Station to Station
Finally, a long overdue article on gentrification and its relationship to local arts venues and businesses
Published: July 10, 2013
Finally, a long overdue article on gentrification and its relationship to local arts venues and businesses (“Can Station North Save the City?” Feature, July 3). I only wish greater examination was given to the displacement and damage to the artist which results from such gentrification, and its accompanying enrichment to the politicians who facilitate it. It needs to be emphasized that without affordable studio space, the artist ceases to produce art and what you are left with, at best, are the commodifiers and pretenders who are but slaves to the marketplace and/or sensationalism.
Noteworthy in your article is that the very pioneer of Station North Development, Sherwin Mark of Load of Fun Studios, has been forced out of business (a pressure tactic to sell to gentrification speculators?) for alleged code violations. One needs to ask, how can that be when the real code violators conduct business-as-usual as long as campaign contributions to the local politicians continue.
Which brings us to the question, why would any politician in the pay of developers ever do anything for the artist when the salary for that office is but a fraction of the campaign costs? What have Baltimore’s mayors, past or present, ever done for the artist other than charge him exorbitant square footage rental rates to be showcased in their monkey cages for the ogling entertainment of the idle elites (the Bromo Seltzer Tower of fools).
One needs to ask himself, the record being what it is, why would anyone trust the politician or the developer, no matter how convincing their honeyed phrases or forked tongue double-speak, when they say they want to help the artist? I’m reminded of the scrawny youngster who is sentenced as an adult for his transgressions, who winds up in the pen with hardened criminals who offer him “protection” should he cozy up to them, only to then find himself bloodied and gang-raped.
Time to wake up! While it is obvious that real-estate vultures share common ground with those in the business of profit at any cost, it should be equally obvious that there is no common “vision” between artists and social activists on one side and those in the business of real estate or Wall Street on the other.
In response to the recent City Paper article on the future of Station North, we want to recognize Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s interest in and commitment to the arts.
Baltimore is experiencing a renaissance fueled by a vibrant and incredibly diverse arts and culture sector—just think of the High Zero Festival, Sankofa Dance Theater, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Muse 360, Everyman Theatre, or the EMP Collective. The arts are drawing audiences, residents, and investments throughout the city, not just to Station North.
The work of these and many other organizations, in combination with a surge in individual artists now choosing Baltimore as home, has had a tremendous positive impact on neighborhoods and communities. We are also on the eve of two incredible city-supported arts events: the Sondheim Prize announcement, which recognizes and nurtures individual artists, and Artscape, a free art and music festival that draws more than 350,000 people from across the region. These moments remind us how arts and culture are integrated into the city’s identity, spirit, and cultural tourism plans.
Of course, everyone always wants more from the city, but we know that the mayor recognizes that funding arts and culture is an investment that pays significant dividends—$388.2 million in total economic activity. We are very grateful for the mayor’s support of such important developments as the new Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, and all three of the arts districts for that matter. We are working with the mayor’s office and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts to encourage the reinstatement of the Creative Baltimore Fund, which at one time provided critical funding to cultural organizations as well as artists.
The good news is that the door is open, conversations continue, and we have a mayor who values the arts.
Executive director, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance
Thank you for your article on the Station North Arts District in your July 3rd edition. There are a lot of interesting things happening in Baltimore’s arts districts these days, many of which go far beyond the self-indulgent perspective of the writer.
In the Highlandtown Arts district, we are seriously engaged in figuring out how the arts can create positive interactions between the residents who make up this vibrant and diverse neighborhood. With the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts and our fellow arts districts downtown and in Station North, we have also developed a partnership with the European Union to explore how to break the stranglehold of the automobile on Baltimore with placemaking techniques around public transit.
I also fail to see the purpose of the personal attack on the mayor. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has always been nothing but totally supportive of the arts districts, as evidenced by the renewal of two districts and the instigation of another. To term the mayor “uncomfortable” around the arts community is both superficial and misleading.
Coordinator, Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District
I feel sorry for Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts (“What Will He Do?” Mobtown Beat, July 3). He has been dealt a losing hand. For all of the recent gun violence, let’s look at what he—as well as the law-abiding citizens of Baltimore—are up against.
First of all, no death penalty for murder and no mandatory gun sentencing. Next, no real impetus to stop such quality-of-life crimes as public drinking, public urination, public prostitution, and public gambling on the corner, which give criminals more leverage in that neighborhood. I haven’t even mentioned the open-air drug markets that are not only in blighted areas but are now evident in once-proud middle-class areas such as Northwood-Lockwood and Govans communities.
I can’t see where Batts, from the outside, can do better than his predecessors Hamm, Clark, Norris, or Bealefeld. Norris and Clark were not given a chance to crack down on the criminals, and Hamm and Bealefeld, though progress was being made, were not sexy enough for this mayor, who is in deep denial about our current crime wave.
Until our mayor comes back to reality and stops trying to deflect problems away from her sorry record on gun violence, we will continue to live in a dangerous city. Case in point: so much is being made about the police presence at the Inner Harbor for the Fourth of July holiday, but I submit to you this question: How many people are being shot or killed at the Inner Harbor? One percent of all the shootings? Two? Batts needs those officers in the neighborhoods, plain and simple.
Working with a mayor who continues to play statistical smoke-and-mirrors with crime and murder in our city will leave Anthony Batts forever in a state of hustling backwards.
The Nature of Bad
I was moved by Leslie Robin Kassal’s letter on Edward Ericson Jr.’s weekly Murder Ink (The Mail, July 3). Although I agree (almost) whole-heartedly with Kassal’s assessment, the use of passive words like “heal” and “unfair” makes cliche the perception for a realistic solution to this problem.
I personally believe it has its roots in pure evil. People who commit premeditated murder relish their acts. They wear it as a badge of honor. I have seen this up-close and personal. Killers don’t necessarily see their misfortune as a result of injustice by white America. Some do. Most don’t. Their retrospection of racism doesn’t stretch that far back in history.
Everything negative is a response to what is in the present, not the past. Being a black American myself, I see angry black people venting anger against other blacks, but hardly ever at whites. Cavalier young black men will sometimes threaten your life if you give their girlfriends even the slightest glance. It’s not all about drug dealing.
I am talking about really bad people here. People who scoff at words like “heal,” “believe,” “pray,” or “hope.” To them, that is weak shit. You want somethin’, you gotta take it. Somebody fuckin’ with you, take ’em out. Plain and simple, and dumb.
It’s all about fear. The fear-of-losing fear is the father of hate.
White racism is too sophisticated to detect nowadays, unless you’re trying to catch a taxicab or rent a nice hotel room as a single black male.
You’re not gonna totally eliminate this murder problem in Baltimore. So how do you neutralize it? Two words: gun control.