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Washington County Maryland Arts

Washington County Maryland Arts
Observations on the impact of the arts on a community, from the perspective of a local arts council in Hagerstown, Maryland.


Their turn.
2008-01-18 23:47:00
Summary: downtown Hagerstown is coming back, but not in the way that we were thinking. Read on.One morning this week, various officials from the five counties of Western Maryland (Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll) convened in downtown Hagerstown. Tourism directors, arts council directors, and downtown development managers met up at the Washington County Arts Council Gallery on the Public Square. After a half hour of coffee from our new neighbors at Skyline Coffee, introductions, welcoming remarks and Krumpe's Do-Nuts (a family-owned Hagerstown business since the 1930s, and at $27 for five dozen, what could be better on a chilly January morning than some Krumpe's?) the 30-odd (well, not so odd, actually) colleagues marched up the street for some creative activity and conversation at the Potomac Bead Company. The day continued with a tasty lunch at Duffy's on Potomac, some fascinating facts and figures from Tom Riford of the Hagerstown Washington County Convention ...
More About: Turn
Pretty. Cool.
2008-01-11 22:29:00
Katie stopped in today to show us a quilt she created. She makes a lot of cool things, such as the wierd eskimo dolls currently on display in our gallery storefront. But this quilt is just delightful, and reminds me what a great medium textiles can be. If this inspires you to stop by the fabric store and get creative, go with it. I especially like the rail crossing and the graffiti artist. Embiggen for impressive detail.
More About: Cool , Pretty
2007-12-18 13:49:00
Just in time for the holidays, a new exhibit at the WCAC Gallery, "2x2" -- featuring dozens upon dozens of 2-inch-square works by several local artists. Here are a few of them. Embiggen for fabulousness!
More About: Pretty
Here's how it's done
2007-12-07 02:52:00
Holiday performance traditions do not just occur naturally. Here's a drive-by scene that illustrates perfectly the glamourous back-breaking labor behind the scenes of some of the holiday's best. Honest, I wasn't trolling for material, I was just parking the truck on North Potomac Street and saw something interesting.Here you have some of the volunteer board members I witnessed this morning on North Potomac Street, loading props and scenery into a rental truck, preparing for load-in at the Maryland Theatre for the Potomac Classical Youth Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. It was way below freezing, and the season's first snowfall was still on the ground from the night before. Chilly: very. Inspiring: VERY MUCH. These folks have done so much to run a quality program for young dancers over the past ten years that it is not possible to give them too much acknowledgement. The combination of young artists committed to their art, with adults who recognize passion and potential an...
My bologna has a first name.
2007-11-21 02:59:00
Sometimes, art comes and finds you. Sometimes, the most intriguing visuals appear not only in our gallery space, but also on the streets of downtown Hagerstown. And a vision appeared in front of the arts council this morning and I couldn't resist dashing out to capture it in its rich wierdness. Or wierd richness. Truly an International Coffees moment to savour. The odd thing is that no one else noticed, or at least no one mentioned this icon of American pop culture pausing at a stoplight in the heart of the Hub City . Passers-by, drivers, no one seemed interested or tickled or even puzzled. Surely the load of kids on the schoolbus following the weiner should have been delirious, but nary a peep from the inmates. But is it so odd that no one seemed to notice? I'm thinking maybe not so much. Maybe corrective measures need to be taken. I feel some public art coming. No, not just murals. Something nuts and exuberant and unexpected. And excellent. As my college roommate used to say whe...
More About: Bologna
Happy birthday to us! we? us?
2007-11-16 04:11:00
This evening the Washington County Arts Council celebrated-in a modest way-its 40th birthday. The proceedings involved handing out $19,950 in grants to local arts projects. Also there were a case or two of not-so-bad wine, several dozen representatives of organizations, public officials, artists, and general supporters; the local press. Also, since this is a birthday, an absolutely fabulous cake from Cones & Bones Bakery, our neighbors here on the Square in downtown Hagerstown. Okay, first, the cake. Almond cake with cream cheese and apricot filling, encrusted with toasted almonds outlining the figure of the arts council's logo! Really the swellest thing anyone has done for us lately, and it certainly overshadowed our mediocre wine selections. Buy your pies and cakes from Bones & Cones... (I bought three pies last year for Thanksgiving, and they were so good that I didn't get any)Great evening overall. It is great to support long-standing programs, but it is exciting to pr...
