Bromo Seltzer Tower seen walking south on Eutaw St. (Source: Greg Cundiff)
On the first Saturday of the month, a Baltimore icon is open to the public. Built in 1911, the Bromo Seltzer Tower serves the city arts community as studio space for working artists. Managed by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts (BOPA), the tower was renamed the Bromo Selzter Arts Tower.
A few months ago we spoke with Joe Wall about his experience as facilities manager at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. On Saturday February 4, 2012 we spent some time with Joe as he talked about one of the most notable features of the tower; the clock room.
By way of disclosure, I volunteer for BOPA as a host for the Arts Tower open houses. One of the most recurring
Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower Open House (Source: Greg Cundiff)
comments about the tower comes from long time Baltimore residents who say that they’ve seen it for years and have always wanted to see inside. Many visitors want to know if they can go all the way to the top. The disappointment that always follows the news that they may not go out on the roof is quickly assuaged by the opportunity to visit the clock room.
The tower is home to about a dozen artists and features gallery and performance space. This past December and January, the Studio 11 Theater hosted the Baltimore premiere of “Where Soldiers Come From”, an independent documentary about childhood friends who join the National Guard and ship out to Afghanistan.
Touring the Clock Room
Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower Clock Room Tour (Source: Greg Cundiff)
If it is the hottest weekend of the summer: It must be ArtScape. The weather gods spared Baltimore’s signature festival any record-setting heat this year.
ArtScape is the nation’s largest free arts festival, supported by 30 sponsors, 173 exhibitors, and 300 volunteers. 2011 marks the 30th year that Baltimoreans have taken their art to the streets. For the record, that is 12-city blocks worth of taking it to the streets – not to mention the juried exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances.
For the first few years after I moved back to Baltimore, my engagement with ArtScape was dropping in on the literary arts tent to pick up my year’s worth of Baltimore Review and spinning past the Art Cars. The rest of it was just too crowded to deal with. A few rounds of “oh how corporate” seem to come to mind. That changed three years ago. I volunteered.
I volunteered at GameScape, one of the new exhibits, this year. There are gamers and then there are Gamers. Neither of those categories includes me. I had my fill of the gaming experience after one turn at some unknown-by-me arcade machine. Chatting with art school game designers was more my speed. You know the type: More interested in the idea of games and gaming than the coding behind it all. In between visitors who needed directions to the nearest ATM or bathroom, I had a lot of time to simply watch.
Is gaming a culture or part of the culture? Never mind that there is no “the” culture. Tucked away in a corner gallery were a couple of digital art pieces that captured my curiosity and imagination. In looking at them I was transported not to some real place, rather it was some place that comes in a dream. In that sense the place was incredibly real. Real in the way that only the unreal can be. The artist, William Niu drew them as part of a video game project. William’s Japanese upbringing informs his sense of architectural space. An aspect of one culture morphs into another. He says in his artist statement that, “In many Japanese cities, buildings are jumbled together as tightly as possible to make the most out of the limited space and growing up in this environment, I learned to love the sense of culture, history, and compactness.”
On one side of town students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) explore graphic art in the context of culture. On the other side of town students at Morgan State University explore a culture of conserving space by building it. In “Light Box” students convert a shipping container into a living space.
Sustainability is about making connections. Art and culture are about making connections. Get ready to start making some!