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Ryan Syrell and others at the Annex

Oakland, Calif., or Baltimore? That was a decision left to Ryan Syrell (right) in 2006, the year he graduated from Purchase College, State University of New York. Syrell could either follow his friend, Dan Deacon -- the musician who had graduated from Purchase and relocated to Baltimore two years earlier -- or head west. The latter won, but only temporarily. "Oakland is wonderful and California is beautiful, but for a lot of people that were from the East Coast, it was a very different vibe," said Syrell, a 29-year-old painter. "A lot of people were right out of school and trying to get things moving, and then you hit [Oakland] and it just goes much slower." After two years, he left California for Charles Village in fall 2008 and moved into the city's famous art space, Greenmount West's Copycat Annex, in Spring 2011 with his wife, photographer and new program manager of the Contemporary, Ginevra Shay (left). They now live with six other artists, including musician and go-to indie-rock producer Chester Endersby Gwazda. Similar to the Compound, Annex tenants create art through a variety of media. Last week, Syrell presented months of work done in his studio with "Addenda: Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point," an exhibition at Guest Spot at the Reinstitute that combines his love of sculpture and painting in miniature form. Shay, the head of photo programming at the gallery Current Space and the daughter of two abstract painters, creates experimental art with photograms and repetitive markings. Down the hall, Gwazda writes and records music for his band Outer Spaces and an upcoming solo album. Years after switching coasts, Syrell has no doubt he made the right decision to move to Baltimore. Friends, traveling through Oakland on tours, often kept Syrell updated on the progress Deacon and his Wham City arts collective were making. After a while, it was clear where he should be. "Hearing all of our friends back here just going nuts ... we'd be like, 'Oh my god, we need to get back,'" Syrell said.
Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun
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