New Partnerships and Programming for Baltimore’s Favorite Art Walk by Cara Ober

Although it’s difficult to imagine Baltimore’s art community without Alloverstreet, the collaborative monthly art walk that connects Station North Arts & Entertainment District galleries along the Oliver Street corridor on first Fridays, it’s impressive to consider that it was just founded in December 2013, an evolution of the local Process Collective’s ongoing activities at the time.

“One of the most significant features of Alloverstreet is really how it started,” says co-founder and lead organizer Kimi Hanauer, who moved into Penthouse Gallery at the Copycat Building in 2012. “It was something that formed out of relationships with my neighbors and friends, out of our general frustration with the inaccessibility, elitism and mysticism of many artistic happenings, and out of a response to the amazing potential at the Copycat building to host such an event.”

“There was never a concrete intention to start an ‘art walk’ —  just an intention to make our events more accessible, support one another, and shake off shady art attitudes,” says Hanauer, now the Program Coordinator at Station North Arts & Entertainment District. The art walk was initially co-managed while Hanauer was a student at MICA, along with Lee Heinemann and other Process Collective members and galleries (Max Anderson, Audrey Gair, Marines Montalvo, Khadija Nia Adell, Ale Isabel, Lil’ Gallery, Bodega Gallery, and many many others).

“The Copycat and this creative pocket of Baltimore has been active for years, and Alloverstreet is just a structure that was born out of our activities that aims to expand the scope and reach of our work,” Hanauer explains.

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On the very first event, Hanauer recalls, “That December was basically the first Alloverstreet though I don’t remember if we called it that or not. We coordinated an opening at Penthouse, then the first Bodega Gallery opening (which before that just existed under a different name) and some other spaces jumped on board, like an opening at the Annex and one at Area 405 too.”

Now a monthly staple, January 2016 marked the beginning of Alloverstreet’s third year of programming and a new partnership with Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. The new arrangement evolved organically as Hanauer, Alloverstreet’s lead organizer, was hired by SNAE’s as their program coordinator. SNAE’s goal is to provide support and assistance in growing the event, in supporting Alloverstreet’s participating artists and art spaces, and to create a sustainable art walk that lasts for years to come.

As part of 2016’s programming, SNAE will host a monthly Alloverstreet Kickoff event, featuring a happy hour at the Station North Tool Library, sponsored by Union Craft Brewing, followed by an artist talk by a participating Alloverstreet gallery and/or an artist of their choosing directly next door at Area 405.
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“Half of the battle with any performance or exhibition is convincing people to attend the event,” says Station North Director Ben Stone. “Overlapping several openings during Alloverstreet nights helps with promotion and allows people to see five or more exhibitions on a single night instead of forcing people to visit Oliver Street five or more times each month, which is unlikely to happen.  I think it’s also helpful to see one exhibition in the context of the others nearby; Alloverstreet is a great window into the current state of at least part of Baltimore’s contemporary artistic practice.”

According to Station North board member and regular Alloverstreet attendee Cynthia Blake Sanders, “Alloverstreet presents artists with an unparalleled opportunity to showcase their art. Visitors discover a wide range of art performances and gallery openings, talk to the artists and collect cutting edge art.”

In addition, viewing so much artwork in context allows a visitor to experience a variety of work, to find something that appeals personally, and also to develop a broad perspective on the larger arts community. Artists exist in communities and thrive when they work together – the cooperation that goes into planning monthly Alloverstreet events reinforces democratic values and places a collective success above that of individual galleries or artists.

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“Increasing attendance numbers at Alloverstreet is a good indicator that the program is working,” says Stone.  “Our inaugural artist talk at Area 405 attracted more than 100 people during a cold and rainy Friday evening in January, and hundreds more visited the openings later that evening.”

“While the visitor experience is important, the experience of those running the spaces is important as well, which is why Kimi is in nearly constant communication with each space,” continues Stone. “Additionally, while I don’t think of Alloverstreet as a transactional event to be judged by the number of sales made, I do hope that people’s exposure to locally produced art at Alloverstreet will translate into sales or other forms of financial support for the participating artists.”

Alloverstreet now consists of three segments: a happy hour at Station North Tool Library, an artist talk next door at Area 405 that highlights an Alloverstreet artist and arts space, and finally the art walk itself at spaces along East Oliver Street and beyond.

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“We’ve expanded the scope of Alloverstreet to capture a larger audience,” explains Hanauer. “By starting immediately at the end of the work day, we’re hoping to encourage people to stop by before heading home.  By featuring an artist talk, we’re providing an opportunity for artists to practice their public speaking skills and for art walkers to hear the stories behind some of the art, which can be hard at a crowded opening.  We like the idea of crowding everyone in to Area 405 before the walk begins so that we have a consistent starting point where people can meet (new and old) friends, hear announcements, and enjoy Joe Squared pizza and Brewer’s Art beer (Thanks Joe Squared!  Thanks Brewer’s Art!).”

Hanauer continues, “It’s really rad to be able to work with an organization that wants to partner with a project like Alloverstreet, and be an equal participant to our collective-decision making process — a situation where the institution doesn’t have complete control, rather it is putting its trust in the structure we have created while we, at the same time, are putting our trust in Station North.

As someone who navigates both of these worlds – I’m really excited by the potential of this partnership to create more meaningful relationships between young artists who work their asses off with no money to do totally amazing things, and others, like Station North, for example, who often have such similar goals in mind but take different approaches.

I’m hoping Alloverstreet can help broaden our relationships in the arts community in Station North and beyond and broaden the reach and scope of artist-run projects here.”

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As Alloverstreet moves forward into its third year with new institutional support, both Hanuer and Stone stated that it’s essential for the success of the event that it remain independent and organic, reflexive to those involved.

“Alloverstreet belongs to the independent artists and organizers who run it. That’s the #1 rule,” says Hanauer. “When you actually create something collaboratively, even if it’s something that one or two people ‘manage,’ then the people who are involved will care about it and are into working together to make it as best as it can be. And that’s the situation here. Alloverstreet is not a hierarchical structure. Everything I do as the lead organizer, everything that SNAE now does as a partner, is always to reflect and support the broader desires of the group of participating art spaces or collectives.”

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For those who are interested in participating in Alloverstreet, as artists, galleries, or volunteers, there are numerous opportunities to get involved. Since its inception there have been two main governing principles for the event, says Hanauer. “One, it’s democratically curated: this means that any gallery or collective in the geographic area that wishes to participate is welcome to, and that we actively seek out new involvement. And two, it’s collectively run: this means that the participating spaces meet regularly to discuss the project and decide on its direction. Through these meetings, we develop the project and problem-solve together, not to mention that we actually really depend on one another to make this thing work.” Hanauer and participating galleries hold open monthly meetings to discuss new ideas and initiatives and maintain open lines of communication.

“I’m thrilled about this new partnership with Station North,” says Hanauer. “For the past two years, this event has evolved and grown in ways I never imagined it would and I’m really excited about this opportunity to sustain and grow the event so it can continue working for years to come. The project will operate under the exact same methodology it has been for the past two years, but with the help of SNAE, it will do a better job of helping the artists and art spaces involved accomplish their goals and projects. I’m so excited this is happening!”

From the levels of participation and programming happening at Alloverstreet, it seems that a growing audience agrees.

Author Cara Ober is Founding Editor at BmoreArt

Photos by Tommy Bruce

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The next Alloverstreet is scheduled for Friday, March 4th.