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Chamber group tours arts school

February 11, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- The new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts isn't complete, but supporters worked to build enthusiasm Wednesday.

At a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Duffy's on Potomac, a few dozen people heard the latest about the new high school and the hopes many have pinned on it.

Then, they walked across South Potomac Street and toured the soon-to-be school building, which has months of construction work left but is expected to open in August, when the next academic year begins.

"Strong schools make a strong community," Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan told the crowd at Duffy's.

She acknowledged critics who called the project a waste of money, but said the controversy has died down and the school will have a top-notch academic curriculum. Morgan compared the school to Mount Rushmore, which was seen by some as an unaffordable expense at the time but has endured as a popular tourist attraction.

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The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is expected to start with about 150 to 200 students in four disciplines - music, dance, theater and visual arts - then grow to around 300 students by the second year.

Song and dance, though, were just future visions on Wednesday, as theaters and studios at the school were still in the works.

Construction crews moved to the third and fourth floors to give the visiting group a chance to absorb the progress on the first two floors.

The group gathered in what is being called the Black Box Theater to hear Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael explain the school's features.

Work was under way on the third floor, which will have choral and instrumental rehearsal halls, an ensemble recital hall and a dance theater.

The fourth floor will have a sculpture and ceramics conservatory, a kiln room, a drawing studio and a painting loft.

Vincent Groh, who donated the building so it could become an arts school named after his late wife, attended the breakfast and tour.

Before the tour, Elizabeth Schulze, Maryland Symphony Orchestra's music director and conductor, said she attended a visual and performing arts school while growing up in Michigan.

The downtown Hagerstown project is creating new excitement, said Schulze, an honorary co-chair of a nonprofit foundation raising money for the school.

Morgan named many careers that could develop through an arts academy education, among them acoustics, art therapy, film, broadcast and fashion.

"There's just limitless possibilities," she said.

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