The former Bell Foundry on North Calvert Street housed dozens of artists of varying backgrounds and practices, and regularly hosted unsanctioned live performances, fostering a free-spirited and supportive community that enlivened the Station North arts district.

But then a fire last December at a similar space in Oakland, Calif., killed 36. Within days, Baltimore fire and housing officials received a tip about the Bell Foundry. They took a look, evicted the tenants and condemned the space for safety violations and deplorable conditions.

A year later, Baltimore's DIY arts and music scene is still feeling the effects. Artists say they don’t know whether city officials are trying to help them out or shut down them down, and they're concerned that their homes and studios could be closed next. This sense of uncertainty has pushed the scene further underground, they say.

Mayor Catherine Pugh has established a task force to address artists' concerns about a lack of safe, affordable spaces to live and work in the city. But the group's progress has been slow—a self-imposed June deadline for releasing a set of recommendations has come and gone—and closing a long-existing gulf between the arts community and the city bureaucracy has proved difficult.

The 22-member task force, co-chaired by attorney Jon Laria and banker Franklin McNeil, held public meetings from January to May. The panel encouraged frank input from artists, city officials and residents. Attendance peaked in February, when approximately 60 members of the public attended a forum at the War Memorial Building. But the number dwindled to no more than two dozen attendees by May.

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