Community group 'Bringing the arts home'

Community group 'Bringing the arts home'
Edward Williams, of The Studio 33, is shown working on part of a mural at Jesus House Baltimore earlier this month. The Catonsville resident was one of the driving forces behind the Catonsville Artists Guild and is among those artists from the guild who are joining the newly formed B'more Artists Guild. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

A movement to protect, support and foster the arts has begun in Catonsville.

The B'More Artists Guild had its first official meeting April 17 at Atwater's on Frederick Road as approximately area 25 artists and businessmen met to discuss ideas and primary goals for the new nonprofit.


"We think it's time to bring the arts home to Baltimore County," said guild board member Jack Murphy.

One of those goals is to establish a multi-media arts and entertainment center, Murphy said.

The center would be a place "where artists will celebrate their talents, significantly enhancing the health and the vitality of the area community life," he said.

"Baltimore County has a rich history of supporting the arts," said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk at the Wednesday meeting.

Despite that history, there is no community center for the arts in the county, he said.

The proposed center would serve as more than a home for local artists featuring ceramics, dance and recording studios. It would also be an economic booster for the community by providing residents with a place to house galleries, see theatrical performances and take art classes, Murphy said.

"It would galvanize all the viable, worthwhile art, in the county," said board member Kirby Spencer.

"It is broader than Catonsville," she said. "We're looking for support and recognition from the entirety of Baltimore County."

Spencer said another main goal for the group is "to create that support for the artists in an economic time when so much has been taken away from the arts."

The group was formed after the Catonsville Arts Guild — co-founded three years ago by area residents and artists Edward Williams and Jane Byers — realized that the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Committee had formed a group in 2012 with similar, broader motives.

The Catonsville guild had held three annual art shows, two at Catonsville Presbyterian Church and most recently in December at the Bloomsbury Community Center, with the intention of bringing artists in the county together.

The chamber group had a similar goal along with plans to begin advocating for, and creating, a center for the arts in the county.

"It was like that perfect storm," Williams said.

The group has begun looking at options for a center they hope will provide 5,000 to 20,000 square feet of space.


Spring Grove Hospital Center, the Catonsville Woman's Club's clubhouse and property at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church were all cited as potential sites for the desired center.

Another might be the Bloomsbury Center, on Bloomsbury Avenue, which houses the Baltimore County Board of Elections and the Catonsville office of Baltimore County's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Community members have long expressed their unhappiness with the Board of Elections being in the building since 2003.

"Bloomsbury is a space that the community feels, in general, is a space that has been underserved," Spencer said.

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County, said that the Board of Elections' move to Bloomsbury was a necessary one.

"The Board of Elections was moved into Bloomsbury ... to save taxpayer dollars," Kobler said. "Because previously, they were in a leased space which the county was paying for.

"Now they're in a space that the county owns. There are no plans to create an art center in that building," Kobler said.

Spencer confirmed that the proposed center's location is still up in the air.

"We're looking into everything that we can," Spencer said.

For now, Catonsville residents looking to spruce up their homes or offices, purchase a Mother's Day or birthday present or simply spend an afternoon perusing local artwork, can head to the Bloomsbury Center Saturday for the guild's Spring ARTravaganza.

The B'More Artists Guild is hosting the art show, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Catonsville, at the center, 106 Bloomsbury Ave., April 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring more than 30 tables of artwork by area and guild artists.