Night Owl Gallery Finds a New Perch in Station North

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Long before its reopening this summer, back in 2016, Night Owl Gallery found its first nest in Highlandtown. That’s where its founder, Beth-Ann Wilson, amassed burgeoning interest in local artists’ exhibitions as well as her own art. As Beth-Ann and I chitchat, sitting in two cozy chairs in the carefully lit and vibrantly decorated welcoming area of the new Station North space, she emphasizes how grateful she is to have started Night Owl Gallery back in Highlandtown.

Beth-Ann speaks passionately about how nurturing the community was for her while she was still learning the ropes of curation, the ins and outs of a gallerist’s day-to-day life. Not only are there plenty of artists and gallerists flourishing in Highlandtown, she tells me. There are also ample and eager audiences looking to engage with local art.

Beth-Ann Wilson

Throughout its stint just east of Patterson Park, Night Owl Gallery participated in all sorts of community organized events, such as First Friday Art Walks. On a monthly basis these Highlandtown Art Walks showcase pop-ups (visual and musical artists, makers, cooks) hosted by galleries and other cultural institutions in the area.

But seven years after the gallery’s launch, Beth-Ann was spending more and more energy on navigating the balancing act of meeting (and exceeding!) community interests while reckoning with the physical realities of the space.

Though the Highlandtown logistical puzzle was becoming an arduous task, Beth-Ann tells me that more than anything else, she just had a gut feeling it was “time to pass the torch.” In the end, because of good communication and a hint of serendipity, another gallerist, Crystal Moll, was able to take over Beth-Ann’s lease mere days after she moved out in January 2023.

Detail of "Bauhaus Blue," a new mural by Jaz Erenberg on Night Owl's facade.
For everybody, not just for artists, being able to create and to have that playful, joyful time of creating is something important not all of us get to indulge in. I’ve always thought it is essential to have a space where people don’t just look at art on the walls but can also engage with it—where they can create it, see how it’s made, get ideas and get inspired.
Beth-Ann Wilson

Fast forward to August 25 of this year, just a few weeks ago, Night Owl Gallery reopened its (magnetic blue) doors to the heart of Station North, perched right above The Royal Blue at 1735 Maryland Avenue. A few feet from the ajar front door, as Beth-Ann and I sit and discuss the move and her ambitions for the gallery, our eyes are both drawn to the happening street corner below us, where Maryland Ave and W Lafayette Ave converge—just a few blocks away from Penn Station.

The two former residential apartments which Night Owl Gallery now inhabits as a multipurpose, multistoried locale encapsulates, to my mind, one of the most charming characteristics of Baltimore architecture. That is to say, there is a de facto willingness to experiment and repurpose urban infrastructure in this city when inspiration and ingenuity are paired with committed funding. The results of such development projects, big and small, are always singular and surprising in their own ways.

Beth-Ann and I are brought to laughter after she gives me a tour and reminisces on the Barbie-esque pink the storage room was originally painted in. “I think that shade would have been a little too much, a little too jarring for our vibe,” she tells me before detailing the other quirks the property came in tow with. After rounding about a half a dozen corners, well beyond the main exhibition room, it was thrilling—like how I imagine Alice must’ve felt in pursuit of the White Rabbit—to climb the stairs to the top of the building and check out Night Owl Gallery’s artist studios. This is where renters in the coming days and weeks will set up their respective stations to work with and experiment in all kinds of media.

Sitting again in our chairs near that blue entrance door, after having peeked around every corner of the apartments-turned-gallery, Beth-Ann tells me about the conceptual evolution of her vision. I ask what inspired her to cultivate a gallery alongside studio spaces. Was the culminating idea always about cohabitation and cross-pollination?

“That was something really important to me,” Beth-Ann says. “For everybody, not just for artists, being able to create and to have that playful, joyful time of creating is something important not all of us get to indulge in. I’ve always thought it is essential to have a space where people don’t just look at art on the walls but can also engage with it—where they can create it, see how it’s made, get ideas and get inspired.”

Beth-Ann envisions this new rendition of Night Owl Gallery as a homebase where artists, on the one hand, can create in relative solitude at their own pace and, on the other hand, can also be in dialogue with the public by participating in open studio nights, putting up their own work, or hosting and attending workshops.

The gallery recently closed the exhibition "Trigger Warning" by Erhan Us

Part of Beth-Ann’s intention in this endeavor is to demystify the art world’s various wings and borders—between creator and appreciator, process and outcome, and work and play.

She tells me, speaking from her own experiences as a lifelong painter, art student at MICA and gallerist, “The art world is made out to be this totally esoteric thing. I really want for [it] to be accessible, for it to be sustainable.” Beth-Ann fervently believes in an art world that will leave this connotation of exclusivity, of smoke and mirrors, behind. The multifaceted format of Station North’s Night Owl Gallery is a testament to this belief.

In terms of exhibits, events, shows, and gatherings on the horizon at Night Owl Gallery, there is much programming to be excited about starting in the next few weeks. As of Friday, September 22, coinciding with Artscape’s return to Baltimore, Kelly L. Walker and Rosa Leff’s collaborative show will be up and running in the gallery. You can RSVP here to attend the opening reception. Leff will also be hosting a paper-cutting workshop at Night Owl a couple days prior, on Wednesday the 20th, before her and Walker’s exhibition opens to the public. You can find tickets to Leff’s “Chop-Shop” course here.

From Erhan Us' "Trigger Warning"
From Erhan Us: "Trigger Warning"
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