The pandemic and subsequent quarantine created an unlikely opportunity for expansion. When an anonymous patron of Orzal and Nomü Nomü purchased three adjacent buildings on North Howard Street, everything seemingly fell into place. The buildings, which were operated as one unit for many years, were sold as a set. In theory, the spaces will function as an arts ecosystem housing studio space, community art-making, and a place for an artist and curatorial residency program. All of them will be run by other yet-to-be-identified arts organizations in collaboration with Nomü Nomü. Due to both bureaucracy and supply-chain issues, bringing the buildings up to code has been a challenge, altering the renovation process. As of this writing, the gallery is the only part of the project ready for the public; the other units remain in limbo.
A graduate of MICA’s MA in Curatorial Practice, Orzal believes Baltimore will be a great fit for the next iteration of Nomü Nomü. His goal is to create a place where people, specifically those who are Black and Brown, can explore the range of programmatic offerings without having to “negotiate their identity.” Orzal hopes to create a community of care where all feel seen using wellness, performance and fine art, and music. To fine-tune these offerings, he’s brought on Baltimore’s own John Tyler, musician and organizer of the Love Groove Festival, to oversee the musical experience and Fanna Gebreyesus, formerly a curatorial associate at the Glenstone Museum, to be his co-director.
In its most ideal form, Nomü Nomü will host exhibitions and offer space for presentations to local artists and curators. There will be intimate musical performances, panel discussions, print-making lessons, and other community-led activations. Visitors will have access to rare books about art, culture, and politics in the community library and are encouraged to sit down, relax and simply be. “Typical galleries are just show spaces,” Orzal says. “I want to get as far away from that as possible.”
The 3,400-square-foot space maintains its living room beginnings with second-hand and homemade furniture. Boasting two levels and a printmaking studio, Nomü Nomü will officially open its doors at 709 North Howard Street on Friday, April 15th with an inaugural exhibition, Between Two Worlds. The opening runs 4-7 p.m. Featuring Cuban revolutionary prints, the work of Black Panther Emory Douglas, and other radical prints collected from artists on Instagram, the show embodies what Nomü Nomü stands for. “This show is about radical, revolutionary ideas and how we can be an accessible medium,” Orzal says.
With only a year of funding secured, Nomü Nomü’s success hinges on its ability to connect and build within Baltimore’s arts and culture scene. Balancing community buy-in while establishing financial solvency is a delicate, difficult dance many nonprofit organizations know all too well. Fortunately, Orzal and his team know how to put down roots.
Featured image: Nomü Nomü team John Tyler, Fanna Gebreyesus, Joseph Orzal, Sarah Dunn, Rheagen King