Less than two years after he moved his gallery to the Atlas District, Randall Scott is about to relocate again. Aside from high rents and the never-arriving streetcar, he doesn’t have a lot of complaints about H Street NE, which he calls “a great street to be on.” It’s just that he’s found a new love: Baltimore.
“There are a lot of artist-run spaces, the D.I.Y. things, which are just awesome,” says the upbeat gallerist, sitting on a folding chair in Randall Scott Projects’s main room. “That’s one of the reasons why I want to go out there. I really like that vibe.”
“In D.C., everything is all spread out,” he adds. “I think Baltimore is a little more navigable. And the space is so abundant, and it’s so inexpensive.”
Cheaper rent for a ground-floor property about three times the size of his current second-floor one is a factor in Scott’s decision to leave the H Street neighborhood, which has already lost G Fine Art and is about to see Connersmith depart. But Scott doesn’t expect his new location to transform his enterprise.
“The new business models for any gallery are the Internet and art fairs,” he says. “Every gallery in D.C. is the same way. My business model isn’t going to change much. Most of my clients are everywhere else.”
Yet the gallery still needs a physical presence, he notes. “Since I represent people, the artists need a place to show.
The crux of what’s drawing Scott to Baltimore, which has only two downtown fine-art galleries, is less tangible than his new location in the North Howard Street antiques district. (It’s an area not unlike Georgetown’s Book Hill, which has lately attracted four new galleries.)
“Baltimore right now is coming into its own,” he says. “A lot of artists are actually moving into the city. I’ve talked to people — friends and painters in New York — who are considering Baltimore.”
The city reminds Scott of Los Angeles in the late 1980s, which is where he began his career as an art dealer. He worked first as an assistant gallery director, and then ran his own space in Santa Monica for about a year-and-a-half. It closed around the time of the 1992 riots.
“I needed to get out,” Scott recalls. “If you were there during the riots, you really got tired of Los Angeles as a place.”
He took a job as an art director in Kiev, Ukraine, and then moved to Seattle, where he worked in photography, which he calls “my side job.” He arrived in the Washington area in 2001 and worked on various endeavors — including fatherhood — before opening Randall Scott Projects near Logan Circle in 2006.
“I wanted to own a gallery,” Scott explains. “It was something I left, but I hadn’t really finished it.”
Those who remember the 14th Street location know that the upcoming move isn’t the first time Randall Scott Projects has left town. In 2009, it departed for Brooklyn.
“I kind of jumped at the chance to work in New York,” Scott says. “I met so many people while I was up there. Artists and painters and photographers. But it was just the wrong time to be up there. That was 2009, 2010. Right after the market crashed.”
In addition to financial concerns, what drew Scott back to this area was his family, which remains in Gaithersburg. His commute from there to Baltimore will be “like five extra miles,” he estimates, over traveling to Northeast.
He might have stayed in the District, Scott allows, if had found an affordable first-floor location in a lively neighborhood. “It’s nice to be on the ground floor, where I can see people walk by.”
Yet moving the business to Baltimore is “not just about opening an art gallery,” he says. “It’s where you’re going to be in five or 10 years. And what kind of a difference you can make. In D.C., that’s incredibly difficult to do. But in Baltimore, I can save enough money to expand. And try to grow a city with me.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.