Longtime head of arts advocacy group to step down


March 15, 1998|By Karin Remesch and Holly Selby | Karin Remesch and Holly Selby,STAFF WRITERS

After 20 years as president of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, Sue Hess last week announced that she is retiring in June.

Hess, as leader of the statewide advocacy group, has worked cheerfully and relentlessly to ensure that state and federal governments continue to fund the arts. The organization, which has 600 members and a data base of 10,000 names of supporters whom it routinely rallies, will be headed by Mary Toth, who was named executive director last year.

Beginning in June, "I'm going to be on the other side," says Hess, who will continue to sit on the group's board. "I'm going to paint, and I don't think I can do a straight line. I'm going to do pottery and I've never done that. And I'm going to go back on the stage."

Hess joined Maryland Citizens for the Arts in 1977 as a representative from Wicomico County, and became its president the following year.

During her tenure, the group grew in size and influence. In 1977, the state legislature provided $463,584 to fund the arts. Last year, the state arts budget was $8.5 million.

Maryland Citizens for the Arts advocated the passage of a 1994 bill that requires the governor to allocate the same amount of funding for the arts as the previous year. (Though the legislature then has the right to reduce the amount of the governor's proposal, in the last four years it hasn't done so.) The bill, which is considered a national model by arts supporters, also includes a provision that funding for the arts will increase in proportion to the state's annual general revenue estimate.

"It makes me feel good that I'm leaving a good, sound organization, a good board, good finances, and the most important thing is the legislature has been very supportive of us," Hess says.

Peabody student is finalist

Peabody student Chen-Ye Yuan, a native of China, won first place in the Metropolitan Opera regional auditions conducted Feb. 28 in Washington.

The baritone shared the award with soprano Amanda Gosier, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Both finalists will compete next Sunday at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

A week before the regional audition, Yuan, 30, won first prize and the People's Choice Award in the Houston Grand Opera Competition. His previous prizes include a gold medal in the 1994 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow; first prize in the 1994 Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in Helsinki, Finland; second prize in the 1993 Tokyo International Music Competition; and a finalist prize in the 1995 Placido Domingo World Opera Contest in Madrid, Spain.

A graduate of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Yuan came to Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in September 1996 and is enrolled in the graduate performance diploma program.

He will sing the role of Death April 17-19 in the Peabody Chamber Opera's production of Gustav Holst's "Savitri." Last week, he was the baritone soloist for Haydn's "Creation" with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner.

Go to www.thewalters.org

The Walters Art Gallery has launched a World Wide Web site: www.thewalters.org. The site offers navigation through the Walters' collection, history, exhibitions, programs, events and membership information.

For more information, call 410-547-9000, Ext. 304.

Jewish Film Festival

The 10th annual Jewish Film Festival continues today with a 3 p.m. screening of "A Life Apart: Hasidism in America," Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky's acclaimed documentary about Orthodox Jews in America.

On Wednesday, the festival will show "Memoirs of a River," the fictionalized story of the last recorded "Jewish ritual murder," which took place in Austria-Hungary in the 1880s.

The festival runs through April 5. All screenings take place at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, and all tickets are $6, except for "A Life Apart," which will cost $7.50. For information, call 410-323-1717.

'Body & Soul'

The Heritage Museum of African Americans in Film will present a screening of the 1924 Oscar Micheaux silent film "Body & Soul," with live keyboard accompaniment by Baltimore musician Bill Cummings, at 8 p.m. Friday at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Art Museum Drive at North Charles Street.

Tickets are $30. Proceeds will benefit the museum's building fund. For more information, call 410-764-0184.

Melody workshop

The Baltimore Songwriter's Association is sponsoring a melody-writing workshop with Paul Reisler, a composer and songwriter with the folk group "Trapezoid," from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. April 5 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The registration deadline is Friday, and the cost, including lunch, is $30.

For more information, call 410-455-3822.

Troupe to perform in Florida

Towson University's Children's Dance Division Troupe, the official dance group for the Baltimore Thunder of the National Indoor Lacrosse League, will perform Saturday at Florida's Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.

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