Cultural board seeks to nurture arts with grants

May 22, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Special to The Sun

For more than 20 years, the Harford County Cultural Advisory Board has encouraged growth in the arts by providing financial support to nonprofit theatre, dance, music, educational and historic heritage organizations.

"We want to nurture all kinds of arts activities," said James Massey, chairman of the 14-member volunteer advisory board established by the County Council in 1973 and last year awarded $55,000 in grants to about 30 local arts organizations.

The board meets once a month and is now reviewing grant applications for fiscal 1995.

It will accept applications through June 1. A final decision on awards is expected by the end of June, and recipients will be notified in writing in July.

In reviewing applications, the board considers "artistic merit, financial stability, service to the community and strength of long-range planning," Mr. Massey said.

The board administers funding from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Harford County government.

"We have a tremendous number of talented citizens in the county . . . and we really get a lot of bang for our buck," Mr. Massey said. "We've been very impressed with how well most groups operate on a shoestring."

Last year, the board awarded grants of between several hundred dollars and $5,000 to groups that used the money to sponsor school concert performances and poetry workshops; produce dance, choral and symphony programs; and offer opportunities for local artists to showcase their work.

Sometimes the money becomes a part of a group's general operating budget; other times it provides the extra funding needed to enhance programs with a special project.

"A lot of the money we give to them goes for the operating costs of a performance," Mr. Massey said.

"They use it to buy music and costumes and . . . [and] other equipment they need to do a show."

Among the groups that received grants last year was Theatreworks . . . Live!, a new children's program of acting and musical production classes as well as performances.

The Harford County Library was given an award for its Books Alive! family performances by musicians, folk artists and illustrators.

Steppingstone Museum, Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse and the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum also have received funding.

The Harford Living Treasures program, which recognizes senior citizens for their contributions to the county, is administered and funded by the board.

Board members are appointed by the Harford County Council to four-year terms. Most members are not artists, but are art enthusiasts.

Lillian Sonberg, for example, is an Abingdon resident and a longtime supporter of the arts who has served on the board since 1978.

The members include retired people, a teacher, a high school guidance counselor and a purchasing agent. Mr. Massey is coordinator of administrative and audiovisual services for the Harford County Library.

"We try to be as fair and as evenhanded as we can," said Lucy Slaich, a board member from Forest Hill. Theresa Pierno, a District C Democratic County Council member representing Bel Air, is liaison to the advisory board and a voting member.

"The major goal is to promote cultural activities in the county," Mrs. Pierno said. "Many of the groups we do support are very small and have minimum funding opportunities, but they do a wonderful job."

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