Big, clean, and empty—that’s a solid starting point for an artist, and that’s the kind of space that Vincent Valerio found for Baltimore’s newest art center. The Pinebox Art Center, he hopes, will become an integral part of the growing arts scene in Highlandtown and beyond.
“I’d like it to be a Baltimore staple rather than a private gallery,” says Valerio, 27, a graduate of Towson University’s Master of Fine Arts program. “I’d like it to be more community involved.”
The center is located at the former King Cork and Seal building at 101 N. Haven St. According to Valerio, it was also a coffin-making facility at one point, hence the Pinebox name.
Recently renovated, the cement-floor gallery space up front has a clean, new-building smell.
“It’s clean, open, industrial space with plenty of white walls,” says Valerio.
In the back is classroom space for art instruction.
Zoey Robinson-Budreski, owner of Bmore Abilities, an art center for students with special needs, will teach classes for students of all abilities.
Adjacent to the front gallery, local artists like sculptor Rob Guevara, an adjunct professor at Towson University, rent studio space.
“If they’re serious about their work and they want to rent some space, then we can work something out,” says Valerio, noting that there is one vacancy left.
For Valerio, suite 102 in the old King Cork and Seal building was the perfect spot to open an art center. The desolate stretch of N. Haven St. has already attracted other arty folks, including a screen-printer and an “underground” science enthusiast in the same building, and well-known wood turner Mark Supik’s studio a few doors down. It’s within the borders of Highlandtown, a favored place among Baltimore artists.
“When I decided I wanted to do this and have this art center, I wanted to be in a location that was receptive to this type of business,” explains Valerio.
An Ohio transplant, Valerio came to Baltimore three-and-a-half years ago to attend graduate school.
“I just like it here,” he says. “I like the art scene, and I like the center East Coast location.”
Valerio designs and constructs outlandish costumes and wearable art, which is worn by models and photographed.
“My work is pretty interactive,” he says.
In addition to living the artist’s life, Valerio pursues another activity which was helpful for his latest venture.
“I flip real estate,” he says. “I had a list of buildings I was looking at. Some were in Mt. Vernon; one was in Hamilton. This just ended up being the best bet, I think.”
Wheeling and dealing is creative, too, according to Valerio.
“I’m not making a living entirely off my art, but I am making living and still being creative, which is successful. Making art and flipping real estate, these are both creative endeavors; I think to be successful in business, you have to be creative.”
On February, Jan. 11, Pinebox officially opened to the public with its New Frontiers exhibition, which included works from Highlandtown photographer Matthew Saindon, sculptor and wearable art producer Rachel Timmins, visual artist and sculptor Zeke Luman, and contact-paper (shelf-liner) artist Brittany Powell.
Pinebox is hosting its first annual Art Bazaar on starting on Feb. 8. Artists must display work for sale; there is no gallery commission. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1. Visit www.pineboxartcenter.com, or find Pinebox Art Center on Facebook for more information.
by Erik Zygmont