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Towson University

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Local organization brings art to city

With mix of art, Creative Alliance draws varied audiences

Depending on the day, Creative Alliance’s Patterson Theater might be filled with hip young lesbians–or a crowd of church-going senior citizens.

The variety of artistic offerings is only one aspect setting Creative Alliance apart from other galleries and performance spaces in the city, explained program director Megan Hamilton. Based out of the restored Patterson Theater in Highlandtown, the non-profit Creative Alliance delivers a mix of performance and visual arts to the area. In the last decade it has developed innovative arts education programs for children and adults. With the move to the Patterson in 2003, the organization now hosts artists through a residency program.

Creative Alliance keeps its focus close to home. “Our mission is to showcase artists of Baltimore and Maryland to the audiences of Baltimore and Maryland and to use that energy to catalyze positive change on Eastern Avenue,” Hamilton said.

Bringing together performance art and gallery space under one roof provides synergy, as projects feed off one another. So far, the recipe has proven successful. People love to come to the theater and poke around the downstairs and upstairs galleries, Hamilton said. For example, a photo exhibition on women refugees complemented a showing of documentaries on refugees moving to Baltimore. Motivation for programs comes from all over.

Creative Alliance partnered with a local church for a performance of the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra. The Patterson is also home to the Charm City Kitty Club, a quarterly night of queer performance “organized by a peppy committee of lesbians,” Hamilton said.

“So some nights you might come in here and it’s like ‘Oh it’s a really hip swishy cabaret’ and there’s people from all over town. Or you might come for the Mandolin Orchestra and it will be like 30 percent Highlandtown seniors,” she explained.

Shows aren’t restricted to local work, but artists usually have roots in the city or their work helps amplify that of a local artist. For example, Creative Alliance booked an Irish band to perform in order to showcase the opening act: an Irish band from Baltimore.

“Usually there’s some kind of little hook that hooks them in with the local community,” Hamilton said. “Not always, but usually.”

Occasionally, exhibits include the work of resident artists or kids enrolled in its arts programs. Besides bringing art to the community, Creative Alliance provides local artists with services like open critique sessions and workshops. The organization caters to visual artists with Life Drawing sessions every Saturday; the Baltimore Songwriters’ Association also meets in the space every two weeks.

Over the years, support expanded to include film, video and digital media with Creative Alliance MovieMakers, or CAmm. Out of CAmm came two annual events—a 24-hour filmmaking competition and the College Film Video Bakeoff, which Hamilton calls “hilarious.”

“Basically college students can submit a piece. There’s no jury fee and you know we get work from all around the city,” she said. “Then we screen it all the same night, and we have this huge cake and we have cheap beer and it’s just totally cool—we have all these young filmmakers come and it’s great, great fun.”