A few weeks ago I took part in the Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School that was held at The Wind-Up Space. During the evening, the hostess announced this upcoming multi-venue art show that was taking place in the Station North Arts District and The Wind-Up Space was among the participating venues. Basically it was an open non-juried show and the only criteria is that 1) one had to live in the Baltimore area and 2) each participant was limited to a maximum of four submissions.
I decided to take part. At the same time I noticed that my pet hedgehog Spike was starting to run low on his Pretty Pets food. Even though, for the last few months, I’ve been getting Spike’s food at Today’s Pet because the commute was shorter from my home, this time I decided to make the longer commute to the pet store where I originally purchased Spike from: Sea Breeze Pet Center located in Lutherville-Timonium.
I’ll admit that on January 29, 2012 I wasn’t fully right in the head when I first got Spike mainly because my husband had abruptly walked out on me the month before (just three days after Christmas) without even indicating that he was unhappy in our marriage. I got Spike the same day that I received devastating news from friends that they saw my husband with another woman whom I thought was a friend of mine (but I guessed wrong on that "friend" part) and she’s also the same friend who has serious mental health issues.
I did a lot of driving in the hours following that revelation. I ended up driving from the Washington, DC area to the Baltimore Beltway until I ended up in the Lutherville-Timonium area and I visited Sea Breeze. I found that it was a local family-owned pet store that had been in business since 1968. I also became smitten by the store’s latest arrival of pet hedgehogs and, well, you can guess the rest.
Even though Spike came with a hedgehog starter kit that included hedgehog food, I didn’t give much thought about the fact that I would have to replenish Spike’s food supply mainly because I was such a nervous wreck from the drama that was swirling around me that I temporarily lost the ability to think rationally about the long-term of being the owner of an exotic pet like a hedgehog. When Spike started to run low on food, I went to the big box pet stores in my area (Petco and PetSmart) since there were no locally owned pet stores in my immediate area and I found that the stores didn’t stock the food that Spike ate. So I had to make the hour-long commute to Sea Breeze where I made a habit of buying Spike’s food in bulk so I wouldn’t have to make such a long commute very often.
In time I learned that Today’s Pet also stocks the food that Spike ate and since that store was only a half-an-hour’s drive from my home, I began to go there instead and I only went to Sea Breeze if 1) Today’s Pet was out of stock on hedgehog food or 2) I was going to be in the vicinity of Sea Breeze for a different reason and I figured that I might as well go there for Spike’s food since I was going to be in the area anyway.
There were times when I went to Sea Breeze on the way to going to the Baltimore Dr. Sketchy’s event mainly because it was a short 20-minute drive down I-83 from the store to The Wind-Up Space. So on the day I made the submissions to the Station North Arts District show, I decided to go to Sea Breeze first to get Spike’s food then drive to Baltimore to submit my art. I arrived at the shopping center only to see that the front windows were mostly covered with brown paper yet the store still had the Sea Breeze sign up plus a smaller sign on the door that listed the store’s opening hours.
At first I thought that it was one of those instances where the store is remodeling yet it remained opened to the public while it undergoes its makeover but then I tried the door and I saw that it was locked. I peeked into the door and saw that the whole space was not only emptied of everything but the walls and the ceiling looked like they were completely stripped of paint and tile.
I wasn’t sure if Sea Breeze was temporarily closed while it went through a radical remodeling or if the store had shut down for good. A day later I looked online and saw that its website was still up and running like there was nothing wrong. I called the number listed on the site only to get one of those recorded voice messages from the phone company announcing that the number was no longer in service. I tried searching online for any clues as to what caused Sea Breeze to close its door for good after being in business for 45 years and the closest I got was this one negative review on Yelp.com from someone who claimed that she visited this store on the last day before it closed for good and she received poor service from the staff.
I can’t verify if this person was telling the truth or if she was just an Internet troll with too much time on her hands. (After all, why bother with writing a negative Yelp.com review about a store that had gone out of business within days of that store closing its doors for good?) All I can say is that my direct experiences with the staff of Sea Breeze have always been positive ones. The first few months after I got Spike (when I went to Sea Breeze more often), the red-haired woman who usually worked the cash register whenever I was there would ask me how my hedgehog was doing as I was purchasing his food. When I once mentioned to that woman about Spike’s nasty habit of using his exercise wheel for both its intended purpose and as a toilet, she told me that she noticed that the hedgehogs in the store typically do the same thing when they are on the exercise wheel.
