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Creative Alliance Toasts New Lounge

The Creative Alliance at the Patterson will toast a new bar May 14 expected generate more revenue for the performing arts venue and bring more commercial activity to Highlandtown.

Known for its quirky and eclectic programs that have included everything from African drumming to music from Appalachia, the Patterson has been an economic engine driving the revitalization of the East Baltimore neighborhood.

The Marquee Lounge will seat 16 at its white marble bar and contain 10, two-seat tables in a space that formerly held storage. The $200,000 to build the lounge comes from city bonds and the Creative Alliance, says H. Alexander Satorie-Robinson, chief development officer of the Creative Alliance.

Initially open just on Fridays and Saturdays, the Marquee Lounge will eventually extend its hours and serve food by next year, lounge manager Andre Mazelin says.

The second Thursday of each month, the Creative Alliance will host a local supper club called Food = Art. Highlighting a different chef each time, the event is organized by Puffs and Pastries' Anisha Jagtap and Baltimore tech entrepreneur Heather Sarkissian. The dinner series will hopefully serve as a launching pad for more events that showcase the art of making food, wine, and beer, Creative Alliance Program Director Megan Hamilton says.

The bar's opening will hopefully make the Patterson an economic and cultural anchor in Highlandtown, she says. "It will add to the vibrancy of the Highlandtown commercial district."

As a former bartender, Hamilton says she thought that drinks were a good way to bring income to the nonprofit. Designed by Kroiz Architecture and PI:KL Studios, the bar is expected to initially bring in $50,000 a year in revenue.

The nonprofit Creative Alliance reopened the Patterson, a former movie theater, as an arts center in 2003, The facility hosts gallery exhibits, a media lab, a 180-seat theater, a media lab and arts workshops.

Sources: H. Alexander Satorie-Robinson, Megan Hamilton, Andre Mazelin; Creative Alliance
Writer: Julekha Dash


Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts Tunes Into Renovation

The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is looking to spruce up its aging performance space in Annapolis.

The theater and auditorium, which date to 1932, will get new seating and carpeting and upgraded acoustics as part of the multiyear plan, says Donna Anderson, the nonprofit's vice president of external affairs.

Details, such as the cost of the facelift and completion date, are still being worked out. The arts organization is still in negotiations with an architecture firm to handle the job.

The renovations would include the 850-seat theater and another room beneath it that holds classes, recitals, meetings, and post-theater receptions. As a former high school gymnasium, the room has its limitations, Anderson says.

Leaders at the arts organization want to spruce up that space and add a loading dock to the theater wing.

The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is home to four resident companies -- Annapolis Chorale, Annapolis Opera, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Ballet Theatre of Maryland. The nonprofit also holds an artist-in-residence program and art, music and dance classes.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Donna Anderson, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts

Cirque du Soleil to Hire up to 200 for Baltimore's "Totem"

Cirque du Soleil will be hiring 150 to 200 folks in Baltimore to help it put on its latest show, "Totem."

Jobs will include ushers, box office attendants, technicians, and supervisors prior to its April 7 debut in Baltimore at the Westport waterfront development, says Alyson Ling, Cirque's ticketing and customer service manager.  

It will take a lot of people to support the 17-day show. It takes 80 people to raise the big top, or Grand Chapiteau, and between seven and 10 days to set up the site. It takes another two-and-a-half days to tear down the 66-foot high tent, Ling says.

It's the fifth time the Montreal-based circus has come to Baltimore. It's last show, "Kooza," sold 60,000 tickets in 2009.
"Totem" traces the journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. Baltimore is one of the first cities to host Cirque's newest touring production. "Totem" has played in Montreal, Quebec City, Amsterdam and London. It is currently running in Charlotte.

So how did Cirque choose developer Patrick Turner's Westport development — a $1.2 billion project that will include homes, offices and restaurants at a former industrial site? Its previous Baltimore shows have landed at Harbor East and near M&T Bank Stadium.

