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Washington County Arts Council celebrates 40 years

November 16, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - Many arts foundations get painted with the same brush - they're here today and gone tomorrow.

That's not the case with the Washington County Arts Council, which this year marks its 40th birthday.

To celebrate the occasion, the council hosted a public reception Thursday evening at its gallery in downtown Hagerstown.

"It's a very special milestone," said Donna Newcomer, president of the Washington County Arts Council. "Even more special is the support that we've received over the years. The council has changed considerably since it was created, and none of it would have happened without the wonderful relationship we've developed with this community."

The Washington County Arts Council was born in 1967 and was the first such council in the state of Maryland, said Kevin Moriarty, executive director.

"Our purpose is easy to sum up", he said. "We want to enhance the cultural, educational, economic and social life of the community through nurturing the arts."

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After 40 years, Moriarty said the council continues to find ways to bring the arts to all segments of the population.

"Along the way, we've had some unlikely partners," he said.

An example is a storytelling program offered with the Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team.

"Players would come out before a game in uniform, sit down in the outfield and read books to children," he said. "It was a wonderful concept."

Moriarty said the council has also collaborated with the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Valley Mall "to bring the arts to as many people as possible."

"We're an organization that is kind of behind the scenes," Newcomer said. "But we're nurturing the arts all along."

Moriarty said the council members include businesses, families, artists and students.

"We're a resource," he said. "We're also nonprofit. We're about building money to distribute."

According to Moriarty, during the last three years, the Washington County Arts Council has awarded more than $70,000 in project grants and arts-in-education funding to local organizations and school groups.

Thursday evening, Moriarty announced the recipients of the 2008 Community Arts Development grants.

The winners include the Appalachian Wind Quintet; Potomac Classical Youth Ballet; The Maryland Symphony; Hagerstown Choral Arts; City of Hagerstown; Augustoberfest; Authentic Community Theatre; Washington County Museum of Fine Arts; Hagerstown Community College; Hagerstown Community Concerts; and HoodHop.

"This is probably our favorite event of the year," Newcomer said. "We celebrate our birthday but we also get to play Santa."

The Washington County Arts Council is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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