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County Arts Guild looks to Catonsville for future

The studio of Kerry Doring looks like any other artist's — brushes are crammed in jars next to a pink paint-splattered towel; in a corner, miniature human figures cross arms; and near the front of the space a portrait rests on an easel.

If you visit the Baltimore County Arts Guild's first and only gallery location, The Gallery@1101, located at 1101 Maiden Choice Lane in Arbutus, you can see Doring's space, along with five other artists'. The walls of her Studio 4 are open. A wide window lets in natural light.

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Without the space, rented to her for $100 per month, Doring might be painting out of the basement at her home in Millersville.

"You don't have any motivation doing that," she said.

Doring, who grew up in Catonsville, graduated from the University of Delaware in 2014. There, she was used to a sense of community with other artists.

She found that again when she moved into the Arbutus space in January.

One of the guild's goals is to show artists like Doring how to make a living from their work. The gallery provides cheap studio space and a chance for local artists to hold exhibits.

Right now, the gallery is booked for shows through the end of the year.

In April 2015, the guild was setting up the space for its grand opening May 1. Now, it's near capacity, and if it continues to add classes and artists, the group will outgrow the space, President Marilyn Maitland said.

The hope is to move into part of the old Catonsville Elementary School building, Maitland said. Last spring, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz expressed support for the idea, if the guild could raise $9 million for renovations.

A year later, the guild doesn't have the money, Maitland said. She declined to say how much money has been raised.

The dream of moving into the Catonsville building remains however, and according to Maitland, so does the need.

Current space

The Baltimore County Arts Guild's first true home is in the second story of Northwestern Savings Bank in Arbutus. Last spring the guild redid the space, replacing wallpaper with off-white paint. The guild kept the unfinished floors, giving the location a more artistic feel.

The 5,000-square-foot space had the light that a gallery and studio space needs.

"It's so grand that we have this," Maitland said.

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When she first walked into the space she felt hopeful, excited and a little bit apprehensive, she said. Last October, during an open mic night, she was overwhelmed with a feeling of success.

"All of the sudden I looked around, and said, 'We did it,'" she said.

She started to weep. The art was on the walls, the community was there and the performing arts were there, she said.

"You saw it come alive," she said. "By Jove, we did it. It's not perfect, but boy, we did it."

The guild holds classes at the space in the fall and spring and will be holding a watercolor course this summer. Currently, six out of 10 possible studio spaces have been filled. On the first and third Thursdays of the month, the gallery hosts an open mic night.

Currently, it is hosting an exhibit from Mike McConnell, which will end May 12. Maitland said she loves the artist's bold and crazy style. Two canvases in the rear of the room, filled with bright colors and blocky images, particularly speak to her, she said.

"I think I know both the central figures, and I know what they do," she said. "Art's like that sometimes."

Prior to McConnell, the guild put up an exhibit on youth artists in Baltimore County. Next, they'll have a showcase of student art from Catonsville High School.

Catonsville expansion

The guild sees the need for expansion in the next few years. The old Catonsville Elementary School building on Frederick Road is currently unoccupied as a new school is being built to address overcrowding.

The guild said it isn't their intention to detract from the possible use of the old Catonsville building by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks. The group is excited about the idea of an athletic and community center, Maitland said. She envisions a future where the arts guild also takes over the front of the building on Frederick Road.

The guild, which is three years old, wasn't anticipating pursuing a large project like the school building so early on, but the opportunity presented itself, guild Vice President Kirby Spencer said.

The additional space, between 40,000 and 50,000 square feet, according to Spencer, would give them the chance to add more gallery space and studios. It would also enhance the variety and number of classes the guild offers.

In addition to gallery space and studios, the guild envisions a cafeteria and shop for the space, where artists can sell their goods.

Last spring, Kamenetz wrote them a letter in support of the guild's involvement with the building — but they would need to raise the $9 million for renovations.

County Councilman Tom Quirk said the discussion for that building's future is ongoing — it's too early to say what will happen to it.

"What I do hope is whatever happens with the existing Catonsville Elementary School, it involves a lot of public discourse," Quirk said.

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler also said it was too early to discuss the future of the building.

"We know that the Arts Guild has raised considerable funds and is still actively fundraising," she said in an email. "We continue to talk with them and the community about possibilities, but it's soon to make any decisions."

The guild remains optimistic. The county doesn't have a center for the arts, Maitland said, and this gives it the chance to build one.

"You'll forgive me," Maitland said. "I'm a dreamer."

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