Group wants to establish Catonsville as county's first arts district

Group wants to establish Catonsville as county's first arts district
Arts council president Marilyn Maitland. (Jon Bleiweis/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A group of arts enthusiasts wants Catonsville to be Baltimore County's first Maryland Arts and Entertainment District.

The county is one of seven in the state without a formal district, said Pamela Dunne, senior program director at the Maryland State Arts Council.


District designations, available since 2001, were developed to encourage more artists and arts enterprises to cluster in selected areas by offering incentives, such as tax breaks, she said.

The designations are chosen by the Maryland State Arts Council and capped at one per county and six statewide each year.

The Baltimore County Arts Guild's Arts and Entertainment District Council was formed six months ago to coordinate development of districts, according to Marilyn Maitland, president of the arts guild, which has a studio in Arbutus.

Maitland said she does not know why the district has not been proposed in the county in the past, but when she found out about it, she wanted to pursue it.

"When we saw, it we hopped on it and said 'Let's roll,'" she said.

Catonsville is one of four spots the council considered for a district. Others are Dundalk, Pikesville and an area north of Towson, Maitland said.

The southwest Baltimore County spot was chosen to be placed at the top of a list of the county's recommended sites as the most ready of the four, Maitland said, because of the ongoing events and cultural venues in place.

She cited the Lurman Woodland Theatre, an outdoor community amphitheater on Bloomsbury Avenue, along with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and The Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campuses as strengths. .

"Given what we're beginning to understand what other districts are doing, you want to provide attractions, cultural and artistic experiences for the community," she said. "By so doing, the community will thrive."

Maryland has 24 Arts and Entertainment Districts, including three in Baltimore City: Station North, which was designated in 2002, Highlandtown, designated in 2003 and Bromo Tower, designated in 2013.

Each district has different incentives for developers to renovate or build properties that will create space for artists.

In Grantsville, a community in Western Maryland's Garrett County where a district was established in June 2015, developers of spaces will not have to pay property tax on improvements for 10 years, Dunne said.

In an April 2015 report from the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, the 22 Arts and Entertainment Districts that existed in fiscal 2014 generated about $571 million toward the state's gross domestic product — which was $365 billion in 2015 — and $38.5 million in tax revenue.

The districts supported about 6,000 jobs — 1,211 generated by new businesses formed within them during and 4,766 supported by visitor spending, according to the report.


Maitland said she hopes a proposal for a county district will be sent to the state by the spring of 2018.

The guild was formed as in 2012 in Catonsville as B'More Artists Guild to promote local arts and changed its name and expanded its reach to the entire county in 2014. It uses about 4,500 square feet above Northwest Savings Bank on Maiden Choice Lane in Arbutus as a base for studio and gallery space. Nine artists have studios there.

In 2015, the guild asked County Executive Kevin Kamenetz about using the former Catonsville Elementary School on Frederick Road for additional space, knowing the building was soon going to be vacant. In his response, he said the guild needed to raise $9 million for renovations, which did not happen.

The school system is studying possible uses for the century-old school building and has said it will work with the county's parks and recreation department to assess needs for community space in the building and on the property.