Ling says parking, the size of the site, public access and cost all factor into Cirque's decision when selecting a location.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Alyson Ling, Cirque du Soleil

Baltimore Annex Theater On the Hunt For New Space

An experimental theater in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District is on the hunt for a new stage.

The three-year old Baltimore Annex Theater is looking at spaces on the west side and downtown as its lease at 419 E. Oliver St. ends Jan. 1, says company member Rick Gerriets. Theater members are looking at the H&H building on the city's west side as a possible location as they seek a space of around 5,000 square feet, the size of the current location.

The theater troupe is looking for programs and grants that can help pay for the move. These include Healthy Neighborhoods, a nonprofit that supports initiatives that help strengthen Baltimore neighborhoods, and Downtown Partnership of Baltimore's initiative to provide grants to artists and businesses to fill vacant storefronts.

Unlike some other theater groups in town, the Baltimore Annex Theater has taken its show on the road. The theater troupe recently completed a six-week tour visiting 35 cities, including Detroit, Santa Fe, Houston and Nashville. Actors were performing "A Fistful of Flowers," a play by Evan Moritz about two modern-day cowboys who are ex lovers that chase each other around the desert trying to kill each other.

The theater got its start when five college classmates from James Madison University and the University of Virginia moved to Baltimore. The Baltimore City Paper named Moritz best director in its annual Best of Baltimore issue this year.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Rick Gerriets, Baltimore Annex Theater


Maryland Art Place Plans to Move to the West Side

Maryland Art Place is moving its office and gallery from Power Plant Live to Baltimore's west side as the nonprofit hopes to be an arts anchor for the neighborhood.

MAP has owned the 20,000-square-foot building at 218 W. Saratoga St. since 1988, but it has been renting out the space to other nonprofit tenants. Some of those will remain when MAP moves in January to the five-story building.

Eventually, leaders at the nonprofit would like to use the entire space for community arts projects, MAP Executive Director Cathy Byrd says. This could include artist studios, a dance studio and a small movie theater. To do that would take several years and require a thorough renovation of the building costing in the neighborhood of around $1.5 million, Byrd says.

The nonprofit is now applying for grants and planning a series of fundraisers to raise money for that effort. MAP plans to hold its fall fundraiser, Pop-Up Gala, Nov. 12 in the Saratoga St. building.

Byrd says the organization wanted to take part in what it sees as a burgeoning arts district on the west side. The area is home to the Hippodrome theater, the artist warehouse known as the H&H building, and Current Space art gallery, which recently moved to Howard St.

Next year, it will be home to Everyman Theatre once it moves from its Charles Street spot in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

The basement of the MAP building on Saratoga St. currently houses underground performance art series 14Karat Cabaret.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Cathy Byrd, Maryland Art Place

UMBC breaks ground on new building for the performing arts

The University of Maryland Baltimore County has broken ground on a $170 million  performing arts and humanities building that will be the Catonsville school's largest building to date.

"We have vibrant arts and humanities [programs] here that don't have as high a visibility as science and engineering," UMBC spokesman Thomas Moore says.

"We're hoping this will provide an opportunity for people to get to know us better."

Known for its computer science and engineering programs, UMBC officials hope that the building will boost its reputation in these fields and get more locals involved with the school by showcasing performances and lectures.

The 167,000 square foot building will open in two phases. The first phase, the department of theater and English, will open in 2012.  It will also include the Dresher Center for the Humanities, which will host public lectures and events. The second phase, which houses the department of dance, music, philosophy and ancient studies, will open in 2016.

"We're confident that every student who begins here will end up taking classes in this building," Moore says. "It's a building that will touch of the lives of every student."

The bulk of the building's funding will come from the state's capital budget.

UMBC officials hope the Catonsville location will make it convenient for people from other areas to catch a performance or talk at the new building. The campus is close to Interstates 95 and 695 and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Boston's William Rawn Associates Inc. and Grimm + Parker Architects of Calverton designed the building. William Rawn's other projects include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Music Center at Strathmore and Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood.