More About: Happy , Birthday , Happy Birthday
Getting there.
2007-11-15 02:14:00
Tuesday was a very important day for Washington County. Our Board of Education staged a key-turning ceremony for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown. Oh, a key-turning ceremony is like a ground-breaking ceremony, except in this case the ground was broken sometime in the 19th century, and what we’re dealing with here is rehabilitating a hundred-year-old building into a modern educational facility.Anyway, I went away with plenty to think about. The first thing is the support for this school from our business community was overwhelmingly evident, as was support from every civic and service organization as well as public officials. The breakfast reception (held at our Maryland Theatre, which neighbors the school) was packed. Bankers and lawyers cheek-by-jowl with nonprofit directors and county commissioners. One well-aimed grenade would have brought the city to its knees. Not that I’m recommending any such thing, I’m just saying it was a living, breathing...
Tell her how you feel
2007-08-17 22:35:00
If you see this person out and about in Hagerstown, introduce yourself. She is Lauren LaRocca, a columnist for the Frederick News Post who is highly critical of the cultural scene in her former hometown, Hagerstown. If you've ever enjoyed an exhibit at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, tell her about it. If you've ever been moved by a performance of the Maryland Symphony under the baton of Elizabeth Schulz, describe it for her. And if you are one of the thousands of people who support the arts in Hagerstown with your time or your energy or your money, lay it out for her. If you feel like going one step further and informing the editors of the Frederick News Post how you feel about our community being unfairly slighted, you can do so easily by clicking here.
More About: Feel
Don't diss my town
2007-08-17 22:20:00
Yesterday, following a lunchtime concert in downtown Hagerstown, one of the musicians sent me an email saying "it turned out pretty well, a lot of folks turned out and we had one of our best crowds. Thank you for having us play, and we look forward to next year with you. Thanks for improving our County with all the great art/music programs." So, I was surprised then to read Lauren LaRocca's astonishing assertion that there is no support for the arts in Hagerstown.According to her column published August 16, in the Frederick News-Post (a newspaper published in a neighboring city; we have our own daily newspaper here in Hagerstown) she's spent the better part of 15 years searching for evidence in bars around town. The truth is that thereis enormous support for the arts in Hagerstown, and you don't have to look very hard to find it.Hagerstown is home to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, and the community's sustenance of that excellent orchestra has grown over its inception 26 years ...
More About: Town , Diss
Finding an audience
2007-08-10 21:31:00
It was puzzling. After decades of presenting storytime for children in various parks around the county, the once-popular events just weren't attracting children the way they used to. Last summer it could be pretty disappointing to sit and stew in the heat on a Tuesday morning at a park in Boonsboro or Hancock, and it'd just be me and the storyteller and sometimes one or two children and their custodians. So, this summer we tried something new, and teamed up with the folks at the Valley Mall and their "Mommy & Me" program. Every week, parents and children show up, get discount coupons for lunch in the food court, sign up for cool raffle prizes, and enjoy storytime in air conditioned comfort. And it's not just dozens of families, but rather dozens of dozens. Around a hundred on a good day. Some people say that's a shame, to move out of the park. I guess people just don't live that way any more. We've found success in going to where the people are already, not just the Valley Mal...
More About: Audience
Welcome to the neighborhood
2007-08-07 20:28:00
Today I got to witness the induction of some 175 new teachers into our county's public school system. Some are veteran teachers from other counties. But most are recent graduates whose average age appears to be about 22. The event took place in the cafeteria of South Hagerstown High School, which was a sort of architectural triumph 50 years ago and still looks pretty snazzy.Anyway, speeches were made about the quality of the our public schools, the value of qualified teachers, the breadth of local business support for education, the depth of our cultural traditions. While the various local officials took turns saying their piece, the the assembled teachers sat at the cafeteria tables, lunching on little sandwiches and brownies and fruit punch.Yours truly was among the representatives of dozens of local agencies with display booths set up around the perimeter of the room. Prominent among these were local banks and credit unions, watching the new teachers like hawks considering their...
