Many Voices, One Song Was the Theme for MD Arts Day

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Senate President Mike Miller addresses audience at MD Arts Day

Representatives of the visual arts, theatre, music, dance, folk and literary organizations across the state of Maryland converged upon Annapolis on February 8 for Maryland Arts Day, sponsored by the Maryland Citizens for the Arts. It was an opportunity for attendees to visit with their respective delegates and advocate for the arts, network, and participate in workshops.

Master of ceremonies John Schratwieser,  Executive Director of MD Citizens for the Arts, and former Executive Director of  the Prince Theatre, introduced the  various elected state officials, including Senate President Mike Miller, who stopped by during the morning session to greet the audience and proclaim their support of the arts. Keynote speaker Bashi Rose,  Baltimore theatre artist and filmmaker,  discussed the role art played in his personal accomplishments – keeping him off the streets and out of trouble. He described his experiences conducting drama workshops in  prison, and his success with the youth arts program in Baltimore, Dancing Many Drums, he  formed together with his wife. Bashi concluded his talk with a poem by his father, accompanied by his uncle Will Rose playing the conga.

Keynote speaker Bashi Rose, accompanied by conga. Photo courtesy MSAC

Presenters informed arts representatives that Governor O’Malley has recommended ‘level funding’ for the Arts Council in his FY 2013 budget, (it is  the same amount as the previous year, approximately $13.2 million), and urged them to ask their delegates not to cut the budget. The audience was reminded that the arts are an economic engine,  supporting nearly 11,000 jobs in the state, fostering consumer spending, supporting  hundreds of small businesses, and bringing in almost $36 million in local and state tax revenue. In addition, they have an impact beyond jobs  – contributing to higher academic achievement, social skills, and social change.

Representatives from the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre: Lucia Foster, Sam Howell, Butch Clark, Bennett Price, Andy Goddard, and Armond Fletcher, Kent County Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Raymond, and Sylvia Maloney of the Church Hill Theatre gathered with other Eastern Shore advocates to meet with their elected officials.  Delegates Stephen Hershey, Jay Jacobs and Michael Smigiel from the 36th district, and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio from district 37B listened to various arts representatives exhort them to continue fully funding  the arts. Jay Jacobs invited the Kent County contingent to visit him personally in his office, where he stated that he was in complete agreement with the importance of art in the community, referencing the important role  the Mainstay had in revitalizing Rock Hall, but cautioned the group that money was very tight, and that this will be a very difficult year.

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