Moore says the stainless steel and brick structure at 1000 Hilltop Circle will have a reflective quality that will display different hues at different times of the day.

"We hope it will be a very beautiful-looking building when it's done."

Source: Thomas Moore, UMBC
Writer: Julekha Dash

Performance Theatre Workshop moving to Hamilton

All the world's a stage for residents of Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood. So, it may be no surprise that after 15 years in Federal Hill, Performance Theatre Workshop is moving to 5426 Harford Road in July.

Productions at the new space will begin Fall 2011, after theater staff have raised the $500,000 needed to purchase and refurbish the former Provident Bank building,  Marlyn Robinson, one of the company's artistic director says.

Leaders at the nonprofit will begin a capital campaign in the near future, raising money from individuals and foundations so they can move into the historic building, which dates to 1928. Baltimore architects Ziger/Snead LLC -- who have worked with MICA and Centerstage -- will design and restore the building.

The new space will give Performance Theatre 80 seats, versus 30 at its spot at 28 E. Ostend Street, near Cross Street Market. "We needed to serve more people," since at times, the theater was at capacity, Robinson says. The spot also offers ample parking and access for the disabled, something that was lacking in its Federal Hill space.

Robinson expects that the area's young families and throngs of artists will be interested in the theater's productions.
"It's an area that very much wants to develop and grow," Robinson says. "We think that is a welcoming and interested neighborhood."

Two neighborhood associations invited the theater troupe to move to the area, Marc Horwitz, also an artistic director for the company, says.

The Hamilton and nearby Lauraville neighborhoods have attracted a host of new restaurants and cafes in recent years, including Clementine, Hamilton Tavern and Red Canoe Bookstore Café.

Originally based in Pennsylvania, Performance Theatre Workshop has a strong educational mission and hosts workshops and post-theater discussions. Theater officials hope to help train Hamilton high school students. "I'd like the theater to grow into a magnet for the schools and receive training from professionals," Horwitz says.

The troupe's most recent production was the "Puppetmaster of Lodz," a play about a Holocaust survivor that the theater runs every seven years. Next season, it plans to hold its plays in various performance spots throughout the city until its new Hamilton space is ready.

Wanna know more? Read more about the area's Arts and Culture scene.

Sources: Marc Horwitz, Marlyn Robinson, Performance Theatre Workshop
Writer: Julekha Dash

New jazz club opening in West Baltimore hopes to help city reclaim its musical heritage

When Daniel Cherky and Errez Segman bought the building in the 1100 block of West Baltimore Street, the idea was to renovate it and sell it. When the economy took a nose a dive, however, Cherky says their plans changed and Back Alley Jazz was born.

"I figured that I would do something to help the neighborhood. We want to make [this part of] Baltimore live again and bring a little bit of the feel of New Orleans to the city," he explains.

Familiar with Baltimore's illustrious musical history, Cherky and Segman decided to do something to help restore the city's reputation as a major player in the world of jazz.

"I said let's create something like back in the '20s because Baltimore used to be a real swinging place," Cherky says.

Just a few blocks west of University of Maryland's Biopark, Cherky says the neighborhood needs some help. "I have done a lot of the work on the building myself and in the beginning I would put my tools down [and go do something in another part of the building]. Five minutes later, the tools would be gone and ten minutes after that someone would be there selling me back my own tools," he laughingly recalls.

So far, the pair have spent more than $400,000 rehabbing the building, painting the facade, adding a rooftop deck and creating three floors were jazz lovers will enjoy national, regional and local jazz artists as well as amateur acts.

With the backing of the the city, which changed the name of the alley next to the building to Back Alley Jazz, Cherky says the upscale club will take visitors back to the days when speakeasys were the place to be. The clubs entrance will be located at the back of the building that is adjacent to Hollins Street Market. Valets will park guests' cars while security guards will ensure that both remain safe.

The staff will be dressed in 1920's era-style clothing. In addition to a variety of cocktails, the club will offer a light menu of New Orleans-style cuisine that will also include an homage to its Maryland location with some local favorites.

