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Local Art Plays Big Role in Baltimore Hotels, Apartments, and Cafes

The talent of area artists elevates the atmosphere around town.
By Natalie Schwartz

When visitors walk into Anthem House, a new Locust Point luxury apartment development, all eyes gravitate toward a towering mural of Baltimore legend Billie Holiday in the lobby. Annapolis artist Jeff Huntington painted the jazz giant as part of the developers’ goal to incorporate original art pieces throughout the complex.

Other notable works include a 25-foot high outdoor mural that features other Charm City heroes, such as Francis Scott Key and Edgar Allan Poe, and an abstract depiction of a bird on the ceiling by D.C.-based artist MasPaz. “They really do elevate the design of the building [and] create these unique and thoughtful moments,” says Tess Guinn, Bozzuto development manager. “It encourages people to walk through the building and explore and find these gems.”

It was important for the developers to choose local artists who could help maintain the historical roots of the area. “They’re influenced by their surroundings and community and are able to infuse that back into the building in some way,” Guinn says.

Anthem House joins a number Baltimore businesses that are reaching out to local artists to help decorate their spaces. Cafes, hotels, and apartments are collaborating all over the city to give more exposure to the artists while bringing customers a visually enriched environment.

Sagamore Pendry Baltimore
Thanks in part to Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s development company, a once-abandoned Fells Point building turned into the sought-after Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, a luxury four-star hotel packed with original work by local artists.

Designer Patrick Sutton called on street artist Gaia and sculptor Adam Scott Cook to create two of the pieces that help build the hotel’s nod to Baltimore culture and history. Gaia uses a large, bold painting of Francis Scott Key to brighten the Pendry’s otherwise dark lobby lounge and Cook crafted his steel sculpture “Rituals” at the hotel’s entrance that features bends mimicking the waves in the harbor.

“We wanted to make sure that the relevance of the building stayed true to Baltimore tradition, to Baltimore culture,” says Jon Chocklett, the director of sales and marketing. “Both Kevin and Patrick are storytellers and it is really represented from the moment you either pull up or walk up to the hotel.”

HandleBar Cafe
After Marla Streb spent 20 years racing mountain bikes professionally out west, the Baltimore native returned to her hometown with her husband and opened the HandleBar Cafe, a restaurant-bikeshop hybrid. They knew they wanted bike-themed art by a local cyclist to decorate their walls, but didn’t want to wade into kitschy or over-the-top designs.

While riding the trails, Streb struck a deal with self-taught artist Kelly L. Walker. With previous experience working in an auto-body shop, Walker used vibrant colors and stencils of cyclists to create a series of bold paintings scattered across the restaurant walls.

“The art really elevates the atmosphere in here,” Streb says. “It’s comforting to see talent in the community. I know that there’s some really beautiful murals around town that are from people from New York. It doesn’t feel as nice. It’s more engaging having local talent.”

Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel
Crystal Moll, a Baltimore artist with a career spanning nearly three decades, partnered with the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel to rotate work through its second-floor exhibit. Moll has most recently installed new works for a show titled “Urban and Land-Scapes” that shows work from local artists that runs until mid-March.

Moll, whose own gallery is only blocks away from Royal Sonesta, describes the hotel as “very community-oriented.” The hotel gallery has sold at least five or six artists’ works with 10 percent of the profits going toward a men’s shelter in Federal Hill.

“I tell almost every young artist I deal with . . . to go put their paintings in restaurant, to put them in their dentist’s office, to put them in their accountant’s office—literally wherever they can,” Moll says. “Have a wall that shows their work off. It’s a long building process if you’re going to be an artist and be successful.”

Station North Arts Cafe
Station North Arts Cafe Owner Kevin Brown has been selecting work from Baltimore artists for the joint’s two galleries for more than a decade. In that time, about 144 artists’ works have cycled through the walls—with about $60,000 worth of sales going into their pockets.

Some of the artists have gone on to launch widely successful careers, such as Stephen Towns, who has an upcoming exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art, or Alfonso Fernandez, a Creative Alliance artist in residence. “There’s been growth for the artists that we’ve shown here — both male and female, black and white, young and old,” says Brown. “The only requirement is that you’re from Baltimore.”

Brown describes the cafe as a “simple thread in the tapestry” in Charm City’s vast art scene. “It’s here, it’s authentic, it’s grown organically,” Brown says. “It’s not just a trend or fad. It has legs to come and stand up. It’s going to be around for a minute.”