Despite pinch, Hayden cultivates arts

December 05, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

jTC Roger B. Hayden -- Renaissance Man?

It's hardly the image Baltimore County's executive has been pushing since he was elected in 1990 with a pledge to run the county like a business.

Which is why the members of the county's Commission on Arts and Sciences were so surprised when Mr. Hayden appeared at their meeting Tuesday with sculptor Susan Luery in tow.

Instead of delivering the grim lecture on shrinking finances they expected, Mr. Hayden told the volunteer commissioners that he wants a whole new artistic and cultural vision for Baltimore County.

"We're supposed to talk about developing arts for Baltimore County," he said yesterday. "There's no reason for Baltimore County to be a cultural stepchild."

He said the arts commission has played a far too limited role over the years, merely dividing county funds among artistic and cultural institutions -- most of them located in Baltimore City.

Now he wants more, and he told the commissioners that if he can find the money to pay her, he'll make Ms. Luery a cultural consultant who will work with them to create a new plan for the arts.

The announcement was even more of a surprise because last year the executive eliminated the commission's three-member paid staff to save money -- and took away its office to boot. And this year the county faces a $31.7 million deficit.

Mr. Hayden yesterday said that getting rid of the commission's paid workers last year was appropriate.

He said he merely "took away a mechanical staff" that helped divvy up the pie.

And that pie has been shrinking.

The commission's budget for contributions to cultural institutions has dropped from $1.7 million in 1991-91 to $976,524 this year.

"Institutions downtown are dying [for lack of funds]," said one commission member who asked not to be identified.

Despite the current budget crunch, Mr. Hayden defended his proposal to hire a cultural consultant.

"It's a time to plan. If we don't plan, then shame on us," he declared.

The arts commissioners were diplomatic, if less than enthusiastic.

"I don't want to get into a fight with Mr. Hayden," said Chairman James Laubheimer, adding, "I don't have any opinion at all" on the executive's ideas.

Ms. Luery, the Baltimore artist Mr. Hayden introduced to the commission, said she met the county executive for the first time Oct. 25 at the unveiling of her bronze sculpture, "The Passage," on the Towson courthouse lawn.

She created the sculpture, which portrays a woman reading to a child, for Marian Drach, a retired county school library administrator who donated it to the county.

Another version of the statue adorns Riderwood Elementary School.

Ms. Luery said she studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and in northern Italy during the 1970s and still maintains a studio in Italy, though she works mostly from Baltimore now.

She said she's had experience bringing artists and communities together to create plans for large art works.

Among them is a 40-foot tower, equipped with laser lights, planned for the center of a huge new downtown development in Phoenix, Ariz.

She called herself a "classical figurative sculptor" with many contacts in the art world -- professionals who could help create Baltimore County's cultural identity.

"I can organize," she said, but added, "I'm not volunteering" to work without pay.

As for Mr. Hayden and his newly displayed interest in the arts, she said, "I don't know the man at all."

Mr. Hayden said his interest is hardly new.

"I played trumpet for 12 years. I enjoy the theater. I'm a multifaceted guy," he said.

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