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Mayor Pugh Creates Task Force For 'Safe Art Spaces'

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Just weeks after Baltimore condemned the Bell Foundry building, evicting city artists, Mayor Catherine Pugh has formed a new task force.

Their goal? To find safe spaces for artists in the city.

Pugh says she wants to avoid a tragedy, like the warehouse fire in Oakland, which claimed 36 lives.

Days after that deadly blaze, artists living and working in Bell Foundry were told to pack their bags.

Housing inspectors tell WJZ the building wasn't coded for people to live there, and the hazards inside were a tragedy waiting to happen.

Even so, "there's no longer a sense of community or a sense of security for me and my friends," resident Que Pequeno told WJZ at the time.

Now, Pugh is taking action to find a happy medium.

"Our goal is to make sure that they have environments in which they can live and work," she said Wednesday, at the announcement of the safe art spaces task force.

It will be made up of city agencies, arts organizations, attorneys and developers.

"I think all of us are really concerned about safety but we also recognize the amazing contributions and the amazing qualities that exist for creativity in the spaces in our city," says Jeannie Howe, of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Stewart Watson, co-owner of exhibition space Area 405, hopes to see safe solutions that take into account artists diverse living situations.

"We all want the best," she says. "But that best may look different to different people."

Some of the artists who got kicked out of Bell Foundry have questions about what the task force will accomplish.

"I really don't know if... they're going to stick to their words," Pequeno said.

Still, hope remains to find spaces where future artists can safely thrive.

The task force will hold its first meeting in January.

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