Arts space Tarantula Hill and Be Free Floating to close

The arts space Tarantula Hill and the sensory deprivation tank business contained therein, Be Free Floating, will close as Twig Harper and Carly Ptak, who owned and operated the space, are ending their stewardship of the building with the hope that another community group or art collective will take it over.

Harper sent out an email to Be Free Floating customers saying the last day for floats will be Nov. 15.

"When we opened up our home in West Baltimore to everyone in June of 2013 to come and float in the isolation tank, we were unsure of how it would unfold, as we approached this work as a service of love and openess," the email says, in part. "We were amazed as to how responsive everyone was to this type of work."

Harper's email also notes that "our personal circumstances has radically changed and I will be moving out of Baltimore by the end of November." During separate phone calls, he and Ptak, who also performed together in the experimental music group Nautical Almanac since 1993, say they are separating.

Though they were close to building a second tank for Be Free Floating, Harper says business fell off by 2/3 since the Uprising, as both sensory deprivation became more widespread and people became afraid to come to West Baltimore.

"A lot of capitalists have stepped in and tried to make it this spa thing," he says, likening it to the recent trend of micro dosing LSD to become a more productive worker. "I feel like I'm much more old-school in my approach to consciousness."

And despite that floating helps to "break down the programming that separates us," many seeking it out still choose to avoid places like West Baltimore, he says.

"So many people are programmed by the fear of poverty," says Harper. "They don't see the humanity of the people living here."

Tarantula Hill, more recently known as T-Hill, first opened in 2001 in an old warehouse on West Pratt Street and grew to include an Esoteric Library, beehives, a roof garden, a recording studio, a performance space, a worm compost, and various rooms curated by artists and nearby residents. A fire caused serious damage in 2006, but the space was soon rebuilt.

Both Harper and Ptak say the tank altered the utility of the building.

"I was definitely aware that the energy in the building was stuck," says Ptak.

Over the last year and a half, they considered changes—whether it be adding the second tank, experimenting with salvia, or something else—but it never felt quite right.

Now, they are going about different pursuits while hoping to pass the building on. Ptak likens it to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

"Part of the cocoon process is you don't know what's going to come out of it," she says.

"That space has always been a loving space, that's the core of it," she later says. "However it ends up, that's the core of it. Everything is going to be what it is when it happens."

But she says she enjoys the change process, and that, "It just feels really free to not know, and to not have to know."

As for what comes next for them, Harper is planning to move to Far Rockaway, New York to refocus on writing and new music. In addition to mentioning his own well-being—"While I do believe in the tank, I don't believe it's the best use of my abilities"—Harper cited the unending toxicness of the election and a certain bleakness in West Baltimore as reasons for change.

"It feels dark in the middle of this Philip K. Dick nightmare presidential election," he says. "It's very dark times for everybody in the city."

He's not sure when he'll be back in Baltimore, if at all.

Ptak, a certified hypnotherapist, says she is working on living in the moment and release and is building a website, NewParadigmRelationship.com, that focuses on these relationships with the self.

Reflecting on the 15 years of Tarantula Hill, Harper says it's the longest he's ever lived in one place.

"To actually stay somewhere for 15 years and commit to it, it was a really amazing experience to see the cycles of things that have happened," he says.

Ptak put it more simply.

"It was super fun. I loved every minute of it," she says with a laugh. "That's it, it was great."

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