The dream to restore the Ambassador Theater has been long in the making. Community advocacy for the adaptive reuse of the theater -- an Art Deco cultural icon — captured the attention of the Mayor and the Commissioner of Housing and Community Development, spurring them into action. In the spring of 2018, Artspace was invited to Baltimore in partnership with local partner, Healthy Neighborhoods Inc., by the Mayor and leaders from the Howard Park, Forest Park, and other northwest Baltimore neighborhoods to assess the Ambassador Theater's potential for redevelopment as arts and cultural community center. Later that summer, the building was stabilized by the city and placed into receivership. Artspace purchased the Ambassador at public auction in the spring of 2019, catalyzing the first steps of an in-depth community engagement process during predevelopment.
In August of 2019, Artspace began working with the surrounding communities and artists of varying disciplines from across the city to create a shared vision and develop a space plan. Throughout that process, participants shared their dreams to restore the Ambassador Theater into a new arts and cultural community center in Northwest Baltimore along Liberty Heights Avenue that can be welcoming to both performing and visual artists.
Artspace completed its early community engagement work just as the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping the globe in March of 2020. Notably, in the final artist discussion group using video-conference technology, artist participants thanked Artspace for continuing the work to advance the project. Many participants focused on how important it was to hurry the project, so the Ambassador would be ready to welcome the surrounding community, post-COVID, and serve diverse artists. Read Artspace's 2020 Ambassador Theater Engagement Report here.
In July 2020, Artspace selected Quinn Evans of Baltimore (formerly Cho Benn Holback) to lead the conceptual architectural design and to help create an interior space program. Artspace will resume community engagement work with the Quinn Evans team, remotely, to sharpen the vision for the Ambassador's interior space plan.
Artspace's goal to restore the Ambassador Theater as art and cultural hub is informed by the vision that community members and civic leaders established early on, in service of the Northwest Baltimore region. That vision also meets Artspace's nonprofit mission to create, foster, and preserve affordable and sustainable space for artists and arts organizations. The new Ambassador will serve the surrounding community's needs as a safe place for neighbors to come together and where people can make, watch, and view art and where local artists can be supported and celebrated.
2021 Community Design Session