First full-time executive director chosen for Station North arts area

Fund-raiser Mange to oversee promotion of arts, commerce

Metro

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July 13, 2005|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN STAFF

Hoping to jump-start the revival of the area connecting Mount Vernon to Charles Village, the group overseeing the transformation of Station North into a vibrant arts and entertainment community is to announce today the hiring of its first full-time executive director.

Jennifer Mange will oversee Station North Arts & Entertainment Inc., guiding the formerly grass-roots effort toward becoming a professional organization to promote an arts scene with healthy residential and retail development.

In addition to hiring Mange, a local fund-raiser, the group will establish its first physical presence when it moves into offices in the 100 block of North Ave.

Located in the geographic center of Baltimore, the 100-acre arts district serves as a gateway from downtown and the Mount Vernon Cultural District to Charles Village, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Johns Hopkins University. It includes the Charles Theatre cinema.

Troubled by run-down properties and safety concerns, the area has been re-emerging recently as a cultural hub of the neighborhood, something that should be accelerated with the appointment of a full-time director, said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and chairman of the mayor's advisory board for Station North.

"The neighborhood has been suffering from decades of disinvestment, and it's hard to pull back a neighborhood like that overnight," Fowler said. "To have an individual with Jennifer's expertise to be working a full week, every week to promote the district is phenomenal."

Among the group's tasks is promoting the tax benefits available for artists who move into the area. For example, artists can deduct the sales of artwork from gross income on state taxes, and there is a tax cap available for property owners who renovate for arts or entertainment purposes.

The group also promotes Web sites, creates signs and brochures, keeps tabs on neighborhood development, and, as Fowler put it, "looks to develop a diverse, funky, real neighborhood and not one that gets gentrified overnight."

Officials were able to establish the position and an operating budget for the group after receiving $79,000 in grants from three area foundations. Fowler is hoping for another $40,000, though no additional positions are expected to be created in the near future.

"As a collective, the group has been very effective but has reached a point where it's necessary to establish a leadership position," Mange said. "We'll continue to engage volunteers and develop partnerships. But the organization needs to be focused for a year or so before adding any staff."

Mange previously worked as a public art coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and she has two decades of experience with program development and grant writing for cultural organizations. In Baltimore, she has raised $8 million for local arts groups.

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