Stuart Watson is an multimedia sculptor that lives in an abandoned factory warehouse. That’s the feeling you get when you first walk up to the 150-year-old former brewery, industrial equipment maker and window blind manufacturer.
Presently, the renovated warehouse goes by the name of Area 405 and serves as gallery space for artists. Watson, her husband and the five other artists who currently own the building under the ownership collective called 3 Squared Feet live above the gallery.
Because of its location within the Station North arts district, one of Baltimore’s two arts districts, Watson has enjoyed being immersed in the art community for almost nine years.
“It’s so necessary to be surrounded by people that are supporting you and going through a similar process,” Watson said.
Like Area 405, a housing environment that caters exclusively to creative oriented people can be beneficial to the artists living there and the artistic community surrounding it. Baltimore offers many housing options for artists in its two arts districts: Station North and Highlandtown Arts.
The Station North arts district consists of the Barclay, Charles North, and Greenmount West communities.
Multiple privately owned developments that cater to artists can be found here, but the more notable ones include: the Copycat building, the Annex, Area 405, and the newest addition to the district, City Arts Apartments.
The Copycat building and the Annex building double as living and work/paint spaces for musicians and visual and performance artists.
The Annex building houses its volunteer-based Annex Theater in its 2W rental unit, and continues to host a variety of performances and shows since being founded in 2008.
The Copycat building has more musicians and visual artists that utilize its space, and is named after a billboard for the Copy Cat printing company that was seen on its roof for a number of years.
The newest form of artist housing in the district is City Arts Apartments. Made possible by a trio of non-profit organizations in Baltimore, Jubilee Baltimore, Homes for America and TRF Development Partners, their aim is to provide secure housing for artists.
Ashby Foote, the leasing and marketing director for City Arts Apartments, believes that the new development will be beneficial to artists wanting to stay in the Station North arts district who aren’t able to because of the high rent or harsh living conditions in the surrounding buildings.
“It’s sad that some of the people who own some of the buildings don’t try to protect the artists that live in it,” Foote said. “City Arts hopes to help the developing community of artists thrive without having to worry about the cost of living.”
Baltimore’s other arts district, Highlandtown arts, is said to be the largest arts district in the state, spanning the Highlandtown, Patterson Park, and parts of the Canton and Greektown communities.
Unlike the Station North arts district, Highlandtown arts doesn’t have many developments that are exclusively for artists; most are able to own their own houses which makes up a good portion of the district.
The main form of artist housing offered by the district lies in the Creative Alliance located in Patterson Park. The organization serves as collaborative effort among creatives and educators to cultivate the sense of community it strives for.
The Creative Alliance offers a one to three year residency program for artists to be engaged in the community and present their work.
Jed Dodds, the artistic director for the Creative Alliance, states that the goal of the program is to attract artists from elsewhere to stay in Baltimore.
“It’s a great professional program for artists to get a boost in visibility in a highly networked environment.” Dodds said.
Another artist housing development that sits between the two districts on East Baltimore Avenue, is Artists Housing Incorporated.
The cooperative has been in the art community for twenty years, making it one of the oldest establishments for artist housing in Maryland. Artists are able to rent out their own apartments and exhibit their work in the development’s exhibition space, the 1448 Gallery.
Like the rest of the districts, the main goal behind each artist housing initiative is to promote a sense of belonging for each artist within each artistic community.
For Stuart Watson, it’s that sense of community 3 Square Feet invokes through Area 405 that makes her stay.
“That’s why I ended up where I am,” Watson said. “Because I needed these people.”
Click on the map to view the different artist housing options in Baltimore!