Gentrification has become somewhat of a polarizing term amongst counter-cultural circles in major cities these days. How to preserve a neighborhoods rich locale while continuing to improve its safety, security and overall aesthetics is a heady feat for any city planner. A couple weeks ago, Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc held a conference at MICA’s Graduate Center and Area 405 in Station North called the Artists and Neighborhood Change Conference, to facilitate conversation about the pressing issues facing a changing, blossoming community like the Station North area, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Greenmount West, Charles North and part of Barclay. The artist community is home to some of Baltimore’s most creative thinkers and makers- with MICA as a backdrop, many of the area’s warehouse spaces have become DIY music venues, art galleries, and artist studios including the aforementioned Area 405.
The first day of the conference featured presenters from outside of Baltimore including Carla Perlo, the founding Director of Dance Place Art and Community Center in Northeast Washington DC and Roberto Bedoya of the Tucson Pima Arts Council – both fixtures in their perspective communities, responsible for developing burgeoning arts scenes in both Washington DC and Tucson.
Day two featured local artists, residents, community organizers and academics to facilitate conversations on the hot-button ideas behind gentrification, whether or not it’s a negative, and how to prevent it in an arts district like Station North. The discussion was both necessary and powerful for any attendee – it displayed both the passion and dedication the folks both in and outside of Station North have toward the continued growth of the neighborhood while also serving the artists and tenured residents of the district’s neighborhoods.
Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the neighborhood’s direction, it is evident that the residents of Station North are heavily invested in the future development of the central district – an area once riddled with vacant houses and drug trade.
Right at the center of Station North stands the newly renovated “Station North Chicken Box.” The building which sits at the geographic center of Baltimore on the corner of North Ave and Charles St., was once a New York Fried Chicken restaurant but has stood vacant for over a year.
On Wednesday, June 26th the community celebrated the official opening of the Chicken Box as the office of Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc, a Baltimore Annex Theatre Company stage and a gallery space. Mayor Stephanie Rollings Blake, MICA President and Central Baltimore Partnership Chair Fred Lazarus and Baltimore Housing Comissionar Paul Graziano were among those in attendance. The Chicken Box restoration was one of the Spruce Up Grants, funded by The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and coordinated by The Central Baltimore Partnership with help from folks in the community. The Architecture firm, Ziger/Snead designed the building’s minimilist interior – a great balance of the buildings character and modern function.
Spend some time in Station North, become a regular. Creativity and passion is seeping up from the street corners, warehouses, galleries, workshops, and row houses that fill the boroughs – soak it in. Check out Station North Arts and Entertainment’s event calendar – there’s a little something for everyone.
Below are some photos from the Chicken Box ribbon cutting ceremony courtesy of Theresa Keil