Amy Cavanaugh: Ten Years of Service at Maryland Art Place

Cavanaugh cites the growing success of the Bromo Arts District, where she serves as board chair and works with its director, Emily Breiter. Working together, the organization is redesigning their strategic plan, focused on increasing foot traffic in the area and increasing collaboration between businesses, developers, and arts organizations, keeping the arts a central priority and draw for audiences.

“I have no regrets about our move back to Saratoga Street, it’s where MAP should be,” says Cavanaugh. “We are located in a central place to foster community connectivity and access, between residential, commercial, and cultural organizations.”

She says that MAP plans to reopen the basement cabaret space as a speakeasy called Underbar in the spring of 2023, after solving infrastructure problems. Access to Underbar would be part of a membership to MAP, where members enter for free or guests can buy a one-day pass. The space will include cabaret-style music, and honor the history and creative labor of Laure Drogoul and the 14 Karat Cabaret. Their plan is to include local music, comedy, film screenings, and performances.

With the predicted income from the bar, MAP plans to eliminate all artist submission fees to their exhibits, which are typically minimal but currently necessary. As a continuation of the relationship with ARCH Development in DC, an Honfleur satellite space has just opened upstairs in MAP’s building. Other grounding tenants include The Lineup Room, Blackwater House Productions, The Nest (all recording studios), and the risograph print shop Sense of Press.

Now a divorced single mom, Cavanaugh resides in the northern Baltimore City neighborhood of Beverly Hills with her son and mother, which allows her to keep evening work hours when necessary, often sacrificing her home and social life for round the clock work responsibilities.

“I’m not a martyr, but I have put so much of myself into this work, this organization,” she says. “It was important to me to keep MAP going and not to have it fail, especially under my leadership as a woman.” Cavanaugh says the organization was not self-sustaining when she started, and is determined to make sure that it is successful and has the infrastructure in place to continue to operate smoothly when she decides she is finally ready to move on.

“I love what I do because I genuinely love helping artists, creating opportunities, and connecting people to opportunities,” she says. “This all makes me happy. I am much better at giving to others, and I come from a family of artists, so my work comes from a place of love.”

Looking back, much of Cavanaugh’s success stems from her background at ARCH, where development concerns were always balanced with programs to prevent gentrification and displacement. “You have to keep your artists and small businesses in the neighborhood,” she says. “There has to be affordability and rent stabilization. There has to be a mix of industries, and mixed-use spaces. The Bromo Arts District is intentionally including diverse income brackets and a realization that we have to properly value the artists. We do not want to price them out, even if they don’t make a lot of money, because the art fosters understanding and energy and builds relationships. It’s essential that we fund their projects and incentivize them to stay in these neighborhoods as they improve.”

These past ten years at MAP may seem to be a blur of exhibits, events, and art walks, but it’s important to realize that none of it would have happened without the determination of one devoted arts administrator. Although it’s flown by quickly for those of us who have benefitted from MAP’s existence and stability, it’s required ten solid years of labor, building improvements, grant writing, and intentionality from Cavanaugh, who has successfully steered MAP home to Saratoga Street and built an organization that can be sustainable for the future.


Leave a Reply