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Like most artists, Neal Reinalda wants his creation to outlive him.

The Dallastown Area High School graduate headed south to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art and found people and places to help nurture his creative passion.

"Baltimore has a strong cultural scene for a city its size," he said.

He decided to stay in the city to try to open an art studio and gallery. While hunting for buildings about six years ago, Reinalda found an auto body shop. He talked to the owner, who was open to the idea of a studio/gallery. Reinalda and seven of his friends cobbled together about $1,000 for a deposit and Open Space Baltimore was born.

In the summer of 2010, Reinalda, then 24, walked through the building, discussing changes he and his friends have made and their plans for the future. A former garage was converted to a gallery with white walls and studio lighting.

A back door opened to small studios that housed creative chaos. Canvases leaned against one wall. A wood sander sat on the floor. Prints covered a light table. A copy machine in the corner needed to be serviced, Reinalda said.

Up a flight of steps and across the roof is a room that holds a T-shirt press and a music rehearsal room. The friends rent out studio and rehearsal spaces to offset expenses.

Five of the original members are still involved in Open Space and meet weekly to make decisions and develop exhibits. They also have had to deal with pressure from the city.

The building isn't zoned for residential space or ticketed concerts, so Open Space had to stop its music shows.

Despite challenges, it has established itself as a creative cocoon and space for emerging artists to display their work.

"We kind of know what we're doing now a little more than we did when we started," Reinalda said.

He's excited that Open Space landed an international show for its fall exhibit. "Liberty B," which opened earlier this month, creates an intersection between Baltimore and Berlin.

Hayley Silverman, a MICA alum who works for artists in Europe, was invited to curate the show.

"I'm pretty excited to be a part of it," she said. "A lot of things are happening for (Open Space)."

Silverman said the concept for "Liberty B" was inspired by artists/architects Arakawa and Madeline Gins.

They have created buildings and parks using procedural architecture, a way of designing that helps people re-invent themselves through examination of their thoughts and actions. Environmental and architectural existence, they believe, leads to longevity.

"Liberty B," which features six artists, is set up to give visitors the freedom to create their own experience and thus, augment their existence, Silverman said.

The gallery will be filled with ladders in a design by Claude Closky, which will obscure people's view of other work and will cause them to climb up and down to examine pieces from different angles and altitudes.

A found recording by Danish artist Jacob Kirkegaard consisting of footage of the so-called booming dunes in the Oman deserts will play. People say that in the dunes, they can change the noise depending on where they stand.

Damon Zucconi, an American, created a projection using his phone number. Eventually, an art class called, Silverman said.

She said she thinks it's easier for artists to work in Berlin, where she lives, because storefront galleries are more affordable. The city has become a type of global art community. She sees some similarities in Baltimore's art scene, but things aren't as cheap.

Reinalda said everyone at Open Space wants to create full time, but they all have day jobs as maintenance men, museum guards or coffee servers. He said he thinks Baltimore is a great place for artists to get started, but, at this point, he doesn't know if it's the best place to stay.

Developers have approached Open Space members to create a formal co-op, Reinalda said. But the project's organic development is a key to its survival.

"That's why it can work," he said. "It can change and morph on its own. We have something that can outlive us."

emccracken@ydr.com; 771-2051

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