HCC arts building gets boost from Rouse

Company's $350,000 gift seen as vote of confidence in college, community

Howard County

April 24, 2003|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Fund raising for Howard Community College's planned arts and humanities building got a boost recently with a $350,000 donation from the Rouse Co., one of the largest gifts that company has given to a community institution.

"I'm really delighted the Rouse Co. saw the importance of the arts and humanities building," said Roger N. Caplan, chairman of the college board of trustees.

In addition to helping support a large demand for arts classes among students, he said of the building, "I envision it to be a gathering place for the community."

Builders are expected to break ground for the structure in the fall. The building is to feature performance halls, classroom space and state-of-the-art equipment for visual and performing arts, with an eye toward a grand opening in 2005.

The Rouse Co. has long been a supporter of the college, donating money and supporting programs such as the Rouse Scholars scholarship and leadership program, said Caplan. But a gift of this size is a substantial vote of confidence.

Thirty-five years ago, the company helped the college get its first buildings, selling land to the institution for $5.

Having an institution of higher education was part of the Rouse plan for Columbia, said Nancy Tucker, a Rouse spokeswoman.

"What is a community without a community college," she said, noting James W. Rouse's aspirations to offer everything in one place, from schools and shopping to recreation.

Since those first days, the college has had steady enrollment increases. A jump of 34 percent in full-time students and 14 percent in part-time students is anticipated between 2001 and 2011. Several new buildings are part of the school's long-range plan to accommodate a booming population of traditional high school graduates as well as continuing-education classes and career training. An instructional lab building with new classroom and computer lab space opened in January.

Now, dance, music, theater and visual arts need appropriate spaces.

"There is not one facility on campus that was designed and built for the instruction of the arts," said Valerie Lash, chairwoman of the arts and humanities division.

Only Smith Theatre was built for arts performances. Other classes and activities are held in retrofitted areas, including a former kitchen and cafeteria.

At the same time, credit-hour enrollment in visual and performing arts classes increased 42 percent in 2001 and 23 percent last year, Lash said.

Among the elements in the latest plans are a large central lobby connecting Smith Theatre, a studio theater, a professional art gallery, a dance studio and a recital hall.

An academic wing is planned to feature art studios with natural light, acoustically appropriate music rooms, a photography lab, a ceramics studio and other teaching spaces.

Renderings of floor plans for the building will be completed shortly, allowing donors to see the new spaces and discuss naming opportunities, said Ardell Terry, executive associate to the president for the capital campaign.

The college is working to raise $12 million in private funding; $6 million will be used for capital projects, with the majority of that for the arts and humanities building. Another $6 million is to be used for scholarships and other opportunities for students.

Fifty percent of the nearly $20 million building will be funded by the state, with another 25 percent by the county.

The largest donation to the project so far has been a half-million-dollar gift from Pete and Beth Horowitz of Columbia. The couple, who are retired and had a company that made wireless technology, gave the gift to the college in general, but Pete Horowitz said they were pleased the school was using the money for the new building.

"It's an unusually excellent place," said Pete Horowitz, who saw his son benefit from the supportive environment as a student there. "The place has a wonderful feel to it," he said.

Such generous donations are a huge help, Terry said, not only in reaching the foundation goals, but also because they set the stage to attract other donors.

That will be important as organizers seek the funds to make their plans a reality.

"We're here for the long haul," Terry said. "Were going to go for it until we get it."

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