BALTIMORE'S efforts to transform Howard Street into a bustling "Avenue of the Arts" will get a boost today, as work begins on a new home for the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III are scheduled to join members of the Eubie Blake center's board of directors and others at 10 a.m. to mark the start of construction on the cultural center at 847 N. Howard St., part of Antique Row.
Named for Baltimore-born composer Eubie Blake, the 28-year-old center provides instruction in the visual and performing arts, including dance, voice, piano, theater, and arts and crafts.
The center will be constructed inside the shell of a four-story, 21,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1927 to serve as the University of Baltimore's law school. Later purchased by Maryland General Hospital, it was most recently used as a nursing school.
Last year, the city purchased the building from the hospital for $200,000 and donated it to the Eubie Blake Center. Its board is operating from leased space at 35 Market Place and has been looking for a permanent home for several years. When renovations are complete, the Howard Street building will replace a building on Charles Street that was damaged by fire.
When the Howard Street building reopens, it will have two principal functions. A jazz museum will highlight Eubie Blake and other Baltimore jazz greats, including Cab Calloway, Chick Webb and Billie Holiday. Its other mission will be to feature the work of African-American artists through exhibits and programs.
The cost of renovations is $2.3 million, of which the board has raised $1.8 million from the public sector. Board members are seeking to raise the final $500,000 to complete the improvements by early next year.
"Having our own home will enable us to expand our services and become a more significant contributor to the good health of the communities we serve," said board President Camay Murphy. "Our hopes are high that the private sector will step forward to contribute the additional $500,000 we need" to finish the work.
The Howard Street building is being renovated to contain exhibit galleries, a gift shop, dance studio, art studio, band and music instruction rooms, and a 150-seat auditorium. It will contain administrative offices with a large conference room, lounge, an outdoor sculpture garden and possibly a small cafe.
The new facilities will enable the center to offer adult classes in ceramics and computer graphics and its regular programs in the visual and performing arts.
Cho, Wilks and Benn is the architect, and Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse is the general contractor. The bulk of the work includes renovations on the first, second and third floors, replacing the roof, installing a heating and cooling system and elevator, and modifying the building to meet building code requirements.
The center plans to relocate its administrative headquarters from Market Place to Howard Street by fall. A final phase of the work, involving construction of a multipurpose room on the fourth level, will be completed as soon as sufficient funds are raised.
Foundation schedules walking tours of 2 areas
Baltimore Architecture Foundation will sponsor monthly walking tours of the Mount Vernon and Federal Hill neighborhoods in August and September.
On Aug. 7 and Sept. 4, the foundation will conduct two-hour tours of Mount Vernon, starting at 10 a.m. at the base of the Washington Monument, Charles and Monument streets. On Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, tours of the Federal Hill neighborhood will begin at 10 a.m. at the park atop Federal Hill.
The tours are held rain or shine, and no reservations are required. The cost is $10 for the general public and free to foundation members.