Dozens of artists who have been working out of the Bell Foundry space in Station North are in need of new studios and supplies after being suddenly evicted on Monday afternoon by city officials.
Yesterday, Baltimore Fire Department inspectors showed up at the art studio and performance space at 1539 N. Calvert Street due to a complaint about building conditions. Baltimore Fire Chief Roman Clark was unavailable to comment this morning, but told the Sun the violations they found included a lack of a valid permit, unsafe conditions, use of flammables and combustibles and unlawful removal of ceiling beams.
The city moved in on the building days after a DIY space called “Ghost Ship” in an Oakland warehouse caught fire, killing dozens of artists who lived there. Clark denied to multiple outlets that there was a connection to the Oakland tragedy, saying only that they went there after receiving a complaint. He hasn’t responded to an email asking when they first received the complaint.
The evictions made for an emotional scene as authorities forced the tenants out of their space. The fire department issued a cease-and-desist order, after which the the housing department condemned the building. As reported by City Paper, things got testy outside the building, with one police officer being seen on video arguing with evicted artists about a cat trapped inside.
The evictions have left dozens of Baltimore’s artists suddenly without their studios and, for some, finished works and supplies. According to Emily Eaglin, a filmmaker who frequents the Bell Foundry and says she has had her movies shown there, some of the tenants said they were given one hour to grab whatever they could before being barred from the building, forcing them to leave behind materials they use for their livelihoods.
Eaglin has started a fundraiser on the website GoFundMe as an emergency fund to help out the artists. As of Tuesday at 11 a.m., the page had raised nearly $11,500, more than double its original target. Eaglin said she has numerous friends who have worked at Bell Foundry for years, and wrote on her fundraiser page that she will forward all money raised to them “for emergency aid & legal fees” and “however else the victims of the evictions see fit.”
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