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Barbara Ingram School will promote arts and downtown

March 23, 2007

For shoppers, a two-for-one offer is usually a good deal. On Tuesday, the Washington County School Board took one vote that will benefit county residents in two important ways.

The vote approved a partnership with the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to fund the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

Not only will the arrangement get the school open within a year or two, as opposed to the five to seven years it might have taken with conventional financing, but it also provides a big boost to the revitalization of downtown Hagerstown.

While students of the school will attend arts-related classes at the School for the Arts, their academic classes will be held at the University System of Maryland's downtown center.

This will produce more of the foot traffic downtown needs to succeed, during the days when classes are held and in the evenings when performances are held.

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There have been some concerns raised about the fact that financing the project's $10 cost for 20 years will cost an additional $6.7 million in interest.

However, MEDCO officials have said they will use a variety of grants, tax credits and low-interest loans to try to reduce the amount that must be financed to $7 million.

School officials also say that naming rights to the various rooms and studios could also bring in additional money, cutting the amount that must be financed.

And while no one has broached this subject yet, costs could be offset through a fund set up through the Community Foundation of Washington County or with an old-fashioned capital fund-raising campaign.

Washington County residents have always embraced and supported the arts, contributing to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and numerous school bands and musical groups.

Helping this school succeed would be the next step in that long tradition and a major boost for the city's Arts & Entertainment District. The arts not only enrich the spirit, but they tell potential new residents and would-be investors in this community something positive about what is already here.

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