More About: Neighborhood
Fill the night with music.
2007-07-29 02:10:00
This is how we spend a sultry late-summer Saturday evening in Hagerstown. Dead Men's Hollow--one of my favorite Bluegrass bands--brought their lush harmonies and rich-yet-precise instrumentals (sounds like they're fanatics about pitch, which is appreciated) to an audience of hundreds this evening.This series--a collaboration by the Washington County Arts Council and the City of Hagerstown begun four years ago--is intended to bring the experience of excellent live performance to people who don't get that very often. This year, thanks to the Maryland State Arts Council and the Hagerstown Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau, an underserved population is getting eight consecutive weeks of great music right in their own back yard. But--here's the cool part--people are coming into these folks' neighborhood as cultural tourists. Lord, did you ever think you'd see the day that people from Frederick would be coming to city-center Hagerstown for their cultural experience on a...
More About: Music , Night , Fill
Don’t miss this. Time is running out.
2007-07-27 23:04:00
Today my friend Caroline practically dragged me to see a photography exhibit at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. I’d been reluctant for a variety of reasons. I don’t really get turned on by most photography; there's great stuff out there, and like with any media, there's not-so-great stuff. And I’m pretty busy at the arts council during the summer. And the photographer is Norwegian, which I was sure would translate into sinister or at least overly-dramatic photographs. And I’ve never liked the way the WCMFA guards size you up when you enter our museum, and then they put a lurid green sticker on your clothes to indicate that you’ve been inspected. Creepy.Anyway, this exhibit of exquisite photographs by Asle Svarverud is something you must must must experience. Breathtakingly and transformingly beautiful. I frequently harp about artistic excellence and merit. This is precisely what I am talking about.Problem is that the exhibit closes this weekend. So take 45 min...
More About: Running , Time , Miss
Getting ready.
2007-07-15 01:31:00
It’s fair to say that we have a lot of arts and entertainment opportunities here, whether your tastes run toward the symphony or toward a minor league baseball came, or toward a retro “Summer of Love” concert. Or, as in my case, toward all three and more.Before any of those excellent experiences comes our way, a lot of work is done behind the scenes to make it happen. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in making art, but also there’s a ton of labor in bringing the art as well.Here are scenes from two events tonight in the Hub City. First, there’s Lindsay, gallery manager for the Arts Council, putting the finishing touches on an artists’ reception this evening. Before she got to the little black dress and the canapés, there were a few days of slinging a paint roller, patching walls, wielding a tape measure to make sure all those beautiful paintings are hung just so. Then she made the canapés. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she had something to do with the littl...
More About: Ready
Look up once in a while.
2007-07-12 22:28:00
I realized this afternoon that I’m guilty of something I’ve accused others of doing: failing to see the progress that’s been made in downtown Hagerstown. Not seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak. It occurred to me at lunchtime when I was sitting in our University Plaza. The lawns were lush, the landscaping was lovely, a fountain was running, a great local blues band was giving a free concert, and all sorts of downtown workers were lounging about with all sorts of fabulous carryout lunches. Tex-Mex, pizza, curry chicken wraps, salads. Someone even had some carryout Persian kabobs, for God’s sake. Persian food in downtown Hagerstown! People were holding conversations and relaxing and laughing. I saw a couple people reading books. It felt more like an idyllic college campus than the dumpy dreary downtown I’ve gotten all-too-used-to. When I walked back to the gallery to resume work, I noticed the new banners on the light poles and felt a definite swell of pride in my a...
