There are few buildings in the Baltimore Arts Skyline that hold as much history, mystery, and allure as the Copycat. For close to 30 years, this 165,000 square foot industrial building has housed every variety of artist who have each adapted gigantic loft spaces into their own little pieces of the world.
The Copycat Building stands at 1501-1511 Guilford Avenue – Photo by Alex Wein
When Rob Brulinski and Alex Wein moved into the building, it was for the same reason as most: lots of space, a strong artistic community, and the freedom to pretty much do whatever you want. But within 4 months, the true reason for their move to the Copycat would become clear to them.
Rob Brulinski and Alex Wein examine the photographs from The Copycat Project
Brulinski and Wein are both accomplished photographers, with a history of documenting the underground Baltimore art world. Together they operate a photo studio called Wild Horses Studios, run out of, where else, but the Copycat itself.
The Copycat Project is their most recent collaboration, which will produce a book featuring photographs of over 100 current residents of the Copycat, and provide a thorough history of the building from its birth as a cork factory in 1897 to the flourishing arts community it is today.
Assorted materials from The Copycat Project
Coordinating with the residents, setting up shoots, getting waivers signed, cataloging the images, and filling in the missing pages of the buildings long and diverse history is really only the beginning of this massive undertaking. Though they have currently photographed over half of the residents, and compiled what appears to be the most complete history of the building to date, taking the photos and writing the text is only the first step.
Photo from the Copycat Project Book – Alison Worman, 21, B203
The final outcome of the Copycat Project will be a full-color, hard-cover coffee table book that is “guaranteed to break your coffee table!” Along with the book, Brulinski and Wein are also planning an exhibition of large scale prints of the photographs.
Photo from the Copycat Project Book – David Conroy, 51, C201
Projects such as this require money, and though Brulinski and Wein are currently investing their own time and savings into the project, they face immense costs with producing such a book, as well as those associated with making prints and having them framed for the exhibition.
Photo from the Copycat Project Book – Madeline Peters, 22, B401
Just a few weeks ago they received word that they were one of the recipients of the second round of “Think Big” funding, provided by a grant from The Station North Arts & Entertainment District, whose logo actually features the Copycat Building . These funds which were also partially provided by the William H. Baker Memorial Fund and The National Endowment for the Arts, provided a welcome start to their fundraising efforts.
Photo from the Copycat Project Book – Kyle England, 24, F206
Recently they launched a Kickstarter Campaign in an effort to raise an additional $5,000 to go towards printing costs. If all goes as planned, and Kickstarter works for them as it has for thousands of others, they will still have raised only a fraction of their overall projected costs. But every bit helps.
As part of this campaign, they teamed up with filmmaker Tyler Davis of Monolith Productions to stage and shoot a 15 minute single take walkthrough of the Copycat, which provides a unique perspective on the massive size of the building, as well as some of the curious residents and activities who find a home within the enigmatic structure.
Watch the Copycat Project Video Here:
It seems like throughout its history, the future of the Copycat has always been in question. This is still the case today as rumors and mumbles circulate around the residents and their friends as to what might happen to the megalithic structure as Station North continues to change and grow. In just the past few years, the large City Arts Building appeared on Oliver Street, less than 500 feet from the Copycat, and work has already begun on transforming the large structure next to the Copycat into a magnet high school for design. But for now, the building stands strong, and continues to buzz with activity, artistic and otherwise.
Alex Wein, Rob Brulinski and Tyler Davis outside the Copycat
I am fairly certain that in its hey-day as a cork factory 100 years ago, when the building produced nearly 40 billion bottle caps a year, the factory workers could not have imagined the colorful cast of character who would one day call the building home. But such is the beauty of the Copycat. It morphs with the seasons, and changes with the tides, but always with a spirit of innovation, collaboration, and creation.