreating a bus shelter on a busy crossroad that resembles a theatrical stage where the passengers could playfully interact with each other while waiting for the bus.
Also, first permits for new lighting were approved by the City (this new lighting was requested by residents because the corner, which features a bus stop, is too dark; this lighting will also light up a new mural, recently selected by a group of Highlandtown artists). Highlandtown has also received and reviewed submissions for a new mural that will go on a wall behind a bus stop (another request from residents). The selection committee included Highlandtown residents and artists. Highlandtown says: “We’re not revealing the winner just yet! We’ll keep that for December’s post”.
The Highlandtown A&E District keeps on showing spirits when it comes to gathering its community. In mid-October the Kickoff Party for the Arts District Open Studio Tour took place in the midst of the Highlandtown, a street being transformed into a bustling night time party. Shops and galleries stayed open late to feature local artist work, food and wine from local business was featured at many locations, and drummers and dancers paraded along Main Street. Beginning of November two main streets were transformed into an outdoor movie area and street party outside the Patterson Theater.  One corner was focused on family fun with a projected movie, popcorn, and hula hoops. Stilt walkers, jugglers, hula hoopers, and fire performers created a magical spectacle on site. Jugglers and hoopers taught children new tricks, which inspired an impromptu youth performance!

One lesson learnt this time is to be persistent. Getting an answer about permissible improvements in public spaces isn’t always easy. Follow up with multiple calls or e-mails (respectfully!) because eventually you will get an answer!

Mid-September the Bromo Tower A&E District hosted the panel discussion The Future of the Howard Street Corridor. On September 17, 2013 city development leaders from Baltimore and representatives from HafenCity and IBA Hamburg (Germany) met at the Zion Church of the City of Baltimore to discuss ways of improving the Howard Street corridor. Prior to this discussion, the exhibit Building the City Anew: Imagining Tomorrow’s Hamburg, focusing on the redevelopment of two neglected neighborhoods in the city of Hamburg, opened at the University of Maryland School of Architecture on September 16, 2013 and was displayed through October 7, 2013.

Moreover, one day before the panel discussion the German urban development delegation was guided through the Bromo Tower A&E District to get familiar with the infrastructure of Howard Street, in particular its transportation hubs and cultural institutions. The gleaned insights from this tour gave valuable input for the discussion on Howard Street the following day on how to regenerate the Howard Street as a transit corridor, by means of art and urban design initiatives. After a brief presentation of HafenCity and IBA Hamburg the forum began amongst the invited panelists and was followed by a short Q&A. The representatives from the two city government agencies in Hamburg made the following recommendations:

1. Create an agency in charge of managing, implementing and realizing improvement plans!
2. Set a time limit for realization!
3. Urban design guidelines should prioritize architectural excellence and quality experiences for pedestrians.
4. Start small and act quickly!
5. Invest in public space and civic initiatives to promote change!
6. Enable small projects and/or divide large-scale projects into smaller pieces!
7. Financing is a challenge: Create a solid financing plan!
8. Make artists a permanent element of the urban development initiatives!

The video documentation of this panel discussion can be found here. Visit the TRANSIT – Europe in Baltimore website for more detailed information on this topic. The exhibit Building the City Anew: Imagining Tomorrow’s Hamburg will open on November 14, 2013 at the UDC CAUSES in Washington, D.C. and can be seen until December 6, 2013.
The Bromo Tower A&E also announced the hiring of the District’s first director, Priya Bhayana. She will be in charge of advancing and promoting the interests of arts venues, retailers, and other key stakeholders within this district. More on that announcement is here.

After three successful Creative Placemaking workshops with residents, the Highlandtown A&E District is currently in the project planning phase and negotiates contracts with artists and contractors to implement the many projects recommended at the workshops. These workshops would not have gone so smoothly without the help of its many talented volunteers, including the Highlandtown Main Street Design Committee. Along with the planning these projects, Highlandtown held two outdoor parties and built a temporary outdoor park to keep the good humor and spirit. On September 6 and October 4, 2013 Highlandtown brought the party in the Creative Alliance outside with performances from Charm City Roller Girls, stilt walkers and light projections. Also, bus stops were transformed into a fun seating area with plants, lights, Adirondack chairs, and bistro tables. Later on in September, the A&E District partnered with local business. On September 20, they partnered with the local business Baltimore Threadquarters to build a community park in two parking spaces as part of Park(ing) Day, a national event where citizens transform parking spaces into temporary parks. The day was capped off with an outdoor BBQ and music. Since the project TRANSIT was kicked-off, three new businesses have opened along Conkling Plaza, one of Highlandtown’s targeted public spaces. They were working with these merchants on Placemaking projects, like the gallery tour in October which displayed artwork from local artists not only in the district’s galleries, but also in these recently opened businesses.

