Arts officials consider use of school site Maryland Hall center may establish venue in Brooklyn Park

'The question is logistical'

Proposal would bring symphony, other fare to north county

November 21, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Brooklyn Park Middle School could become a home away from home for the Annapolis-based Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

Officials of the 15-year-old performing and visual arts center are trying to find out whether the soon-to-be-renovated middle school could become a north county venue for Maryland Hall's variety of art, stage and music programs.

"It fits in very strongly with our outreach plan," said Michael R. Bailey, executive director of Maryland Hall. "We are here to try to serve the whole county, and not just have it central county."

Arts officials are looking into the practical realities of bringing programs -- ranging from Annapolis Symphony to family fare -- to a second site. No date has been set for a decision. Because most shows book six months in advance, deciding to pursue the middle school site probably wouldn't put shows there for at least a year.

"The question is logistical, not philosophical," said Mr. Bailey. "There really is no question that we are extremely interested."

Travel time is one reason few people north of Severna Park attend Maryland Hall's programs. The trip from Glen Burnie to Annapolis takes 30 minutes.

Maryland Hall has sponsored programs at schools and recreation buildings around the county.

Use of the school would give Maryland Hall a larger auditorium than its current rent-free home in the old Annapolis High School building. The Brooklyn Park auditorium seats nearly 1,200 people. The Annapolis auditorium seats about 850.

Del. Joan Cadden, whose district includes Brooklyn Park, made the suggestion that Maryland Hall's programs could find a welcome second home in Brooklyn Park. Ms. Cadden is a former Maryland Hall board member.

"All the years I was on the Maryland Hall board I felt very strongly that those programs should be more available to children in north county," said Ms. Cadden, a Democrat. "Plays and things like that would be a very good cultural experience. There are many of us who would like them but don't like to drive all the way down there."

Having the school double as a cultural hub for the community would dovetail with County Executive John G. Gary's stated goal of having public buildings serve more than one use.

Dennis Younger, director of curriculum for Anne Arundel County schools and president of Maryland Hall's board of directors, said he has been intrigued by the idea of using the school.

"We want people to feel Maryland Hall is their center for creative arts," he said. "Arts are perceived by people as making a contribution to their quality of life."

The school system plans to renovate Brooklyn Park Middle -- the former Brooklyn Park Junior-Senior High School -- by 2000. When the price tag was estimated at $26 million for a school for 900 children, the school board asked that options for partial renovations of the 1954 structure be considered. Also, the school is larger than needed for the middle school.

"The auditorium there is quite usable," Mr. Younger said, but he noted that "the seats are not cushioned or plush."

Ralph Luther, director of facilities management for the school system, said he doubted the auditorium at Brooklyn Park Middle had a sprinkler system. One would be installed during renovations, but safety codes require a more-intensive sprinkler

system where stage props are used.

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