Lean but Satisfying Servings of Pork

April 29, 1994

As servings of political pork go, aside from school spending, Howard County's cut from the recent legislative session was on the thin side.

Yet the projects picked for state matching grants -- the conversion of the old Ellicott City Colored School into a museum of local black history ($220,000) and the construction of a center for dance, theater and music performances at Wilde Lake High School ($400,000) -- make up in quality what the county's portion of state aid might lack in quantity.

Built in 1880 as Howard's first public school for black children, the one-room building near Rogers Avenue and Frederick Road remained in use until 1953, when its decrepit physical condition forced it to be closed. For the past five years, Columbia resident Beulah Buckner has been the propelling force behind the renovation of the former school as a black history museum and research center. The facility would help educate county residents of all races about the contributions made by Howard's black citizens over the centuries, says Ms. Buckner, who hopes to see the restored building open within two-and-a-half years.

While officials of the project have raised only a fraction of the matching funds, they expect to complete their efforts by the end of 1994 through corporate and individual donations of cash and tax-deductible in-kind contributions of materials, and a May 22 telethon on local cable TV channel 8.

The arts center, to be unveiled in September 1996 as part of an all-new Wilde Lake High School, fulfills what Howard County Arts Council executive director Mary Toth calls a long-standing local need. Other performance halls in the area have served the county well, but they lack the size of the future arts center. Thus productions more expansive than those usually seen in Howard County could be mounted at the new facili The cost of the $1.2 million center will be covered by the state grant, $400,000 from the private sector (more than half of which has been raised by the arts council) and a similar amount from the county's next capital budget, which the County Council will likely approve next month.

As Ms. Toth points out, Howard is fortunate to have political leaders and business executives who actively back worthy cultural projects such as the arts center and the black history museum.

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