The area's other cultural arts centers


March 28, 2002|By Gina Kazimir | Gina Kazimir,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN you want to see a major arts performance, where do you go? The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Lyric Opera House, the Mechanic Theatre or Center Stage, right?

You expect top-notch productions at those Baltimore venues, but they aren't the only major players on the area's cultural-arts scene. In the past several years, the number of regional arts facilities in our area has grown remarkably.

With sneak previews of critically acclaimed ballets, performances by renowned musicians and exciting new dance and theater productions, these arts centers offer an ideal way to expand your cultural horizons, often for little or no cost.

To help you take advantage of these regional treasures, we've profiled several of them below. Five are new or relatively new; one has been around for more than two decades but is being included because it recently expanded.

The Amoss Center

Harford Community College 401 Thomas Run Road, Bel Air, 410-836-4211,

In May 2000, Harford Community College celebrated the opening of the 908-seat Amoss Center. The space was designed to be large enough for full theatrical productions, and since its opening has been host to everything from an aerial circus to opera and full-scale ballets.

"With the Amoss Center, we have the ability to do more technically demanding and bigger productions," explains Susan Nicolaides, cultural affairs coordinator. "We introduced opera this year with Porgy and Bess, and we've had symphony concerts that wouldn't have been possible in our old space."

One of the Amoss Center's goals is to bring high-quality arts to Harford County. The center enjoys a unique partnership with the Washington Ballet, which is the company in residence.

The Washington Ballet rehearses at the Amoss Center and presents previews and performances there. In addition, the company gives lectures and outreach performances for the community and local schools.

"Our stage is the exact same dimensions as the Warner Theatre and the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center, where the Washington Ballet [officially] performs," says Nicolaides. "So it's a wonderful opportunity for the company to rehearse in virtually a duplicate space, and the community gets to see world-class dance right here at home."

The Amoss Center both presents events and rents the facility to other arts organizations.

On the horizon

May 11: Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are by the Washington Ballet. Choreography by Septime Webre, sets and costumes by Maurice Sendak. Includes the opportunity for young audience members to "Make a Ballet" on stage with Webre himself.

Sept. 28: World-premiere preview of the Washington Ballet's Carmina Burana.

Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center

Morgan State University 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, 443-885-3286,

On Dec. 1, 2001, the soaring voice of soprano Jessye Norman rang out in Northeast Baltimore, heralding the debut of the 140,500-square-foot Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University.

The center is home to Morgan's famed choir, and offers three performing spaces, a visual-arts gallery and support areas for the music and art departments.

"We're hoping to make this a regional center for the arts that brings more arts to the Northeast Baltimore corridor," says Dr. Nathan Carter, chairman of Morgan's department of fine arts and conductor of the choir.

"Our own season closes in May, but we plan to make this a year-round center for the arts."

The centerpiece of the facility is the 2,000-seat James H. and Louise Hayley Gilliam Concert Hall. The two other performance spaces are the 300-seat Turpin-Lamb Theatre and the 200-seat Recital Hall.

The James E. Lewis Museum of Art displays African, American, European and New Guinea cultural-art exhibits and contains more than 4,000 art objects. The museum was designed to accommodate visiting art exhibits as well, and provides an opportunity for African-American artists to display their works.

On the horizon

April 11-21: Sacred Places, a play written and directed by Kermit Frazier, in the Turpin-Lamb Theatre.

May 5: Morgan State University Choir in the Gilliam Concert Hall

May 11: Morgan State University Jazz Ensemble in the Gilliam Concert Hall.

Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts

194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, 410-636-6597,

Like a lot of abandoned buildings, the 50-year-old high school in Brooklyn Park was once slated for demolition. But a determined community decided to rescue the building, and in the process created a center that is nationally recognized as a model of achievement in community redevelopment.

Occupying 58,000 square feet of the old school, Chesapeake Arts (as the center is known) opened in January 2001. Since then, more than 40,000 people have attended an arts event at the facility. And Chesapeake Arts has presented 233 performances by local and national artists and four art exhibitions.

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