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 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 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.