On September 29 100 quilts were displayed at Penn Station Plaza in the Station North A&E District as a part of the the Monument Picnic, organized by FORCE. Prior to the event, FORCE and CONGREGATE partnered to host quilt making workshops with congregation members at the Spiritual Empowerment Center as a way to provide community support for survivors of rape and abuse. As the first leg of its historic project, FORCE hosted the picnic at Baltimore’s Penn Station Plaza, allowing visitors to interact with the quilts, read survivors stories and join in a community of support. 
The event generated positive press for the project and Penn Station Plaza, including an article in the Baltimore Times, was listed as a Top 10 Event to attend by HUGECITY Baltimore, and generated many social media posts.
This event was a program of Congregate: Art+Faith+Community, an exhibition and series of programs that creates shared experiences for faith-based congregations and artistic communities within the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. The exhibition was curated by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Curatorial Practice MFA class of 2014. The event was also made possible by Station North Arts & Entertainment District.

The insight gleaned from the panel discussion on The Future of the Howard Street Corridor demonstrates the importance of learning from other cities, in particular from countries other than the US, and their best practices when it comes to urban revitalizing strategies and initiatives. However, the question is to which extent are cities of different countries, with different forms of municipal government comparable and its strategies applicable to each other?

 

In the past month the foundations were laid for one of the main projects of Transit – Creative Placemaking with Europe in Baltimore: the European Artists’ Residency. One of the overarching goals of Transit is bringing together local and European artists, and community groups to explore together how three selected transit hubs in the three Arts & Entertainment (A&E) Districts of Baltimore are used by the public. Based on the outcomes of this cooperation the invited artists will create some artwork that will be installed in each transit hub.
The proposal deadline for the EU artists’ Transit projects was September 6. Proposals from Austria, Spain and the United Kingdom, were submitted and are currently being evaluated by a jury of representatives of EUNIC D.C., the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, and the three A&E Districts on the following criteria:
• Artist’s qualifications as demonstrated by past works and professional track record;
• Quality of the proposal based on artistic excellence and innovative approach, viability of the plans and suitability to the brief;
• Demonstrated experience of delivering work in the public realm.The Bromo Tower A&E District, for example, has formed an Arts Advisory Committee of district artists and stakeholders to review the submitted artists’ proposals. ArtPlace funds will be applied towards the implementation of the concepts developed by the artists in residence.The Highland Town A&E District is currently seeking additional funds to hire a Baltimore artist to work with the European artist. The selected European artists that will come to Baltimore for a 6-week-long residency from January to June 2014 will be notified in fall 2013.

The biggest development for the Transit project in the Bromo Tower A&E District in the month of September was The Future of the Howard Street Corridor panel discussion on September 17 at the Zion Church of the City of Baltimore. The panel gathered city development leaders and IBA Hamburg representatives, and HafenCity project experts to discuss the ways of improving the Howard Street Corridor. In the process, the panel used the successes (and failures) of Hamburg’s HafenCity project as a reference point. Upon completion, HafenCity, Europe’s largest inner-city development project, is expected to add 12,000 residents, along with restaurants and bars, cultural and leisure amenities, retail facilities, parks, plazas and promenades. HafenCity has set new standards for ecological sustainability and mixed use development in an urban area. HafenCity project leaders first conducted a walking tour of Howard Street, and participated then in a panel discussion with their Baltimore development counterparts. For more information about this panel discussion, visit the Transit website!

Earlier this summer Highlandtown A&E District held three well attended community workshops to gather ideas from community members for the Creative Placemaking projects around its three transit stops. These recommendations will be implemented in the form of public art, lighting and seating. Soon two calls for artists will be disseminated: one for sculptural public seating near the transit stop Conkling St. & Eastern Ave. and the second for a mural next to a transit stop at Eastern Ave. & East Ave. A Transit Steering Committee is currently being developed in the Highlandtown A&E District that intends to include Highland town residents from many backgrounds in the design process of the Transit project: refugee artists from the Baltimore Resettlement Center, immigrants from Highlandtown’s global community as well as teens and adults of many races, ethnicities and ages. Also, the Creative Alliance is working on new European programming – to further deepen the transatlantic dialogue.

