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Bank site in Arbutus offers space for artists

Baltimore County Arts Guild will open center May 1

On May 1, the second floor of the building housing the Northwest Savings Bank on Maiden Choice Lane will be transformed.

Once vacant office space is scheduled to become a regional arts center as a dedicated group that began as a small support network for area artists opens the doors of its first-ever permanent home.

The Baltimore County Arts Guild, which began in Catonsville and has since re-branded, includes artists and involvement from all over the county.

Friday, the group will host a grand opening of The Gallery @ 1101 at 1101 Maiden Choice Lane.

With a talk by Mary Cary, former principal of Carver Center for the Arts, a gallery show and even some culinary arts demonstrations, the event will officially kick off what organizers hope will be the start of a more visible presence in the community.

"It's been an exciting venture," said Marilyn Maitland, guild president.

The area, which was still under construction as of last week, will contain a mix of studios and classrooms, many of which will feature sweeping views of the row homes and communities to the northwest. With a kitchen, common area, and plenty of display space, Maitland said the group hopes the site becomes a gathering place for members of the county's arts community

"What we hope to do is bring the arts home," she said. We want to "make it easy for people throughout the county to have an arts experience."

The second floor of the Northwest Savings Bank, where The Gallery @ 1101 will open, used to be offices, Maitland said, but most recently stood vacant.

With assistance from the bank, the guild was able to rent out the space for a steep discount beginning in January.

After the guild took over, the walls were torn down to create a large, open area for the studios. On April 21, the painting of the space was nearing completion. But the studio dividers had yet to be installed and furniture was piled in a spare room and in a hall.

Nevertheless, Maitland said she was confident the space would be ready for the May 1 ribbon-cutting.

"We've had people coming in the rawest of states and they've loved it," she said. "It's time to just share with the community at large that we do have a new home, our first home, actually."

But the guild isn't finished.

According to Maitland, the group is also in the planning stages of launching a fundraiser to open a headquarters at the soon-to-be-vacant Catonsville Elementary School on Frederick Avenue.

Under an agreement with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the guild agreed to begin fundraising for a project that would allow it to share the space with the recreation and parks department, under the condition that the guild raises $9 million of the estimated $12 million it would cost to renovate the space.

"We're at vision state now. We have tons of work to do between now and then," said Maitland. "There are just so many dimensions of possibility."

Although no leases have been formally signed for the spaces at the bank site, four artists have already verbally committed to studios, said Maitland.

Mark Kennedy is one of those artists. Kennedy, a member of the guild for about a year, is already planning the things he will do with his newfound space.

An exhibit designer at the National Aquarium and a trained studio artist, Kennedy moved to Catonsville last year from the Chicago suburbs and immediately began searching for artist organizations. In the Chicago area, he was part of an arts guild based in the city's southern suburbs.

The presence of the guild in the community, he said, was good for both the community and the artists, and he hoped Catonsville had a similar organization.

When he found the Baltimore County Arts Guild, and learned about the plan to open the bank space for studios and showings, the timing couldn't have been better, he said.

Used to having a basement and a garage to work in back in Illinois, he was struggling to find a suitable place for his painting, sculpting, printmaking and etching in his new row house.

The father of three said he hopes that the studio space will help him focus on his artwork, away from the distractions of home life. The guild's plan to eventually expand the hours the space is open to 24 hours a day in order to give resident artists more time to work doesn't hurt either.

"For 20-some years, I've had to go around family schedules," he said. "Not that I'm really planning on going there at 3 in the morning, but it does provide flexibility."

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