Could Catonsville become an arts and entertainment district? The idea is under study

By Mina Haq (View full story online on Baltimore Sun)

As Catonsville explores the possibility of establishing an Arts and Entertainment District — a cluster of ventures designed to attract artists and businesses by providing economic incentives — other districts across the state are undergoing the challenges and benefits that come with revitalization.

Since 2001, the Maryland State Arts Council has awarded up to six arts district designations every year. A county is limited to one per year.

Three of Maryland’s 24 districts are in Baltimore City, while Baltimore County is one of seven in the state without a formal district.

Supporters say the districts can provide an economic boost, attracting tourists and a flourishing cultural atmosphere. An economic impact study found that in fiscal 2014, 22 districts supported 6,000 new jobs that paid $199 million in wages…

It took the Gateway Arts District in Prince George’s County almost 20 years to build and market its current operation. The district spans four municipalities — Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood — and two miles with anchor businesses such as Busboys and Poets, a restaurant and performing arts venue, and Joe’s Movement Emporium, an artistic hub focused on education and programming.

Maitland said she visited multiple other districts, including in Annapolis and Chestertown, and learned the importance of involving the community in the process. The Gateway Arts District wasn’t one of them, but it is the state’s geographically largest district — all four municipalities have a combined population close to Catonsville’s.

Alan Binstock, a sculptor who works in a Mount Rainier studio near the district’s Route 1 corridor, said the economic boost to the area has come at a “moderate pace,” but the cultural impact has been widespread.

Arts districts are meant to fill voids in economically underdeveloped areas, Binstock said, and artists have a knack for utilizing underused spaces that seem exclusively commercial