Citing safety violations, Baltimore city officials shut down the Bell Foundry arts building in the city’s Station North Arts District, evicting dozens of local artists from their studios, Kevin Rector and Wesley Case of the Baltimore Sun report.
On December 5, days after thirty-six people died in an artists’ warehouse-studio in Oakland that was razed by a fire, city officials condemned the North Calvert Street building which provided artists with studio and events space. The fire department issued a cease-and-desist order and told tenets to vacate the building immediately.
City officials said they were investigating a complaint when they visited the building Monday afternoon. Fire department spokesman Roman Clark said inspectors found “numerous safety violations as well as deplorable conditions,” including flammable and combustible materials, holes in the floor, electrical issues, and beams that were unlawfully removed from the ceiling. Tania Baker, a spokesperson for the city, claimed that people were living on the property without an occupancy permit.
Many cultural workers and organizations were stranded without a place to go. Aran Keating, the artistic director of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, said that the future of the nonprofit is uncertain. He said, “Stuff like this could sink us. We’ve been an anchor in Station North for four years, and it feels like this is the thanks we get.”
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said that she was unaware of the evictions as they were taking place but promised to support the artists that were displaced. She said, “We value artists living in the city. We have a great arts community. What we don’t want to happen is what we just saw happen in California. We don’t want that same type of condition to happen here. We want to make sure wherever they reside, they’re safe and they’re able to continue to contribute to our arts community and our art environment.”
The old bell foundry has served as a center for the arts, hosting concerts, performances, and exhibitions, since it was acquired by Jeremy Landsman and Patricia Massey, the resident agents of the companies that own the building, JBL Calvert LLC and Calvert Lofts LLC, in 2006. Landsman and Massey could not be reached for comment.