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Group seeks ways to bolster arts and entertainment district

September 30, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- A group of people studying ways to build on arts and entertainment attractions downtown have zeroed in on several ideas, including the development of an arts center, increasing the artist patron base and providing artists with businesses development aid.

The ideas were discussed Wednesday night during another meeting of Creative Minds at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in City Park.

In March, professionals representing backgrounds like art, writing, photography and architecture met as Creative Minds to shape the future of the city's arts community.

Using methods like questionnaires, the group was able to determine the areas of most interest to them, leading to the ideas like the arts center, expanding the patron base for artists and business development.

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About 30 people broke into discussion groups Wednesday to continue their work.

There is interest in an arts center to give artists a place to show and sell their work, said Cindy Blackstock, arts and entertainment district manager for the City of Hagerstown.

An Arts and Entertainment District in the four blocks around Public Square was established in 2001 and expanded last year. Anchored by attractions like The Maryland Theatre, the district allows the city to offer tax benefits to artists living or working in the area.

Helping artists with their business development is an idea that drew support Wednesday night from Washington County photographer Chris Heurich.

Heurich said artists so often are involved in their work that they need help with the business end of things.

Heurich was excited that work is under way to build on Hagerstown's arts community.

"What is interesting here is that it is actually happening," Heurich said.

Regarding patrons, speakers at Wednesday's meeting said it is important to educate the public about art. The attempt should be to inspire those people about art and encourage them to become patrons of the arts, speakers said.

As for the future of the group and its efforts, Blackstock left it open-ended, saying the intent is to "give this vehicle wheels and see where it goes."

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