Carroll Arts Center celebrates first year

Theater's revival brings new life to Westminster

April 01, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Since it opened a year ago Sunday, the neon lights on the Carroll Arts Center's rebuilt marquee have drawn hundreds of patrons and visitors to the art deco building on Main Street.

With art exhibits, classes, concerts and screenings, the former movie house has brought new life to downtown Westminster. The former Carroll Theatre now houses a 263-seat theater, an art gallery, two art classrooms and offices, as well as the nonprofit Carroll County Arts Council.

"It's come a long way," Westminster Councilman Robert P. Wack said of the center. "It's a huge asset to downtown and a cultural resource not just for the city, but for the entire county."

Sandy Oxx, the arts council's executive director, said that when the arts council began the fund raising and renovations, the community got behind the project quickly and generously.

"Part of me was worried. ... Will they come out in the rain to see a movie they never heard of?" she said. "Would people rent the facility? A lot of my worst fears, fortunately, did not come true."

Residents filled the center's seats for various activities, including screenings of old black-and-white movies, concerts and plays.

The center put on 25 live performances and 17 movie screenings in the past year - not including shows and concerts organized by local civic groups that rented the theater.

Some of the center's most popular events have included the local production of Love Letters on Valentine's Day and monthly movie showings that included classics such as Gone With the Wind and Singin' in the Rain.

"We've been very encouraged by the financial support and attendance," Oxx said, adding that the center probably averaged 400 to 600 people a month for shows. "We are still young, growing and learning."

The former movie house had long been a fixture on Main Street. Built in 1937, the Carroll Theatre outlasted two other cinemas in town.

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