Station North A&E, Inc. (SNAE) has taken on the role of activating the plaza of Penn Station, Baltimore’s primary transportation node. The plaza favors automobiles, and is uninviting to pedestrians. Through tactical installations, placement of street furniture, and artistic activation, SNAE is attempting to use its ArtPlace funding and other funding to reengage the public at Penn Station plaza. Several events have been held at the plaza, which have drawn thousands of participants. Recent plaza updates include:
• Baltimore City began providing free public WIFI in Penn Station plaza during August 2013;
• Thanks to a partnership between the Mayor’s Office, the Parking Authority, Amtrak, and SNAE, with funding provided by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, Penn Station Plaza now features attractive tables, chairs, and umbrellas;
• Interboro Partners, a Brooklyn-based planning and design firm, ran a charette to solicit ideas for their public installation at Penn Station plaza, scheduled to be installed fall 2013;
• On September 20th, SNAE will partner with the Gathering and Baltimore Innovation Week to present an evening of food trucks, music, drinks, and adult games at the Plaza.
(Above two photos courtesy of Theresa Keil)

Another achievement is that the Transit logo designed by the Spanish graphic designer Marta Cerdà has received great appreciation  by the Computer Arts magazine, which featured it on its September cover and in a several pages long interview with Cerdà. Computer Arts is one of the most important international magazines on graphic design.

One important thing one should always keep in mind is involving the community. It does not only help bringing together many different perspectives around a given topic, but also increases the acceptance of projects and planned city developments in a neighborhood. The updates, especially on the Bromo Tower and Highlandtown A&E Districts, embody this effort and are good examples of many different stakeholders with different backgrounds coming together to learn from each other and advance similar goals, such as the promotion and development of arts and the economic development in a district.

The focus of Bromo Tower District’s ‘Transit’ project is Howard Street. Once a bustling corridor of large retail stores, many of buildings along Howard Street now sit vacant. Hope is strong that the newly-designated A&E District will spur neighborhood growth. Howard Street’s light rail line, a major north/south commuter option, passes by the Station North A&E District, through the campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art, and terminates adjacent to a MARC (commuter train) station at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Re-imagining the corridor (how it is used by riders, how it integrates into tHoward Streethe community, and how it is viewed by community residents and businesses), is an opportunity to mobilize urban planners, architects and artists, and engage community residents and businesses, to strategically transform the transit environment in the District. Utilizing ‘Transit’ the Bromo Tower District will create an accessible, unique, arts destination, and supply opportunities for dynamic and participatory arts experiences.

With those goals in mind, in the spring of 2013 The City of Baltimore, the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts in collaboration with the Baltimore City Department of Transportation released a call to artist or artist team to assist with the replacement of old crosswalks within District. The goals of the project were to:  install crosswalks that were distinctive and artist designed, but also compliant with traffic and safety regulations; and to improve the pedestrian experience, give better definition to downtown’s Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District, and add an additional public art experience in the City’s third Arts & Entertainment District.

The response to the RFP from the local arts community was extremely positive, and the District received approximately 50 complete proposals. Of course as with any project that engages the arts community, exciting and unexpected proposals are presented. This number was narrowed by a panel of community and city agency stakeholders to four designs. One for each crosswalk slated for renewal.

Bromo Seltzer Tower - Baltimore Maryland

Once selected, the District hoped that the designs would be installed by August 2013. After all, the stakeholder group had included members of the arts community and District residents, a public art project manager, as well as officials from the lead agencies responsible for project installation. As the project began to proceed, it was soon realized that subject matter experts  would also need to be engaged if the project was to move forward, including those specializing in the materials use and installation (for Thermoplast in particular) and traffic safety for pedestrians and vehicles. For all your due diligence, public projects involve a village of participants. Some you will seem obvious, others make themselves known as the project moves forward.
Additionally the initial goal of the project was to include 10crosswalks within the District. As plans moved forward, the projects total budget, which seemed robust at the outset, was consumed by costs to prepare the street for installation (an anticipated cost) and a Maintenance of Traffic cost that is associated with diverting traffic during the installation of any street construction (unanticipated). As with any public art project, be prepared to make necessary modifications to the budget, and perhaps even the projects scope.
The project moves forward, in spite of those challenges, in a more scaled version. Installation is set to conclude October 2013, in conjunction with Arts and Humanities month and will include a community event in the Bromo Tower Art & Entertainment District.