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April 21, 2024

Alloverstreet event highlights Baltimore’s art

By JACOB TOOK | October 13, 2016


COURTESY OF JACOB TOOK Participants of Alloverstreet gather at Gallery CA to view Bobby English, Jr.’s I AM You ARE installation.

Last Friday evening, Baltimore’s monthly artist-run art marathon, Alloverstreet, offered a wide range of exhibitions, galleries and artist talks in Station North to satiate art lovers and intrigue artistic novices.

If I’m honest, my experience with Alloverstreet was not at all what I was expecting. When I think of an “art marathon,” I picture a street lined with booths in which artists display their recent pieces, handing out fliers or selling books to the crowds of passersby.

One thing I never imagined was that Oliver Street, the central location of the event, would be almost completely empty. It was so dead that our Uber driver chuckled and asked if we were sure we wanted him to drop us off.

Indeed, being dropped off on a street that appeared empty, save for a few people standing around the back of a van, in an unfamiliar part of Baltimore was not how I had envisioned myself spending my Friday night.

However, the nearby pink and yellow map displaying the “Alloverstreet” logo gave us confidence. From this map, we learned that there were several different venues hosting various events throughout the evening, and we set out to explore each of them.

The nearby van identified as a mobile art gallery called Tastykake, which was hosting a show called PREGAME. The artists in the show were quick to welcome us to the Alloverstreet experience, explaining that they had displayed the preliminary sketches that preceded their finished work. One artist, Nicole Dyer, emphasized the environment of free, creative expression that the show had curated.

“My sketches are the first thought, my first instinct that I had with no holds barred,” she said.

She identified that an artist’s first thoughts about a piece are typically kept private because they are less refined, but tries to engage the acceptance of these initial thoughts.

“I’m always really excited to see other artists’ sketchbooks, and that’s why I was really excited to do this show. It’s a part you don’t normally get to see.”

This attitude of support and acceptance is common through the venues at Alloverstreet, and the entire event is an effort to celebrate creative expression without competition or judgement.

One venue which embodied this environment was the Ballroom Gallery, which provided a professional space for artists to display their work, including drinks and live music. Hannah Leighton, the co-founder of the Ballroom Gallery, said that this acceptance was a key part of Alloverstreet, and of the Ballroom Gallery in particular.

“One of the most important things about our space is that we want people from all over to be comfortable and to feel welcome,” she said.

The Ballroom Gallery in nestled amongst the halls and stairways of the Copycat, a labyrinthine warehouse which is home to many creative spaces. At Alloverstreet, the Ballroom Gallery featured a number of pieces by five selected artists who mingled with the congregation to discuss their work.

Communication between the artists was friendly and collaborative, and it was clear that the space provided by the Ballroom Gallery was open and supportive. Victoria Schanken, one of the co-directors of the gallery, spoke on this further.

“To make your work feel welcome within an artistic community, you don’t want to feel like you’re competing,” she said. “This is a safe place for artists to gather and show their work in a professional space.”

Each space at Alloverstreet is unique, bringing a different environment and different artistic experience to visitors, but they all share the intent to create a space that fosters safe, free artistic expression for their participants.

Perhaps one of the most distinct events at Alloverstreet was the performance of Bobby English, Jr. entitled I Am You Are, which featured a solitary man pacing through a room of imposing metal and stone sculptures while engaged in a conversation with God about suffering, fate and mortality.

This show was different from the rest because the artist was part of the exhibit and could not speak about it with the viewers, but small groups of people huddled together at one end of the room, discussing the piece softly.

Alloverstreet’s atmosphere of collaboration, acceptance and free creative expression is reflected by the evening-long party held at the Station North Tool Shed. There, Alloverstreet participants gather to reflect together on the pieces they have seen, discuss upcoming projects and shows, or enjoy the welcoming social energy of likeminded artists and creative thinkers.

Though it may not have been exactly what I was expecting, I was touched by the community of support that Alloverstreet brings together for local artists. It was devoid of pretentious judgement or competition, and was instead a celebration of free artistic expression in all of its many forms.

Alloverstreet is usually held on the first Friday of every month and offers a variety of different spaces, some of which regularly participate while others are featured as guest spaces. It is on Oliver Street in Station North, kicking off at five at the Station North Tool Library.

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