The Carroll County Arts Council has not let a lack of people, funds or facility stand in the way of its goals and achievements over the 25 years of its existence.
"We overcame many hurdles through the years and turned adversity into success every time," said Hilary Hatfield, executive director of the arts council since 1991.
On Wednesday, the council will celebrate its silver anniversary with a concert by classical and jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd and the Carroll County Jazz Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster High School.
During intermission, the Arts Council and its affiliated groups will have a showcase of highlights from 25 years of bringing art to Carroll County.
On display will be memorabilia from the council's archives, cultural activities and information about the council and arts-related groups.
"The Carroll County Arts Council started out as a small group of individuals meeting in homes to begin the effort to coordinate arts activities," Mrs. Hatfield said.
"They were teachers of art in the public schools who saw the importance of art in the schools and others and who felt cultural enhancement in the county was important."
Eventually, the council grew into a membership organization, charging dues, and became affiliated with the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks.
"By affiliating with the county, we were eligible for state funds from the Maryland State Arts Council," Mrs. Hatfield said. "With the state money, the major initiative was to search for an arts center."
In 1979 the council moved into the Davis Library at 129 E. Main St., Westminster. Getting its own center boosted membership 200 percent, not to mention members' hopes for the organization.
Naomi Benzil, who was involved with the council at that time, remembered fixing the building, buying a grand piano and erecting a stage for plays. Area teens would come in and produce plays themselves, giving them a sense of pride and achievement, she said.
Unfortunately, the Davis Library building needed maintenance and upkeep that the council could not afford. By 1986, the group had moved to a smaller office on Main Street and decided to put its programs first, a facility second.
Later, under the directorship of Peggy Slater, the council worked from offices on North Court Street and started programs such as the art-and-nature show, a Christmas children's concert and other activities that kept the group in the public eye.
Programs were held around the county, making use of public schools, Western Maryland College and similar places. But problems ensued when accessibility to people with disabilities became an issue, and sites that had been used for programs and events disappeared.
"Even through the financial crises of the '80s and the handicapped-accessibility issue, the council had enough visibility and support to continue with the county affiliation," Mrs. Hatfield said.
"Membership and growth continued and the county realized there were other ways to recreate besides baseball and soccer."
Shortly after Mrs. Hatfield was hired as executive director, the organization moved to more spacious quarters in the basement of the Winchester Exchange Building at 15 E. Main St., Westminster.
It is there that affiliated groups mount exhibitions of their work, and Mrs. Hatfield operates an arts information center and manages the council's business.
Today, the council has more than 800 dues-paying members and operates or funds more than 100 arts-related programs annually, largely through the state's Community Arts Development Grant program, Mrs. Hatfield said.
A board of directors actually runs the independent arts council, with the help of a four-member executive board. The executive director is hired by and answers to the board.
The council received a glowing evaluation this month from the Maryland State Arts Council that made note of the group's "committed working board of trustees; dynamic, creative executive director; great working relationship between board and executive director; and enthusiastic and creative problem-solving process."
Bob Benson, state community arts development coordinator, said, "It is just an extraordinary arts council. They're doing what an arts council is supposed to be doing and they're doing it magnificently. We're just delighted with them."
Council President and watercolor artist Emily Murray said the priority is to look into getting a performing arts center in the county and continuing to expand membership and programs.
"We need an arts center in the community for performing arts, hanging arts, recitals, workshops -- the public schools are cutting back on their arts programs, and we need to pick up the slack," she said.
"The human psyche needs the arts. I know how important art is in my life, and I want to share that with others."