Funds OK'd for arts center, historic black school

April 12, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland General Assembly yesterday approved $606,000 to preserve the Ellicott City Colored School and to build a performing arts center at Wilde Lake High School.

But a request for $1 million to design, plan and build a Howard County agricultural center was rejected for the second time in a row. The center would have combined county, state and federal agricultural agencies in West Friendship.

"They only had so many dollars to go around," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker, speculating on why the request failed.

Mr. Ecker said county officials would review the project before deciding whether to submit it for the next legislative session.

Meanwhile, supporters of the two capital projects that won legislative approval were in high spirits yesterday.

"I feel great," said Beulah Buckner, a Columbia resident who hopes to turn the former Ellicott City Colored School into a museum and research center on the history of Howard County blacks.

Mary Toth, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, said the state funds will let her organization build a performing arts center capable of accommodating larger productions that have no place to perform in the county.

"We've needed a community arts theater in Howard County for 25 years," Ms. Toth said. "We're ecstatic that [the General Assembly] made the decision that they did."

State legislators who supported the bond bills said the General Assembly approved the projects because of their universal appeal.

"I thought they were important, one in terms of historic value and the other in terms of arts value," said Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a District 13A Democrat, who advocated on behalf of the projects along with other local lawmakers, including Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, a District 14 Republican.

But supporters of the two projects still have fund raising to do, because the state appropriations are tied to local matching funds.

To receive the state money, the Central Maryland Chapter of the Afro-American Historical Genealogical Society must raise $206,000 for the Ellicott City Colored School. To get their share of state funds for the performing arts center, the Howard County Arts Council and county government must raise $400,000.

The genealogical society plans to match the state funds through a telethon and through the sale of new bricks and steps that would be inscribed and installed outside the school building, near Rogers Avenue and Frederick Road.

The telethon is scheduled to air on Howard County's Channel 8 on May 22 from noon to 4 p.m. The program will include performances by Howard County public school students. The group also hopes to conduct interviews with former teachers, students and administrators of the Colored School and of other former black schools in the county. Supporters hope to raise at least $50,000 through the telethon. Mrs. Buckner said she felt optimistic about raising the matching funds.

In addition to the Howard County Arts Council and county government, the performing arts center depends on contributions from individuals and corporations, such as The Rouse Co., which donated about $40,000; the Columbia Foundation, which gave about $100,000; and the Columbia Association, which raised about $60,000, Ms. Toth said.

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