Poll shows interest for arts center

June 06, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Ideas from residents are laying the foundation of a Center for the Arts in Carroll County.

The Arts Council distributed 50 questionnaires to gauge local interest in the project at an informational meeting April 20.

Nearly one-third of the surveys were returned to the council offices in Westminster.

"The answers have been so positive," said Hilary Hatfield, Arts Council director.

After reading the 15 responses, Ms. Hatfield said, "Everyone feels arts and culture are essential to the quality of life and the long-term growth of our community."

In the survey, residents said they frequently include the arts in recreation plans, but as frequently travel out of the county for arts-related activities.

"That is saying we are recreating -- movies, theater, dance -- outside the county," Ms. Hatfield said. "We are not getting enough cultural stimulus here and want more."

More than 14,000 people attended the many council-sponsored programs held at the Arts Council offices and various county locations last year.

All survey respondents endorsed the creation of a Carroll County multidiscipline center -- spacious enough for all the performing arts, she said.

"Everyone feels a center would benefit Carroll County," Ms. Hatfield said. "A center here would turn people back to spending their money in Carroll County."

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who helped organize the April meeting, said, "All the feedback shows there is enough interest and a real concern and support to raise the money and establish a center."

Ms. Hatfield sees the Carroll center as similar to those in Howard and Frederick counties. John Katsu, board member for the Delaplaine Center, which opened seven months ago in Frederick, told council members that a center "is a source of economic development."

"It also serves to build a sense of community and to address

challenges in the education of young people," he said.

The Delaplaine Center, which Mr. Katsu called "an adaptive reuse of a historic building within sight of downtown Frederick," could serve as a model for Carroll.

The Arts Council would like to study the feasibility of renovating the Westminster Post Office on Main Street for a center.

"We would have to study long-term growth potential and handicap accessibility," Ms. Hatfield said.

The building would not be available for several years, but postal officials have purchased property in the Englar Road Business Center for a new site.

Until the economy improves, construction plans are on hold.

Mayor Brown said the council should also consider the Westminster Fire Hall, but "We should not necessarily limit ourselves to Westminster and existing buildings. We should start from scratch with no preconceived ideas."

Federal grants, available through the National Endowment for the Arts, often pay for feasibility and architectural studies. Ms. Hatfield and Michille Hyde, the county grants officer, met May 19 in Washington with NEA representatives.

"The NEA encourages rural arts centers and encouraged us wholeheartedly," Ms. Hatfield said.

With less than a month to meet the July 1 application deadline for a fiscal 1995 grant, Ms. Hatfield said waiting a year may be more practical.

"We would spend a year reviewing council goals and community needs," she said. "Once we got all our pieces in place, we could file for a grant in FY96."

The council will elect six new members to its board of directors June 13. Ms. Hatfield said she is looking for people with "a strong knowledge of the performing arts as well as facility development."

After the election, the board will appoint a panel to work with city and county officials. Its members will be "the driving entity for the arts center," Ms. Hatfield said.

Mayor Brown said the panel is the next step after the positive survey response. "It shows enough consensus to take another step and form a multirepresentative planning committee," he said.

Questionnaires are still available from the council at 15 E. Main St. Information: 848-7272.

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