Summer, for sure
2007-07-09 21:34:00
Here’s one of the surest signs of summer: children’s art camp. Over the next three weeks approximately 120 young people will get hands-on experience in drawing, painting, sculpting, music, dance, costuming and acting at Doub's Woods south of Hagerstown. Professional artists and credentialed educators—assisted by a corps of energetic camp counselors—work overtime to keep the lessons lively and engaging. The children receive the sort of focused and intensive arts instruction that goes way beyond what is available in the traditional school setting during the school year. It’s a pretty cool thing which I would have loved if such a camp were available to me 40 years ago. I enjoyed watching the drop-off this morning so much that I momentarily forgot that it’s about a kerjillion degrees in the park today. Some of these children will grow up to be artists, some of them won’t. But all of these children will grow up knowing that artistic expression is an effective and meaningfu...
More About: Summer
Through younger eyes
2007-06-25 22:39:00
Unexpectedly--and luckily (and probably undeservedly)--we got an intern for the summer. Her name is Claire Zalawa, and she come to us from Mazamet, a small city in the south of France (not far from Toulouse) where Claire has been working in festival organization and radio promotion/advertising. What in the world, I wondered, can she possibly learn from us here in Hagerstown? Oh hell, I thought, if she specifically requested a Washington, DC experience and she's landed in Hagerstown, she might be one very disappointed woman. Sure, we're only 70 miles from the Capitol, but our other-side-of-the-mountain traditions make that more like 700 miles (and countless years). Not that that's a bad thing. But could we make the best of an awkward situation?The satisfying answer is that Claire had a lot to chew on here in Washington County. She cut her teeth on the Western Maryland Blues Fest, then went on to absorb all the data and processes and methods she could from the likes of the Maryland...
More About: Eyes
Uncle John's Band (or, we are family)
2007-06-20 22:32:00
Was it wildly innappropriate that during a memorial service for our friend Bonita Bush today I couldn't get a Grateful Dead song out of my head? You see, Bonita was famed for her exquisite musicianship. Her ability to communicate her love of music served the Maryland State Arts Council well. So, while a soaring Bach cantata filled the sanctuary, was it sacriligious of me to be singing to myself "well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more..." and "anybody's choice, I can hear your voice, what I want to know is how does the song go." I suspect Bonita didn't mind. Another thing that was on my mind was what a close family we arts administrators can be. Several of us from around the state of Maryland were in that church in Baltimore today, and it was clear that we share a strong bond. The common characteristic is that we don't accept the perception that community arts development is dull drudgery, but rather take it on willingly so that our painters and potte...
More About: Family , Band , Uncle
2007-06-11 22:33:00
Here's a view of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts on a picture-perfect June morning. There's something pleasing about seeing this treasure across the lake in Hagerstown's City Park, even if you don't go inside very often. And there's something reassuring in the realization that the WCMFA has been a repository of fine art since sometime in the Hoover Administration. Do yourself a favor and take a look at what's in there. Do it soon, repeat often.For my fellow data-junkies, note that WCMFA is one of only four art museums in Maryland accredited by the American Association of Museums, and two of those are in Baltimore. (For you rocket scientists who are keeping track, the other one is the Academy Art Museum in Easton.) So, I ask you: when visitors discover this lovely place in Hagerstown, many of them are startled to find it here. In Hagerstown. Does that offend you a little, or are you amused that we can keep a secret so well? I find it rewarding to surprise people with...
More About: Pretty
Hot and cold running Blues
2007-06-03 15:49:00
Thousands of Blues fans attended the 12th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest over four days, starting at Hagerstown's University Plaza last Thursday, then two scorchingly hot days at the downtown festival grounds, and concluding today in steady rain at City Park. Verdict? Best yet! Of course, it was a sort of endurance test for fans and volunteers alike, with that much great music and that many changes in the weather. See the photos: thousands of fans pouring into the festival grounds; Nora Jean Baruso left the stage to sing to the crowd; event manager Karen Giffin smiled through the rain; a little water didn't deter the audience from coming to hear the Mary Ann Redmond Band in City Park. (Credit the first two photos to the Herald-Mail.) What I find interesting about this is that the Blues Fest delivers an excellent musical experience to thousands of people. It gets better every year, with higher and higher artistic merit in every aspect of the festival. How does that happen? Well...
More About: Running , Cold
A Blues Fest ain't born. It's built.
