Gallery is downtown 'diamond'

October 04, 1997


Staff Writer

The new Washington County Arts Council Gallery at 41 S. Potomac St. could be the start of "a new vision" for downtown Hagerstown, officials said Friday at the gallery's grand opening.

About 100 art lovers turned out for a night of free food, free drinks and fantastic local art.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the new gallery was "just a piece" of a new future for downtown Hagerstown, which included building a new courthouse in 18 to 24 months and creating more accessible parking.

State Sen. Don Munson said that some "junk buildings" would be torn down as the new courthouse is built.

"Lots of good things are going to happen here," he said.

County Commissioner James R. Wade joked with Munson as they stood at a microphone with a painting of a topless woman behind them.


"I figured this would be a good campaign poster for Don and I," he quipped.

Wade said everybody could take pride in the success of the arts and the arts council in Washington County.

Tom Newcomer, owner of Carson's Jewelers on Public Square, smirkingly called the new building a "diamond in the rough" and said the creation of an arts district in the first block of South Potomac Street meshed well with its distinctive architecture.

Gallery Director Natoma Reed Vargason said the gallery will give residents a chance to share in the nationally recognized artwork created by their neighbors.

"I think we have something for everybody. There is such a wealth of artists in this area."

The gallery features everything from $12 ceramic cups to $65 multicolored masks to $3,800 for the painting of the topless woman entitled "Blue Scarf" by local artist Todd Yeager.

The gallery has about three times the space of the council's old digs on Franklin Street. The council raised $50,000 to pay for the move, including renovations to the building. The extra space allows the group to carry a wider selection of art as well as hold workshops and have lecture series. The gallery features work from 50 regional artists.

"It's great. Hagerstown's overdue for something like this," said Scott Cawood, an Antietam Furnace artist whose freaky metal masks are on display.

Neil Griffith, who lives in an apartment above the gallery at 41 S. Potomac St., said the renovation is a big improvement.

"It makes the building look a lot better," he said. "It's a lot cleaner."

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