The last time I visited Sea Breeze before it closed was back in June and that was when I was trying to get some Ultra-Bites Fruit & Veggie Treats for Spike. Today’s Pet was out of Ultra-Bites and when I went to Sea Breeze, it was the same red-haired female employee who told me that the company had discontinued manufacturing Ultra-Bites. She helpfully found a substitute fruit/veggie side treat that was originally made for chinchillas and Spike seemed to do okay with the substitute. It was during that visit when I saw this sign outside announcing the recent arrival of new baby hedgehogs and they were available for sale. I took two photos of the babies with my smartphone because they looked so tiny and cute.
Now that Sea Breeze is closed, my only non-Internet option for getting hedgehog food is Today’s Pet. At least that store happens to be the one that’s closer to my home so it’s not quite as bad a hardship as it could’ve been had Today’s Pet been the one that closed and making the hour-long one-way commute to Sea Breeze was my only non-Internet choice. But I feel a bit sad for Sea Breeze’s demise mainly because that’s the place where I got Spike from and the place is now history. :-(
So I was a bit annoyed and pissed over having made the long trip to Lutherville-Timonium for nothing so I got back in the car. I drove past the Maryland State Fairgrounds and saw a large banner for a German Festival that was starting the following day and I began to kick myself because had I waited a day I could’ve gone there right after being disappointed over Sea Breeze’s closure. In any case, I made the 20-minute commute down I-83 to the Station North Arts District in Baltimore.
I made the rare appearance in that area in daylight and, for once, I arrived there without stepping one foot inside The Wind-Up Space. Usually I would go to the area to attend a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event at The Wind-Up space and I would be there right at the time when it was twilight. The last time I was in the area in daytime was when I attended Artspace last year. (I didn’t go to this year’s Artspace mainly because it happened while the entire Baltimore-Washington, DC area was still blanketed in this nasty heat wave that included high humidity. The heatwave broke after Artscape ended.)
The North Station Arts District is a mix with the Maryland Institute College of Art overlooking abandoned buildings, art murals painted on some of these abandoned buildings, and newer businesses trying to make a go at helping to revitalize that area. Here are my photos of that area that I took on the way to and from dropping off my artwork.
As for the art show itself, it’s being spread over several different venues located throughout the Station North Arts District but the Single Carrot Theater was the centralized location where all the art was submitted. The theater itself had this interesting wall mural that included this quote from artist Paul Cezanne from which the theater got its name.
The main focal point of the Station North Arts District is the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). My late grandmother on my father’s side of the family actually attended that school for a few years although I’m not even sure if she ever graduated from there. (She was then known as Grace Evans when she was a student.) Here’s the strange part. I didn’t know that my grandmother attended that school until a few years after her death. She never once mentioned to me that she attended that school while I was growing up, not even when I used to visit her and I would show off my latest drawings that I did during those visits. She didn’t seem very encouraging of my artistic talent and she sided with my mother on her insistence that I take two years of typing in high school instead of taking more art and music electives (like I wanted to). I only learned about my grandmother’s earlier life when my mother mentioned it a few months after my father died in 2000 because, after all those years, my mother finally came to the realization that I would benefit from taking some art classes and I could pursue art as a hobby and she encouraged me to do so. My grandmother and parents didn’t say a word to me about my grandmother’s art school days while both my grandmother and my father were still alive and, to this day, I don’t know why that was kept a secret from me. (My only theory is that maybe my grandmother didn’t like that school and she hated it so much that she dropped out and refused to even discuss it.) I have to admit that, from the outside, MICA looks more like an industrial revolution-era factory than an institution of higher learning.
The Station North Arts District is a cross between small thriving bars, restaurants, art galleries, and nightclubs co-existing alongside boarded up buildings and MICA. One minute you see a boarded-up and decrepit building that looks like it had seen better days while the next minute you see something that leads you to believe that the area is trying to emerge as a viable area.