Volunteers are muscle behind Chesapeake Center


January 14, 2001|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LATELY, LIFE HAS been hectic at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts - its three full-time staff members are busy making sure the grand opening week that started yesterday runs smoothly.

They've booked the performers, arranged for art to be displayed in the gallery, tested the lighting and sound systems, and made sure the studios are ready for the first day of classes.

It's not as easy as having Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney say, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" And it takes more than the efforts of the full-timers, who have had a small army of volunteers behind the effort to get this show on the road.

More than 70 volunteers have been on the scene, doing everything from answering phones to preparing marketing strategies and taking care of behind-the-scene theater work.

"Volunteers have helped with the mailings, office work, ticket sales, set design and deliveries; the ushers, sound and lighting technicians and stage crew are volunteers," said Bernadette Arvidson, Chesapeake Center's administrative assistant, one of the three staff members.

The others on the staff are Charlene Servey, development coordinator, and Wayne Shipley, executive director.

Shipley noted that celebrities have requirements that need to be addressed. "Crystal Gayle is the featured performer on Jan. 16, and her contract, which is about the size of the phone book, states that security must be provided at every entrance to the building. Our volunteer staff is handling that also."

Del. Joan Cadden, a District 31 Democrat whose vision and support have been credited as primary factors behind the creation of Chesapeake Center, said that "the volunteers are essential. ... You can't do something like this without volunteers. And they have come from all over the county - Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Annapolis, Arnold. We even have some from Baltimore City."

From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. today, the center will be open for a Family Day that will feature tours, face painting, clowns, a children's ceramics workshop and a visit from the Oriole Bird mascot.

"We want to make Family Day a fun day for children and parents, and to do it we called on volunteers to help," Cadden said.

Volunteer coordinator Jeanette Thompson, a volunteer herself, said that a love of the arts and a desire to serve the community have been with those helping in the effort from the start. The volunteers include all the members of the center's board of directors, she noted.

"I got involved pretty much at the beginning. I had worked for 20 years with the old Cultural Arts Foundation and sang in the [Anne Arundel] Community College's choir for about 10 years. I've also worked with the Pasadena Theatre Company since the 1980s. When I was approached to be on the board, I knew that this would be a comfortable place to be," she said.

"Theater, music and the arts don't cure all ills, but they do make life richer. It enriches the life of everyone," she added.

One of the goals is for it to become a regional arts center. "We're so close to Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard and Harford counties, people can reach us easily," Thompson said, "This is a big thing, and not just for Anne Arundel County."

Anyone interested is welcome to join one of the hardest-working groups of volunteers around. Thompson said she will work to accommodate all schedules.

"We're very flexible. Whatever anyone can give is welcome. We have an `on call' list, and if we call and you can't come, that's OK. If someone wants to come in for an hour it would be great."

Information on Chesapeake Center volunteer activities: 410-636-6597.

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