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.


(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!