Arts center funds denied

CA board refuses money for HCC to help pay for Horowitz Center


When Howard Community College officials approached the Columbia Association board of directors last spring for help in construction of the college's new performing and visual arts center, they got a mixed reception.

Some board members favored a contribution, seeing it as a way to strengthen the community's relationship with the college and support the arts. But others worried that such generosity would add to the homeowner association's multi-million dollar debt.

In the end, fiscal concerns took precedence as the association's governing body decided to turn down a proposed $200,000 contribution for the Peter & Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center.

"I look at HCC as a government body because it's part of the public education system and it's funded through taxes," said Miles Coffman, board member representing Hickory Ridge, echoing similar comments from board members and community residents at the Thursday board meeting during which the proposal was rejected. "We have a debt, and by us giving this donation, CA will take on more debt for a public entity that is funded through taxpayers' funds."

Proponents saw the idea as a way for the Columbia Association to show more than just symbolic support for the $20 million facility, which will include an art gallery, recital hall and music and painting studios, that opens at HCC the end of this month.

The center's construction is funded in part by state and local grants, which need to be combined with $5 million from private donations.

In June, Phil Marcus, board member representing Kings Contrivance, suggested that the association give HCC $100,000 from the association's 2007 and 2008 budgets, hoping that the donations would continue over five years. Marcus had said such a donation would strengthen the relationship with Columbia and the arts community.

But the association's external relations committee, which the board assigned the task of weighing the pros and cons of the donation, made a decision this month not to support a donation.

During Thursday's meeting, Marcus, who felt board support for the donation was dwindling, tried to reduce the suggested donation but did not gain any votes.

During Thursday's vote on the $100,000 for the 2007 and 2008 budgets, Marcus was the only board member to vote in favor.

"I felt mystified," Marcus said, after the meeting. "I know what people said, and the reasons for that are all over the lot."

While some board members said they were not in support of donations to the construction, they said they would like to view suggestions for a partnership with HCC, such as creating a fund to support arts for Columbia's underprivileged residents.

Patrick Von Schlag, board member representing River Hill, said he will seek creation of a fund in the 2008 budget to support arts programs as a way to strengthen the arts in Columbia and support the college.

"Ultimately, I think everybody has this notion that CA and HCC should be working together, and we have some of the same needs and objectives," Von Schlag said. "How we go about doing that is a difficult question, and we need to figure out how to do that. This type of arrangement would do that -- give access to the arts and services of Columbia."

Mary Ellen Duncan, HCC's president, said that although the college did not get the donation, she supports a partnership with the association.

"I think we certainty have a better understanding of each others' organization," she said. "They are interested in kinds of deeper relationships and partnerships than we had in the past. I saw creative thinking about how we can partner in the future, and I am very pleased to see the energy and enthusiasm from the board for other projects."

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