2007-05-31 23:17:00
Blues Fest 2007! The annual transformation of downtown Hagerstown's Central Parking Lot into a venue for fantastic music and just plain fun has begun. It takes a few turns around the clock to make that happen, along with months of logistical planning, a dozen years experience, and a boatload of cooperation on the part of all of us who comprise Historic Downtown Hagerstown. Long live the residents and merchants (and the sponsors, the sponsors, the sponsors) who conspire to make this happen. And about 500 volunteers. By the end of the weekend, thousands and thousands (and thousands) of blues fans will have experienced some of the most memorable performances of their lives. And by the end of the weekend, your faithful reporter will be ready to sit down in a cool shady spot and reflect on the hot hot hot days of the Blues Fest. Photos indicate a dressed-up parking garage, a public works manager being interviewed by NBC25, a parking lot about to be transformed, and also one of the big s...
More About: Blues
Bobbleheads are a kind of art. Aren't they?
2007-05-28 20:16:00
Best-selling novelist Nora Roberts—who is a resident of Washington County and reliably generous supporter of the arts council—was honored this week when the Hagerstown Suns unveiled a new bobblehead in her likeness. At the news conference (hosted by our Convention & Visitors Bureau president Tom Riford) Miss Roberts claimed that the bobblehead was a sign that she’s finally made it, and that she will be the envy of all her writer friends. This from a woman who has been on the NYT best-seller list for years and who has sold nearly 300 million copies of her books. Be one of the first thousand fans at Municipal Stadium on July 6 and you’ll receive your own little Nora. Embiggen to see grown adults bust out laughing.
2007-05-25 14:28:00
A chance meeting led me to a new painter this week. One thing led to another, and before long I had scheduled a studio visit, one of the cool things an arts council director gets to do. The artist, Dan Cumpata, welcomed me into his house in Hagerstown. I’d been in the neighborhood before, lovely curving tree- lined streets full of nicely-tended homes and gardens. I’ve always been curious what sorts of lives went on inside those houses. I didn’t imagine that there’d be an artist’s studio the likes of which I saw in Dan’s house.The entire house is full of art. Fabulous art. Everywhere. And Dan’s own huge and luminous landscapes dominate the collection. He showed me his painting studio, in the basement, where he paints, paints, paints into the wee small hours of the morning. He works with the same paintshe’s used for years. He keeps a pair of pliers handy for opening those tubes of European paint that haven’t been opened in a decade.He’ll have an exhibition in our g...
Two days in May
2007-05-24 20:52:00
It was quite a sight, dozens and dozens of school buses rolling down Potomac Street to the Maryland Theatre, where Elizabeth Schulze and her Maryland Symphony Orchestra delivered an enthralling program to 4,000 ten-year olds this week. Hearing all those kids sing "My Country 'tis of Thee" accompanied by a professional orchestra was pretty darn enthralling, too. And here's an essential part of the picture: Citicorp Credit Services paid for the whole thing, as they have done for the past 22 years! This year, that nut was over $50,000. That's a huge gift to the children in this area, and an demonstrates an enormous commitment to the cultural life of our community. The MSO, in partnership with Citicorp and Washington County Public Schools, is a real champ when it comes to connecting children and music. Even if the logistics of unloading and loading all those buses in downtown Hagerstown can get a little nervewracking. Clipboards for days.
More About: Days
Can art make you smart?
2007-05-22 13:06:00
Here are some students and staff at the end of the day at Fountaindale Elementary School for the Arts and Academic Excellence, the local public school that's putting into practice the theory that immersion in the arts has a positive effect on children's achievement across all disciplines. What that means is that instead of focusing solely on math and science, Fountaindale uses an interdisciplinary approach wherein the arts create a rich learning environment in which inquisitive children experience the interconnectedness of different subjects. A great theory which takes a lot of hard work and training to execute, but it seems Fountaindale has done it. I know in my bones that if I hadn't taken piano lessons, I'd never have made it through math in high school. Of course that was more than 30 years ago, long before arts immersion was legit. What do you think? Can the arts make you better at algebra or chemistry?
More About: Smart , Make
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