African-American center finds new home

November 15, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Howard County African American Cultural Center -- told )) to vacate its location beside The Mall in Columbia -- has found a new home. But rental costs at the location will force the center to begin charging admission.

By tomorrow, the center will finish moving its 3,000 books, 90 replicated inventions and eight mannequins to a building on Vantage Point Road in Columbia's Town Center.

The center's new location -- the top two stories of the Howard County Red Cross chapter house -- will open to the public the first week of December.

The center had been in the One Commerce Center building beside the mall for three years. But Koll Management, which has managed the high-rise for the past year, told the center it would have to start paying $2,000 a month to hold onto its lease, said Wylene Burch, the center's director.

During the three years at the site, the center had only paid utilities, which never cost more than $400, Burch said.

At its new location, the center will pay $1,000 a month in rent in addition to utilities. The new expenses will mean the center will have to start charging admission: $2.50 for adults and $1.50 for children.

Burch said yesterday that the move saved something more important than money. She said if the deal had fallen through, the center's artifacts would have wound up in storage.

A small army of volunteers has been packing the center's goods all week. "It's a big project, considering they're not getting paid," Burch said.

Nearly 100 contributors keep the nonprofit organization running by donating time and money and organizing fund-raisers, she said.

The center began as a labor of love for Burch. She began collecting books by black authors while her family was living in Berlin, Germany, where her husband was stationed in the U.S. Army, to keep her own children informed of American events. And she kept collecting.

When Burch retired in 1987, she organized her collection and took it on tour. For the first three years, the center was a series of exhibits without a permanent home.

The center now has a library and a museum with exhibits on black children, art and music and black sports and military figures.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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