Andre Mazelin Has Big Plans for Motor House as the New Managing Director by Kelly Louise Barton
Whether it’s at a stop in The Room or just walking through the neighborhood, if you’re in Mount Vernon, odds are you’ve seen, met, and spoken (yes, all three) to Andre Mazelin. With a deeply-rooted history in Baltimore’s art scene, Mazelin has spent two decades in the arts as everything from a hip-hop emcee to the Operations Director of Creative Alliance.
Having transformed The Room into a hub for local artists with awesome food and fair trade coffee from Greenmount Coffee Lab, along with thoughtful programming, it’s no surprise Mazelin has accepted the position of Managing Director of Station North’s Motor House. As the Managing Director, Mazelin will be in charge of practically every aspect of the venue from the bar, gallery, and all elements of programming.
I got the chance to ask Mazelin a few questions about his plans for Motor House’s future, his experience, and what he hopes his passion for the arts will bring to rejuvenate the space.
In BARCO’s press release, it mentioned your responsibilities will include being in charge of the “artistic and financial success” of Motor House; what drew you to this position and what are some challenges of taking on those responsibilities?
The first is that Motor House is fantastic venue located in the Station North Arts District, an area that I’d been looking to get involved in for a while. I’ve been to such a variety of cool events in this area that I fell in love with the great energy and art that I’ve experienced here. It’s exciting to be in a position to work with all of the emerging, and established talent that’s in the city. Plus, we’re building a cool new cafe and performance space, The Showroom, which will add another fun option for producing shows in the building.
The second part that drew me in was the opportunity to work with BARCO as a part of their Senior Staff. It was clear during the interview process that they wanted me to bring my experience, and relationships to Motor House.
I have been booking shows for about 20 years, and though it wasn’t my area of responsibility at Creative Alliance, I was heavily involved in assisting co-founder Megan Hamilton in delivering the quality shows that they have built their reputation on. I also started a few shows at CA which are still going strong after several years. The added bonus is that I get to learn about real estate and economic development from people who are well skilled in that area, something that I am also interested in.
Mazelin in the space that will become The Showroom
In the same release you were quoted as looking forward to “bringing a renewed energy to Motor House.” Can you expand upon that?
As a new space, Motor House has not registered on a lot of people’s radar yet. It’s a great space! There was excitement when it was announced that the building would be reopened and remain an arts hub, and there’s been some quality programming that has come through since reopening.
We have a group of fantastic resident artists and arts nonprofits all under one roof. Now we will be adding a new level of programming with a full bar and café to really create an identity for the 1st floor venue which has fantastic presence on North Avenue.
What are your plans for the space?
What you will see moving through both performance spaces are presentations of Electronic, Indie, Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz, Classical and Global music. We will also dive in to explorations of DJ Culture, Spoken Word, and Street Art. It’s going to be a lot of fun. That said, I would feel incomplete if we didn’t create the opportunity for conversations that need to be had around real life issues. There are so many great people doing work to move the bar on Civil and Human Rights, LGBTQ, Misogyny, Race, and Culture issues. I’ll definitely be calling on them to contribute to our programming.
What are some goals you hope to achieve as the Managing Director?
Of course the standard answer, I hope to leave the place in better shape than when I arrived. The model has to be financially sustainable or nothing else gets to happen. But, I am looking forward to working with all of the great emerging, local and touring talent. I want to demystify the idea that mid to large arts organizations only want to take, take, take from artists and leave nothing in return, that they are unfair and unapproachable.
What challenges do you think you’re going to face, and that you hope to tackle?
It’s going to be a process that builds over time. I think there are established rooms that bands are used to playing, so the courtship and building of our own reputation will be a process. The more that we do, the more that we will get to do, and the more people will want to do with us.
Tell me some more about your career in the arts, and how you plan on using your experience in your position.
I think my history here in Baltimore has been covered, but what most people don’t know is that I started out way back when as an emcee in a Hip-Hop group. We spent many nights, all night making music and nothing else mattered.
I understand that level of passion and commitment for art.
After that group broke up, I started repping groups, booking gigs, pressing CD’s, and helping to shop bands. This is before you could self produce, and self release efficiently so everyone wanted a record deal. I understand the process, I respect the art. I don’t care if a performer wants fame, or if they just wanna play; if they’re bringing it, I want to work with them and help where I can.
For those of us who are frequent flyers, what does this mean for The Room? Do you anticipate any challenges managing both the cafe and Motor House?
Of course there will be, but I’m used to keeping plates spinning. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, and I’m thankful for my small staff who have stepped up to keep The Room going. Shout out to the Room Crew!
Andre Mazelin with work by Ernest Shaw outside the Motor House’s Black Box Theater
Full Disclosure: The Motor House is owned and operated by BARCO, the Baltimore Arts Real Estate Company, and was initially funded by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. The Deutsch Foundation is also a significant funder of BmoreArt.
Photo Credits for Mazelin’s portraits: Cieara Adams