Originally established as a residential home around 1820, the building hosted a slew of retail shops for tobacco, antiques, furniture reproduction, and pianos throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In the early 2000s, “The Coward Shoe” emerged via residents in the building using the space for various underground art, music, dance, and performance programming. The history of the building and its relationship to change, commerce, and underground programming, sparked the curators’ deep interest in exploring new forms of artistic presence that could be housed in the space. The specter of gentrification and displacement looms high in Baltimore. Just recently, the historic Lexington Market was partially demolished in preparation for major renovation by real-estate development company Seawall.
The building’s history and current restructuring provided an ideal space to investigate critical questions around the relationship between geographic conditions and survival. Due to state government mandates related to COVID-19, A Roving Presence...was forced to close during its first month. As such, the residency shifted from its original space into the artists’ and curators’ homes, and now onto a digital format. The space’s closure and subsequent shifts in curatorial labor and artistic production restructured the residency’s format, heightening the parallels between the project’s initial examinations and Baltimore’s historical evolution--its changing buildings, communities, and economies. Like its namesake, A Roving Presence... is a residency that continues to move between physical, digital, and social realms.