A Loose Coalition of Nonprofit and Commercial Developers Think That the Kind of Arts Ecosystem the Neighborhood Provides is the Answer to Many of the City’s Most Intractable Problems.


Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake never seems totally comfortable around Baltimore’s arts community. She is uncharacteristically stilted and tends to stumble over her words.

“Here at Charles and North, the former New York Fried Chicken takeout is now the Station North Chicken Box,” she says, standing beneath the Gaia mural that was the centerpiece of the Open Walls project. “Now that’s what I call creativity.”

The line was a painful clunker, but it was also revealing. Whether she likes it or not, the mayor has to be here today at 1 W. North Ave. for the opening of the Station North Chicken Box, the new home of Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc. (SNAE) and the Annex Theater, because there are a lot of high-powered hopes riding on the back of this rather ragtag arts district in the very center of the city.

“I was on a panel with the mayor of Austin,” Rawlings-Blake says. “You know, their tag line is ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ I told the mayor we were gonna steal that away. I said ‘Baltimore, we have our own uniqueness and creativity and quirkiness,’ I said, ‘We’re gonna steal that, um, that moniker from Austin.’ So I always enjoy my time in Station North. It’s always interesting, never a dull moment.” Read on.