Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun
At a glance, the exterior of "the Compound," a sprawling East Baltimore Midway property purchased by interdisciplinary artist and picture-frame company owner Nick Wisniewski (left) in June 2010, still resembles its last incarnation as a forklift factory. But since arriving, Wisniewski, who lives with seven other tenants who are artists and activists, has turned the former factory and office spaces into a large, winding space designed specifically for communal living. Aside from the massive living room and kitchen, there are 12 individual studios used by tenants living at the Compound and those who simply rent space to work away from home. Wisniewski says the Compound, an informal nickname for the constant "work-in-progress" project, is not a typical living situation, and that is part of the point. "It was just wanting to try something different," said Wisniewski, who previously worked with the similarly minded Baltimore Development Cooperative. Communal living "is very difficult to do, which is why there aren't many houses designed for that type of living," he added. Naturally, there are monetary benefits. (Besides dividing rent and utilities between a high number of people, Compounders buy food supplies in bulk together.) But Wisniewski, who says he and tenants have spent more than $100,000 of their own money on renovations, is more interested in the unique form of creativity communal living breeds. "Being in closer conversation with a group of peers about the day-to-day is, I think, a healthy experience to have apart of your living existence," he said. Each area features a different form of art or activism practiced (from urban-farm planning by Boone St. Farm co-founder Cheryl Carmona (right) to Ed Schrader's indie-rock writing sessions to even coffee roasting). Read on for some highlights.
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