Towson Arts Collective on the move again

When Diane Margiotta and Drew Davidsen start talking about art, it’s easy for the two to get sidetracked.

The self-described art lovers and board members of the Towson Arts Collective live and breathe all of the mediums they help promote at the 200-member nonprofit arts organization, which is moving once again from a temporary space at the Towson Town Center to The Shops at Kenilworth, in Towson, sometime early this year.

The group’s mission is to bring young artists together with experienced artists through a gallery and studio space that offers workshops to artists of all kinds, said Davidsen, the TAC board vice president. The organization is inclusive of people with disabilities who exhibit and work alongside other artists in the collective.

While talking out their plans for the future one January day, the conversation turns to artists they love and concerts they’ve patronized before circling back to the community of artists the collective has nurtured since it opened just over a decade ago.

Though plans aren’t finalized just yet, Margiotta, the TAC board president, said she hopes to be moved into the Shops at Kenilworth sometime before the spring.

The space, she said, will be a semi-permanent home until the collective can grow large enough to support a standalone building.

“People often look at art as a product, but it can change and look different ways when you’re watching it be created,” Margiotta said of the space the collective provides artists. “That’s what we offer and we think this will be a great place for that.”

The TAC originally opened in 2007 in the basement of the Finkelstein's department store building on York Road.

For years, the group operated its member-run art gallery and studio beneath The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, before moving to two separate, above-ground spaces on West Chesapeake Avenue in 2012 and 2013.

“We had all of these wide open spaces that we didn’t have downstairs,” Margiotta said of the moves. “Of course it made us more visible because people could actually see us” in the storefront locations.

Business and participation were better, but when the existing lease ended in early 2017, rent also increased. The group chose to move again—this time to Towson Town Center.

The mall served as home base for the gallery for eight months while TAC searched for a more permanent home, Margiotta said.

“Hopefully we’ve found it,” she said.

To be a member, artists and supporters of the arts pay an annual membership fee of $25 for students and $35 for nonstudents. In exchange, members receive invitations to events, exhibitions and workshops. Their business information may also be listed on the TAC website.

One of the more beneficial advantages of the new space will be to continue to provide a community gathering space for artists, according to member Richard Wilson.

Wilson, a professor at Towson University by day and painter in his free time, has been a member of the TAC since 2007 and board secretary since 2015.

“It isn’t about individual artists displaying their works as much as it is being a community of artists,” Wilson said. “That’s been one of the main goals for the collective since the beginning.”

Wilson said he was stuck on a painting once—one of many he painted during what he called a “phase” of painting waves. Another member gave him the idea to hold his brush at a different angle—a technique the artist had picked up at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore— and it changed his entire piece.

The technique brought movement to Wilson’s two-dimensional waves, he said.

“You can interact with other people, discuss art and bounce ideas off each other,” Wilson said of his reason for sticking around. “There’s just such a wide variety of people who are creative.”

While in between spaces, the group has focused on clinics and other workshops that can be undertaken at guest spaces. Painters can attend workshops with professional artists, jewelry designers can vary their techniques with courses on beading and ceramics, but the collective’s definition of art also extends to performance artists, dancers and improv performers, Davidsen said.

Davidsen, a musician and songwriter, offers guitar and songwriting clinics through TAC at the Baltimore County Public Library’s Towson branch.

The group is also planning on adding video and visual arts classes alongside those events soon, thanks to $5,000 in grants it recently received from the county through the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.

As it looks to the future, Margiotta said she hopes she can work with other businesses to put on arts-based events. She has spoken with a bakery about hosting cake-decorating classes, a local wine shop about sip-and-paint nights and a boutique about a fashion show.

“People think [art is] just visual arts, but we paint outside the frame,” Margiotta said. “[Art] can be poetry or music, food or wine.”

While she hopes the new space will be a permanent one, Margiotta said she also wants the collective to grow so much in coming years that it can expand into a larger, standalone space similar to the Havre de Grace Arts Collective, which recently opened a new cultural center in the old Havre de Grace Opera House.

One idea proposed by its members is to turn the vacant Towson Armory into a standalone arts council, Davidsen said. TAC is working with Baltimore County Councilman David Marks to achieve that goal, though planning is still in its earliest stages.

“We’re trying to hone in the vision to have an arts center,” Davidsen said. “It could be [at Kenilworth] but we’re also looking at other spaces. I’ve had it in my head lately to call the armory the Art-ery.”

Marks said he supports the idea of the move to Kenilworth and will back the collective wherever it chooses to go.

"Any thriving community needs a robust center for arts and culture,” Marks said in a Jan. 26 email. “I have always tried to support the Towson Arts Collective through grants, and I am delighted this organization will be staying in the area, if not in the immediate downtown core."

In coming months, Margiotta said the TAC will plan a members’ art exhibit to celebrate the most recent move once the organization’s lease is finalized. Updates will be sent out in the group’s newsletter, she said.

“Leasing a space isn't as fast as buying a loaf of bread,” she said.

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