Arts Council Has Big Plans

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John Schratwieser, co-director of the Kent County Arts Council, came before the Chestertown council meeting Monday to give an update on what’s in the works for the organization. He said Leslie Raimond, the long-time executive director of the council, will be retiring in December, at which point there will be a party to recognize her contributions.

Chestertown council members Linda Kuiper and Liz Gross listen as John Schratwieser outlines plans for the Kent County Arts Council at the July 17 council meeting

Meanwhile, the Arts Council has acquired the Town Arts building on Spring Street across from the Post Office, and is in the process of renovating the building to make it “a home for the arts.” The first step is replacing the roof, which has already been approved by the Historic District Commission, Schratwieser said. He hopes to have the work completed by the end of August. Other necessary work will follow, including eventually fitting out the second floor as a place for visiting artists to stay. The building will be completely handicapped-accessible, he said.

The Town Arts building

A downstairs room, formerly a gallery and performance space, will be returned to those functions, he said. There will be exhibits by local and visiting artists and “small” performances such as poetry readings or acoustic concerts. “We’re not competing with The Mainstay,” Schratwieser said,

The Arts Council receives grants from the state, which it redistributes to local arts organizations all across the county, Schratwieser said. He said he would also like to set up a series of workshops and retreats to show those organizations the ins and outs of fundraising and grant writing.

Schratweiser is also planning a vigorous Artist in Residence program for the county, bringing in artists in all fields to interact with their local counterparts and give performances in the local community.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said she hoped the Arts Council will sponsor projects like the large mural painted on the rear wall of Tractor Supply along Morgnec Road.

Schratweiser said he had funding to cover such public arts projects and would like to do more. He invited council members to come visit his office in the Town Arts building to discuss any issues or ideas for the arts in the community.

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf

Also at the Monday council meeting, new Washington College President Kurt Landgraf introduced himself to the council. He announced September groundbreaking dates for two projects on the college’s waterfront campus. He also announced that the college will return the date of commencement to Sunday, a request several local merchants and restaurateurs had put before the council. “That’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Landgraf said a recent Spy editorial on the town and the college was a good foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.

“All we can ask for is a president who understands the connectivity between the town and the college,” Mayor Chris Cerino said after Landgraf’s comments.

Drew McMullen, president of Sultana Education Foundation, requested approval for two changes in the Downrigging Weekend program. They would be two parades down High Street. One would be lighted boats on trailers, Friday night. He said the idea was inspired by a similar parade in Vermont. The other, Saturday morning after the town’s Halloween parade, would involve members of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Ferrari Club of America, who are already planning to meet nearby. McMullen said the cars would be on display along the waterfront, and the members would be patronizing local businesses. The council approved the changes.

The council also gave permission for an antique car gathering around Fountain Park on Wednesday, August 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. John Slocum, who would organize the event, described it as an informal get-together for car enthusiasts, whether for antique cars, sports cars or other vehicles they would like to show off. He has been working with Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown and Police Chief Adrian Baker to iron out the details. He said it could be a boost for downtown restaurants and businesses on what is currently a “dead night” downtown.

“It’s a neat idea,” Cerino said; “I hope it takes off.”

 

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