Since the tragic Ghost Ship artist warehouse fire in Oakland on December 2nd, artist live-work spaces have been subject to increased fire safety scrutiny nationwide. Locally, on December 5 the Bell Foundry live and work artist space was inspected and condemned. Residents and cultural workers were evicted without advance warning due to code violations. Today, December 21, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced a Task Force on Safe Art Spaces comprised of artists, city officials, cultural leaders, and developers. Citizen Artist Baltimore will work with the Mayor’s Task Force to contribute to housing solutions benefiting artists, cultural workers, and all Baltimoreans.
Low-income artists seeking affordable live/work spaces routinely take on the financial and bodily risks of converting and occupying former industrial and commercial spaces. These spaces serve not only as places of artistic production and affordable shelter, but also as community spaces for marginalized groups, including those identifying as queer and people of color. The loss of these safe spaces is one piece of a much larger set of housing challenges in our city. Low income families are increasingly unable to find fair and affordable housing throughout Baltimore. More needs to be done to ensure access to safe and affordable housing and workspace for all.
As fire marshals continue to inspect buildings, Baltimore City should commit to supporting the immediate needs of those living with housing insecurity who are seeking to make necessary improvements and to also invest in other long-term solutions. Citizen Artist Baltimore stands in solidarity with long term fair housing advocates represented by the Baltimore Housing Roundtable and Housing For All, and support their efforts to implement the Affordable Housing Trust Fund approved by voters in the general election.
Safe and affordable housing and workspace is a human right. Citizen Artist Baltimore values the rights of artists, and all Baltimore residents, to safe and affordable housing and workspace. We will work with City Hall to make sure artist voices are heard! Sign up for action alerts as the new Mayor and City Council address these issues and to learn about other opportunities to advocate for arts and culture.