Back Alley Jazz will open around the end of April or beginning of May. The hope, says Segman is that the club will attract guests from Virginia, DC and the Greater Baltimore area. According to Cherky, eventually, the club will host a variety of street festivals on its parking lot.

Sources: Daniel Cherky and Errez Segman, Back Alley Jazz
Writer: Walaika Haskins

$12M artists' residences, gallery, to break ground this month

The Station North Arts and Entertainment District will welcome a $12 million artists' residence and gallery by the end of the year, furthering city officials' goal to make the area north of Mount Vernon a magnet for creative types.
 
A team of four developers and the Rouse Co. Foundation are leading the City Arts project, an 80,000-square-foot building with 69 rental units and eight townhomes that will go on sale.

The developers are currently looking for someone who can book performers and find artists to display their work on the walls, says Charlie Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore Inc., one of the developers. The other developers are Homes for America Inc., TRF Development Partners-Baltimore and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development. Southway Builders Inc. is the general contractor.

Duff envisions City Arts as a place that can help retain artists in Station Arts after they hit 25. The Station North area is chock full of "cheap grubby space" that appeals to the recent college graduate, but few spaces for folks in their late 20s, Duff says.
 
"Eventually, people want to settle down and go to bed earlier and they can't do it now in Station North," he adds. "We want this building to become part of the Station North scene as it evolves."

The neighborhood is home to long-time businesses Tapas Teatro and Everyman Theatre. In recent years, it has attracted new arts organizations, including Single Carrot Theatre and the Strand Theater Co.

The City Arts project at 440 E. Oliver Street was financed with the federal low-income housing tax credit. Rents will cost $625 for a one-bedroom apartment and $750 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Prices for the townhomes have not been set yet, Duff says.


Source: Charlie Duff, Jubilee Baltimore Inc.
Writer: Julekha Dash

BDC close to deal for the Parkway Theatre Redevelopment Project

The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) says that, it will enter into negotiations with the development team of Seawall Development Company, owned by Donald and Thibault Manekin, and Cormony Development LLC, owned by Samuel Polakoff, for the Parkway Theatre Redevelopment Project located at 1820 North Charles Street, 1 West North Avenue and 3 West North Avenue--the former Parkway Theatre.

Baltimore's Parkway Theatre was designed by Oliver B. Wright and patterned after the West End Theatre near Leicester Square in London. The theatre was acquired in 1926 by the Loews organization and extensively remodeled. Movies remained the mainstay until the theatre was acquired and closed in 1952 by the Morris Mechanic organization. It reopened in 1956 as the Five West Art Theatre, continuing that operation into the mid 1970's when it again closed and remained so until the early 1990's when an attempt was made to open commercial office space in the rear orchestra level. The theatre has remained vacant since 1998.

Seawall and Cormony have proposed a $12.2 million mixed-use project, featuring a 26,189 square foot build-out that incorporates the three properties into a seamless development that celebrates the arts. The team's design incorporates a performing arts venue, bar, a museum and related support space.

The Parkway will undergo an historic renovation, becoming a multi-faceted theatre able to accommodate a wide variety of entertainment. While the focus will be on live music, other options are expected to include community theatre, children's shows, comedy, movies, lectures, and a catering hall.

The existing building at 1 West North Avenue would be replaced with new construction in order to achieve a vibrant, illuminated corner. The new structure will feature a lobby and office for the theatre on the lower levels and commercial uses on the upper floors. Meanwhile, the façade of 1820 North Charles Street will be retained. Each floor in this building becomes an extension of the space on the same floor in 1 West North Avenue. The first floor will house the kitchen for the theatre.

"This proposal and this development team provide a great opportunity to revitalize a historic structure and reinvigorate the most critical area in the Charles North community," says BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie. "We are confident that this project will serve as a catalyst for more private investment throughout the community."

The proposal is the result of a Request for Proposals issued in May 2009,  in which the BDC offered the three properties, located within Charles North, the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and the City's Enterprise Zone, for redevelopment. BDC received just two responses to the RFP.

