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Arts provide 'a respite from daily life'

February 19, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Human beings have done some nice work over the millennia, and examples of that excellence are worth preserving for future generations to experience, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Director Rebecca Massie Lane said.

About 50,000 people a year pass through the doors of the museum in City Park, and Lane said she believes it provides more than an opportunity to view works by Norman Rockwell, sculptor John Gutzon Borglum, the Peale family, 16th-century painter Timoteo Viti or new local artists yet to make their reputations.

"Why should we give to the arts when there are hungry people?" is a question many might ask, Lane said.

"It's important to keep alive the things that make you best," Lane said, answering her own rhetorical question. "If you don't have excellence, you are losing your soul."

The arts provide "a respite from daily life ... a way of thinking about a better world," Lane said.

It promotes increased beta wave activity in the brain, with studies showing higher levels of activity when a person is viewing an original artwork as opposed to a reproduction, she said.

Museums and galleries even serve as places of courtship, Lane said.

The arts also have a positive economic impact, according to Carla Dunlap, a senior program director with the Maryland State Arts Council, the agency that provides funding to many arts programs in the state.

The direct and indirect economic impact of the arts in Maryland comes to $1.4 billion a year, helps support 12,000 jobs and generates $41 million in tax revenues, Dunlap said. The MSAC has a $13.3 million annual budget and provides $220,694 in funds for arts organizations and events in Washington County, including $16,877 for Blues Fest, she said.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra has an annual budget of approximately $1.1 million, but its economic impact locally is estimated at $3 million by the Americans for the Arts economic calculator, MSO Director of Development Vicki Willman said.

Concerts bring people from a wide area, who spend their dollars not just for concert tickets, but at restaurants, hotels and other businesses when they attend an event, Willman said.

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