Arts groups delighted with state grants

Carroll agency gets boost after years of scrimping

June 18, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council celebrated her second anniversary on the job with a hefty increase in her budget, courtesy of the Maryland State Arts Council.

"It's wonderful: a $15,159 increase for us, and that's not small potatoes," said Sandra Matthews Oxx, the council's executive director. "It will really make a difference.

"I've just been working on my budget for next year, and it's wonderful to not be thinking, `How can I get envelopes printed for free?' and `How far can I turn the heat down?' "

Five Carroll County arts groups won $77,275 in grants, recommended by the state council and approved by the governor as part of about $8.5 million awarded across the state for fiscal year 2000.

Carroll County Arts Council Inc. received most of the local money with its $67,725 community arts development grant, which Oxx said is "a darn big chunk of our budget next year." Up to 60 percent can be used for administration and $2,000 for arts programs in the schools. The rest is discretionary, for such things as programs, classes and the art gallery.

It was the first time in years that arts groups across the state had received an increase rather than begging to try to keep what they had, she said.

An $800 grant to the city of Westminster will go toward its first public art project, a painted mural on the wall of the Optical Solution at Locust Lane on East Main Street. Work is to begin next month.

"All right!" said Karen Blandford, the city's manager of housing and community development, upon learning of the money. The city had hoped for $2,000 toward the $8,000 project, but "I'm glad they've decided to be our partner on this," she said.

"This is the first piece of public art for Westminster, and we hope it won't be our last. Everyone we talked to is very excited about seeing the artists executing the work and seeing it by Fallfest."

The winning entry, among 19 designs submitted, is a scrolled map, based on an 1877 county atlas, with a panoramic street scene taken from old postcards along the bottom. Lewis Schlitt and others from ArtHouse in Westminster submitted the winning design, Blandford said.

The Westminster Choral Arts Society received $750, and the state arts council also awarded grants to three groups that operate at Western Maryland College: $500 to Chamber Music on the Hill; $4,500 to Theatre on the Hill, which opens its first summer play, "Sleuth," today; and $3,000 to the multidiscipline Common Ground Music Harvest Ltd., better known as Common Ground on the Hill.

"They're a big part of our community, and it's nice to see all of the activities on the hill recognized," said Donald Schumaker, a Western Maryland College spokesman. "I think it shows the great diversity of activities here -- folk and bluegrass, and chamber music, and theater."

Aside from the county arts council grants, the state money is awarded on a competitive basis to organizations that show artistic merit, financial stability, service to the community and involvement by Maryland artists and audiences, according to the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Nine statewide organizations received grants totaling about $4.4 million, including $1.5 million to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, $916,000 to the Baltimore Museum of Art, $743,000 to the Walters Art Gallery, $432,000 to Center Stage, $377,000 to the Baltimore Opera Company and $30,000 to the American Visionary Arts Museum.

The awards to individual groups are competitive, but all of the county arts councils receive state money, and some small councils' entire budgets depend on the state.

Oxx celebrated her second anniversary in Carroll this month after years of "a bureaucratic nightmare" raising funds in New York.

"I've found the Maryland State Arts Council to be really there for me, for dumb questions and big money. It's gratifying. I've been involved so many times saying, `Don't cut the arts, don't cut the arts,' so it's nice to be fighting for an increase."

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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