Both a community-appointed Advisory Panel and BDC's Project Review and Oversight Committee unanimously approved the Seawall/Cormony proposal. Subsequently, the Board of Directors of BDC endorsed the proposal and Mayor Sheila Dixon approved the Board's recommendation.

Source The Baltimore Development Corporation
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Pigtown art gallery trades work for wall space

Wanna see a photo of two dragonflies mating?

Wait – don't answer that. Just head over to Gallery 788, a new artists' space at 788 Washington Boulevard in Pigtown, where provocative works from a dozen Baltimore artists whose mediums range from photography, painting, and sculpture, to illustration, filmmaking, singing and songwriting, poetry, performance art and various other media.

The new gallery, which hosted a "soft launch" for about 250 people on July 30, gives artists the opportunity to show their work and gain visibility without the expense and networking hurdles of breaking into the private gallery scene. According to photographer Terry Smith, who snapped the dragonfly dalliance and other nature-themed photographs currently on display, the building has been opened up to artists by owners Mark and Patrice Smith (no relation), who run Baltimore-based Magnum Construction. Artists who pass an informal jury pay just $50 to display their work for a month and help operate the gallery four days a week. In exchange, they receive full price for their pieces; the gallery does not charge a commission.

The first exhibit will run two months, and subsequent exhibits will rotate monthly. Smith, a supervisor for Magnum Construction, calls the two-story space with nine-foot high ceilings "clean, crisp, brand new and wide open," which, coupled with the great foot traffic at the corner of Washington and Scott Streets, make it the ideal space for displaying art.

"I think it's a good fit with the plans Mark has for Washington Boulevard," Smith says, alluding to  work being done in the area by Magnum. "He's making it a destination point and this gallery would add to that. As restaurants and businesses come in, people will visit the gallery."

Gallery 788 is open Thur. 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.; Fri. noon – 8 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and
Sun. noon – 6 p.m. For more information, contact Eduardo Rodriguez at [email protected]

Source: Terry Smith, Magnum Construction
Writer: Lucy Ament


New dance studio in Pigtown thinks Baltimore can dance

Don't let "Dancing With The Stars" fool you: formal dance instruction is not just for B-List celebrities and retired professional athletes, and it's certainly better to do than experience from the padded passivity of your couch.

Expressions in Motion, a new dance studio opening in Pigtown later this month, is making it possible for aspiring dancers to learn some moves -- whether they are 3 or 93. Kids are taught creative movement and ballet and tap basics, while teens and adults can pick from a host of classes in jazz, ballet, modern, tap, hip hop, and contemporary dance.

Owner Martha Reyner, a Baltimore native who studied dance at Columbia College in Chicago before returning to the area to run a dance studio with her childhood mentor, says the studio will resemble a gym in that adults can pop into whatever daily classes they wish. Reyner has assembled a team of a half-dozen dance instructors to teach the classes, which will cost about $7-15 depending on the package members buy. They can pay for classes individually, purchase a full ten-week session, or choose a full 30-week year.

Best of all, students get several chances a year to show their stuff. Reyner plans to host several "Open Marley Nights" (a riff on "open-mic nights" that alludes to the special flooring on a dance floor) where students will be able to perform for one another and perhaps students from other studios. She also pans to organize two large, formal performances for her students, one in December and one in June, at a local performance hall or school.

The two-story studio Reyner chose at 756 Washington Blvd., formerly a furniture store, has three studio spaces, a parents' waiting room, and a kids' lounge. Reyner, who says the grand opening is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 29, chose the area because she was impressed at how readily Pigtown is realizing its potential.

"Baltimore is my home, and even after living in Chicago a long time I wanted to come back," she says. "I chose Pigtown because I feel like it's a visibly growing neighborhood and it's kind of fun to be a part of something that has a lot of positive energy. People want to make it beautiful and nice and safe and I want to help facilitate that."

Source: Martha Reyner, Expressions in Motion
Writer: Lucy Ament

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