Regional Support for the Arts

January 18, 1994

Last week, several administrators of the Baltimore Museum of Art visited Carroll County in the hope of convincing the county rTC commissioners to contribute $2,500 to the BMA during the next fiscal year. Representatives from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Walters Art Gallery and other institutions are likely to make similar pleas as the county assembles next year's budget. The commissioners should make every effort to answer those pleas by contributing to the Baltimore area's artistic and cultural institutions.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy has staked out a perfectly reasonable position his colleagues would be wise to adopt. "Economic conditions in the state are a good deal improved, and we shouldn't get a free ride on things we can't provide here," he told the BMA administrators.

Despite Carroll's improving revenue picture, a small but vocal segment of the community will object to the commissioners making any contributions -- particularly to institutions located within the city. Rather than wilt in the face of this knee-jerk opposition, the commissioners ought to loudly and clearly refute it.

The state's major cultural institutions may be located in Baltimore, but they are accessible to and enjoyed by everyone. Museum officials said they know of at least 6,000 Carroll residents who visited the BMA last year. Thousands of others may have heard a symphony or seen a play at Center Stage. Hundreds of Carroll's children have witnessed dolphins frolicking at the National Aquarium or played with the kinetic exhibits in the Maryland Science Center.

During the past four years, government support at all levels for the arts has declined precipitously. If this trend continues, we endanger the health of these institutions. Carroll's commissioners -- and citizenry -- have to realize that art and culture is an investment that contributes many times its value to the quality of life around us.

The residents who attend performances or stroll through exhibitions are the direct beneficiaries of these important artistic and cultural institutions, but the rest of the community benefits, too. Culture and the arts define and ennoble a community. We are kidding ourselves if we think a visit to a shopping mall provides the same uplifting, cerebral impact as a visit to an art museum.

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