Mayor Young Announces Artspace Projects’ Acquisition of Historic Ambassador Theater in the City of Baltimore
Tuesday Dec 17th, 2019
Better Schools. Safer Streets. Stronger Neighborhoods.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, MD. — Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced that the Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, Artspace Projects, Inc., has closed on the historic Ambassador Theater on Liberty Heights Avenue, and plans to redevelop it into a vibrant arts hub in Northwest Baltimore City. Artspace was invited to Baltimore by the Mayor, in partnership with Healthy Neighborhoods, to address the concerns and needs of the community and to develop a plan for the theater’s second act. Following a series of community focus group meetings last summer, Artspace closed on the historic Ambassador Theater on December 16, 2019. The Ambassador is an Art Deco building located in the Howard Park neighborhood and has been vacant for more than a decade. It was damaged by a fire in more recent years and has long been a blight along Liberty Heights Avenue. Artspace acquired the property for $100,001 at auction.
“The City is thrilled that Artspace successfully closed on the Ambassador Theater,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “We look forward to working with the developer and the community to finalize the vision for this critically important landmark and its role in revitalizing the Liberty Heights corridor.”
“Artspace is honored to adaptively reuse this unique architectural treasure in the City of Baltimore, and to advance equitable, community-based visions for the building,” said Artspace President Kelley Lindquist. “Through deep local collaboration, it is Artspace’s intent that the restored Ambassador Theater will become a vital hub of arts activity and will help further the identity of the area as a creative destination.”
Artspace’s community engagement convened 40 community leaders, 30 artists, and representatives from 15 arts organizations in a series of focus group meetings conducted throughout August 2019. The team from Artspace also created opportunities for the City’s youth to lend their voices to the effort through specifically targeted listening sessions; and their ideas and concerns for the future of their city are integral to the report’s findings. This broad-based community input informs Artspace’s exploration of a range of inclusive arts uses for the iconic landmark. Artspace defines the term “artist” broadly to comprise a wide variety of creative pursuits, including traditional art forms and those that reflect Baltimore’s vibrant and diverse fashion and design influences; the important recording and mixed-music scene pulsing through the City; and any number of other creative pursuits important to maintaining the integrity and identity of the community that surrounds the Ambassador.
Artspace’s Community Engagement Report will be made public in early 2020, with an Arts Market Study to follow sometime that same year. Artspace will seek strong, long-term arts partners to collaborate with on the Ambassador Theater’s space program and has already begun that work within the existing fabric of arts organizations throughout the City. The Ambassador’s long-term success will rely not solely on strong anchor tenants, but also on strong partnerships with area educational institutions from local elementary schools through institutions of higher ed.
While Artspace has developed more than 50 arts spaces across the country, this will be its first project in Baltimore, joining Artspace’s Washington metropolitan area portfolio: Brookland Artspace Lofts in Washington, D.C.; Artspace Silver Spring Arts Campus in Silver Spring, MD; and Mount Rainier Artist Lofts in Mount Rainier, MD.
About the Ambassador Theater
Designed by architect John Jacob Zink as a cinema which opened in 1935, the Ambassador Theater is a historically significant and culturally important landmark for the neighborhood. Listed on historic registers, the theater’s storied past includes participation in the war effort as a site to purchase war bonds and it is renowned as one of the first neighborhood theaters to show first-run films. After the cinema closed in 1968 it found community use over a 30-year period as a dance hall, roller-skating rink, cosmetology school, and church. The historic Ambassador Theater has sat neglected for more than a decade, however, with the interior badly damaged by a fire in 2012.
The Howard Park Civic Association conducted a community survey assessment, inviting survey takers to identify possible uses for the vacant theater. Performances was the top-rated response, and music/cultural arts exhibitions was the third top rated. Respondents also indicated that it was very important to community heritage to preserve the Ambassador’s appearance. Artspace will release further community input findings in 2020.
About Artspace Projects, Inc.
Founded in 1979, Artspace is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable and sustainable space for artists and arts organizations. To fulfill that mission, Artspace uses the tools of real estate development to construct or restore places where artists can affordably live and work. Artspace buildings also support healthy communities, anchored in existing assets. With a commitment to affordability, Artspace ensures that the spaces remain accessible to artists and their families in perpetuity. Artspace’s unique portfolio, developed over three decades, includes 50 projects nationwide and represents more than $650 million invested in America’s infrastructure. Beyond developing places, Artspace has also served as a consultant to hundreds of arts communities coast-to-coast, helping others advance their visions. While embracing the value the arts bring to individual lives, Artspace champions the once-radical idea that artists and arts organizations can leverage fundamental social change. Artspace’s headquarters are located in Minneapolis, with additional offices in Denver, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Washington D.C. For more information, please visit www.artspace.org.