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Arts and politics mingle in Annapolis

February 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- To a roomful of arts supporters, Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. said timely contact is meaningful when trying to catch a state representative's attention.

"If this is the first time I've seen you and this is on a matter that means a lot to you, it's probably too late," said Weldon, R-Frederick/Washington.

From Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, the group, which is monitoring arts funding, heard an encouraging prediction.

"As far as I know, your budget's probably in pretty good shape," said Edwards, who sits on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

A midday reception on Thursday gave Western Maryland arts representatives a chance to mingle with and thank their delegates and senators for supporting the arts.

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The personal visits were part of Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis, an annual mix of lobbying, fraternizing and saluting. Groups from across the state participated.

"I think that this is one of the most important hours out of the entire year," said Kevin Moriarty, executive director of the Washington County Arts Council.

He said the county group heard plenty of support for arts funding in Gov. Martin O'Malley's fiscal year 2009 budget.

O'Malley's budget proposal includes about $16.5 million for Maryland State Arts Council operations, an increase of 8.4 percent from fiscal year 2008. The General Assembly will finalize the proposed budget later this session.

State arts funding is crucial because it filters down to various causes and events in Washington County, Moriarty has said.

Arts funding probably would have been eliminated in fiscal year 2009 if the state didn't pass a series of new tax and revenue measures during the recent special session, according to a "doomsday" budget O'Malley released in the fall.

On Thursday in Annapolis, about 10 people represented the arts from Washington County, including Potomac Classical Youth Ballet, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and The Maryland Theatre.

Ron Bowers, president of the board of The Maryland Theatre, agreed with Weldon on the importance of staying connected with state lawmakers.

"Today's the day you reach out, but we're attempting to reach out all the time," Bowers said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, has filed a bond bill seeking $125,000 for improvements to the theater. Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, cross-filed the bill in the Senate.

Washington County's group also included artist Katie Paul of Hagerstown, who said her work includes dolls, painting, soft collage and crocheting.

Her ID tag identified her as "Keighty Crochet," which she said is a name she uses for her art.

Lindsay Weaver, who manages the Washington County Arts Council's gallery, said Thursday's interaction in Annapolis made sense "because the arts and politics do go hand in hand together and we need each other."

"To be creative, we need funding," she said.

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