One of Baltimore’s Largest Art Venues is Reborn by Cara Ober
I assumed that Space Camp, the new name for the Baltimore art space formerly known as D:Center, was a reference to the 1986 feel good movie where kids are accidentally sent to outer space and miraculously survive. Just for the record, the new moniker for this gallery has absolutely nothing to do with outer space, summer camp, Joaquin Phoenix as a child actor, or a combination of these things.
Baltimore’s new Space Camp was named to reflect it’s new purpose: it is now a ‘temporary accommodation’ for artists’ work and ideas.
The cavernous storefront in the North Avenue Market, located between Baltimore Print Studios and Windup, has been temporarily utilized over the years by a number of groups including a church and retail, but has been used consistently for the past five or so years as an art space. Marian Glebes has been central to its evolution in this capacity and helped to facilitate its first exhibit, a bike rack competition in 2008, a collaboration with the Station North Arts District and local artists and designers including Gary Kachadourian and Fred Scharmen.
At that time, the space was vacant, so the owners of the North Avenue Market allowed Glebes to create a series of collaborative exhibits with community and neighborhood associations, which led to hosting MICA fashion shows and Artscape exhibitions. According to Glebes, the exhibition that “white cubed” the space was Open City, a sharp MICA exhibit curated by Urban Strategist Dan D’Oca that addressed Baltimore’s history of inequality through city structures like maps, architecture, and even the legislative process. The exhibit garnered rave reviews and brought hundreds of visitors to the exhibition space, putting it on the cultural map for Baltimore’s art community.
At this same time, D:Center Baltimore was working out of the first floor of Maryland Art Place’s Saratoga space, and functioned under a Operation Storefront Grant from the Downtown Partnership for a year there. After that, D:Center moved to the North Avenue space when they received, with collaborating partners including Station North, a NEA Placemaking Grant that determined their move there. This move also made sense for D:Center because they had hosted monthly Design Conversations at the Windup Space since their inception as an organization, and now they were just doors away. Although the history is confusing, it explains how the gallery acquired the de fact name ‘D:Center Baltimore.’
The Baltimore Design Center still exists a nonprofit group of designers, artists, and architects who host monthly design conversations. During their tenure on North Avenue, the group mounted a few exhibits in the space, but mostly continued to collaborate with area institutions and groups like MICA, Wide Angle Youth Media, ICA Baltimore, and a range of community non-profits in producing exhibitions.
While D: Center controlled the space, Glebes continued to act as gallery manager, working pro-bono for Center City, Carolyn Frenkil and Mike Schecter’s company that owns the North Avenue Market, to oversee the operations of the space. She became employed by Schecter’s Guppy Management Inc. soon after, a partner of Center City that manages the market. Glebes cites the generosity of Frenkil and Schecter as the reason the space continues to thrive as an arts hub.
After two years, the D: Center board decided it no longer needed a physical space and have continued their series of design conversations at the Windup Space. Rather than let the space be inactive, Marian Glebes regrouped with a team of four other local artists and curators including Lou Joseph, Jaimes Mayhew, Allison Gulick and Fred Scharmen. They all felt strongly that the project space should continue to function as a resource for artists in Baltimore, but wanted to create a sustainable structure that would allow exhibitions and events to function through partnerships with area organizations.
After a brain storming session the new advisory board came up with the name Space Camp to represent their new ideas and direction. The current band of ‘campers’ decided that they wanted to create a place for regular, professional exhibitions in the 5000 square foot space – basically, creating a temporary space for “camping out ideas and projects.” Instead of being controlled by a non-profit board, Space Camp will be run by the five person advisory board and accept proposals for exhibitions.
As stated at their November 5, 2015 launch and information session press materials, “SpaceCamp works with artists, curators and designers who are paired with local organizations to facilitate exhibitions for 3-6 week runs in our large, beautiful space in the North Avenue Market. We do not charge for exhibitions, and hope to provide a space where proposed projects can be realized.”
Since the space is so large, each proposal requires a curated project to partner with a local arts organization, to create an exhibit and programming together, and to create a support network for exhibiting artists. The first official Space Camp exhibit was Helen Glazer’s Watershed Moments in October 2015, a partnership with The Baltimore Ecosystem Study. The second was Justin Strom’s Self/Non-Self: Recursive and Volatile, sponsored by ICA Baltimore. Space Camp’s most recent exhibition is a partnership between Native American Lifelines and Space Camp in curating Sing Our Rivers Red, a traveling exhibit designed to raise awareness around the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women in North America.
They plan to continue to partner with MICA to host MFA thesis shows each spring and see each exhibit as an opportunity for a temporary autonomous zone or T.A. Z. as espoused by Hakim Bey.
For now the lean advisory board of five, in conjunction with sponsoring organizations, will cover expenses and responsibilities associated with the space, and will accomplish this with support from Center City, Inc. for the foreseeable future. Space Camp will also continue an ongoing relationship with Life After Boring Studios, a residency program designed to bring a variety of artists to Baltimore from elsewhere.
Although the space could eventually be rented to a commercial entity, for now Space Camp is thrilled to offer solid programming and exhibits in the area and to consider all proposals submitted. The sheer size of the space presents numerous opportunities for artists in the region to realize ambitious projects and it wouldn’t exist without Center City Inc.’s belief that artists and exhibits bring value to the neighborhood.
If you have a proposal, a sponsoring organization to partner with, and a desire to ‘camp’ your ideas in a luxuriously large space, send your proposals to Space Camp! They are ready for you.
Space Campers Marian Glebes, Allison Gulick, Lou Joseph, and Jaimes Mayhew
The original space camp film cast! These are NOT the space campers you are looking for … Unlike the folks pictured below.
Author Cara Ober is founding editor at BmoreArt.