Arts school impresses a tough crowd

August 08, 2009|By BILL KOHLER

The word of the day was, wow, and we haven't seen nuthin' yet.

The Herald-Mail editorial board toured the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown this week and I think we all were impressed.

School Principal Michael Thorsen led us through the four floors of the latest diamond of Hagerstown's downtown.

Although most of the instruments are still in boxes, the ivories on the keyboards have not been tickled and the cardboard covers are still taped to the tops of the classroom desks, you can really visualize how close to reality the place really is.

Some highlights of the trip:

o As we entered the cavernous dance theater, we were greeted by beautiful hand-carved woodwork and tall mirrors for the dancers to watch their moves.


o The school's painting loft, which has a concrete floor ready for spills, is big and welcoming. It is adjacent to a patio/observancy that overlooks downtown Hagerstown and has a clear view to our east.

o The second floor will be the busiest and possibly the loudest as it is home to the vocal and instrumental classrooms and studios. There are three practice rooms, an ensemble recital hall and a choir rehearsal hall.

o The lower floors encompass the Black Box Theater, which will be used for student and guest plays. It also offers tremendous flexibility, a major bonus for instructor Ruth Ridenhour, who left her position at Williamsport High School to become a leader at Barbara Ingram.

o All of the floors also offer plenty of space for display. What good is art if there's no one to hear it, see it, feel it, experience it? The school has a galleria on the lower floor, a student lounge, and dozens of hallways and stairwells where the work of future artists will hang with pride.

Overall, I think I can speak for most of the group that we were pretty impressed. And we newspaper folk are a cynical, skeptical bunch.

One thought that kept circulating for me was: How will the county continue to pay for this?

Washington County Public Schools made the initial investment, but Thorsen emphasized that without community support, i.e. donations, endowments and the like, the school would struggle to provide the kind of education for which it strives.

So far, the school has raised about $700,000 for its endowment fund, which is key for any nonprofit or school of this type to keep running for perpetuity.

That's a good start. I like the sounds I'm hearing so far.


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Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by calling 800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at

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