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State of the Arts: Adding artistic touches to heavily trafficked Bromo Tower area

Community leaders are hopeful that the newly minted Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District will become a nightlife destination for the thousands of people who already live and work in the area and an attraction for others.

The Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District on the city's west side does not suffer from a lack of activity or vacancy, which area businesses and developers say will help revitalization efforts. (Josh Cooper/The Daily Record)

The neighborhood does not suffer from a lack of activity, which artists and residents say will help them heighten the profile of arts in the community.

The presence of the University of Maryland, Baltimore and several large arts venues like the Hippodrome and Everyman theaters has meant a steady stream of people coming and going through the neighborhood. UMB estimates that more than 25,000 people are on campus daily, and Jeff Daniels, president of the Hippodrome, estimates that between the two theaters, 300,000 to 400,000 people will visit that part of the district for events annually.

“We’re not trying to drag people into some sort of no-man’s land — quite the opposite,” said Jay A. Perman, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The district was designated in June 2012, making it the youngest district in the state. Artists and art organizers say it’s still too early to tell whether they’re seeing any direct economic impact from the designation, but they hope to capitalize on the ability to market the area as an arts hub to potential developers and residents.

Pamela Dunne, director of the statewide A&E District program, administered by the Maryland State Arts Council, sounds optimistic about the potential for neighborhood revitalization in the area and the role the arts will play in it.

“While we don’t really have numbers on the [economic impact of the] Bromo Tower district at this point, I think the possibilities are incredible,” she said.

Geographically, the A&E District stretches from the Bromo-Seltzer Tower in the south to West Read Street in the north — an area that draws foot traffic from the UMB campus, Lexington

Market, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the 1st Mariner Arena and several large apartment buildings.

Among the arts-related sites are the H&H Building, an artists’ housing and gallery space, the Maryland Art Place, the EMP Collective, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and the most recent addition, the Everyman Theatre.

Another asset of the area is the Bromo tower itself, which is owned by the city and contains artist studios that are rented by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. The studios are approximately 65 percent filled with visual artists, writers and poets.

Many in the area say the January move of the Everyman Theatre to the district was like a seal of approval — that this part of town was going to become known for the arts.

“It’s a kismet,” said Vincent Lancisi, founder and artistic director of Everyman Theatre. “Theaters do well when there are more than one of them in an area, and we wanted to build on the success of the Hippodrome and help to create an arts presence.”

To read all four parts of this series, and to see video interviews with prominent arts community leaders, click here.

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Below is an interactive map showing the boundaries of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, and its key arts assets.