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Faith-based arts group has new Annapolis headquarters

ANNAPOLIS — Welcome to Creative Paradox 2.0.

Or maybe the faith-based Annapolis arts group should be called Creative Solutions, because it’s revamped its entire program.

The three-year-old nonprofit has new headquarters, a new artist-in-residence program and a new co-op for arts businesses. There’s a lot more structure, and hopefully, more opportunities for the artists it nurtures.

Meanwhile, organizers ditched the moniker of Studio of the Arts, which operated under the Creative Paradox umbrella, and stuck to the main name.

“I’m more than happy,” said Darren Heater, the executive director and a pastor. “This is more of a dream come true. After learning and growing the idea that started the space, we’re really hitting a sweet spot. Form and function meeting at the same time makes it great.”

The lease on the organization’s initial space, on Spa Road near Westgate Circle, was up a few months ago and Heater wanted to investigate other locales.

The building he found, which is an industrial park just beyond the Annapolis Bowl, has 1,000 less square feet. But Heater said the layout is much more efficient — and costs $2,000 a month less for rent and utilities. He and others spent a couple months getting the site ready before opening in early June.

The space is divided into a series of small studios, as well as a large room for the artists-in-residence. One of the offices is for Heater’s video production business. He relocated there, so he’ll be more hands-on than before. At present, the “gallery” will be a large white dividing wall.

Casey Johnson of Annapolis, who was hired to run the residency program, has one of the studios, as well as a woodworking room that can be shared.

“It’s nice to be able to lead the program and, at the same time, go through it with them,” he said. “I can give back my knowledge and experience… and they inspire my own art.”

The 27-year-old Johnson is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, as are the three resident artists he’s supervising: Jacqueline McNally, Nicole Mueller and Lee Nowell.

Mueller and Nowell are painters, McNally is an illustrator and writer. Their residencies last a year.

Mueller, 22, of Baltimore, was worried she might not be able to keep doing art after college, given how hard it is to find an affordable studio. She feels Creative Paradox will foster not only artistic growth, but personal growth.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity, said Mueller, who specializes in abstracts and graduated from MICA in December. “It’ll definitely help, just to continue having a creative environment to work in.”

Artful existence

The resident artists get a $300 monthly stipend and have to spend at least 20 hours a week in their studios. They also are required to devote 10 hours a month to community outreach projects, and meet with Johnson at least twice a week for discussions and critiques. He also plans to bring in visiting artists for lectures and seminars.

April Nyman, executive director of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, is impressed with the new plan. “They’re young and innovative and they conform with the needs of the artists’ community,” she said.

Part of this community are several co-op artists, who pay $250 a month for an 8-foot by 10-foot studio where they can run their business. Heater said the previous program was smaller and didn’t feature artists who were as established. “It’s the logical extension of what we’d done before,” he said.

Among the co-op artists are two jewelry designers, two fashion designers, a graphic designer, and a stylist. Heater’s video company is also in the co-op , but he said he pays much more rent, donates a portion of the proceeds to the organization, and hires others at Creative Paradox for his productions.

Karin Karlsson of Annapolis, who makes sterling silver jewelry, said the co-op has allowed her to transition from a job as dietician and focus on her earrings, rings, bracelets and pendants. Her company is called Kajs.

Darin Gilliam of Annapolis, who makes t-shirts and other clothing through her company, Little by Darin Michelle, has had a similar experience. She used to be a graphic designer for a sign company.

“It’s encouraging to have other people in the same boat,” she said. “The community’s the key.”

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