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‘We’re not going to stop until we have a space where we have control’: Baltimore Rock Opera Society

After getting shut down and then burglarized over the last month, BROS remains hopeful about finding a new space.

The headquarters and rehearsal space of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society in Greenmount West. (Photo by Andrew Zaleski)

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society is looking for a space of its own after a series of setbacks at local arts spaces over the last month.
The group’s headquarters was among those shut down when city officials abruptly closed the Bell Foundry on N. Calvert St. in early December. Coming in the immediate aftermath of the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, it also led to the eviction of other artists who have studios at the space, as City Paper reported at the time.
Aran Keating, BROS creative director, said the group doesn’t have a performance space, so the first floor of the warehouse arts space was the heart of its operations for production, where they staged sets, rehearsed and gathered for meetings.
The building was boarded up following the December eviction. Keating said the group was trying to keep an eye on it while working toward getting back in the building. But this week, they discovered someone had been going in and out of the building. Tools like a router, grinder, air compressor, welder  were being stolen from the space — about $2,000 worth in all.
Earlier in January, the city also shut down Studio 14 in West Baltimore, where the band for their spring show was rehearsing.
Now that show has been pushed to the fall, BROS members are navigating bureaucracy and looking for a new space.
Keating said the group, which writes and produces original rock operas that also have a full-length studio recording, has been taking steps to become more legit. They officially became a nonprofit in 2015 and were complying with regulations at the Bell Foundry that prevented it from being used for shows or having people live there. Reports at the time indicated city inspectors found code violations related to other floors.
They’re continuing on that track, despite the setbacks. As Keating put it, “I don’t have any option but to be optimistic about it.”
Part of the work is to be a voice for Baltimore artists. Spaces like Bell Foundry play a key role in arts community that’s often celebrated in Baltimore. Since closing the Bell Foundry, the city started a Safe Arts Space Task Force. Keating attended the second meeting this week, and said he is advocating for a more coherent arts policy.
For BROS, the next step is their own space.
“We’re not going to stop until we have a space where we have control, meaning we have an ownership stake in the building,” Keating said. They want it to be called The Paradise.

BROS is looking to raise $75,000 and started a crowdfunding campaign. Local bands are also throwing a fundraiser at the Sidebar on Saturday night, which is one of a series of events.

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