The Garrett County Arts Council and the Grantsville and Oakland Arts & Entertainment District committees have announced the recent hiring of a new A&E District Coordinator, Mary Sincell McEwen. McEwen is tasked with engaging with the A&E District Advisory Boards to promote, support, and celebrate the towns’ artists and their work.
“I’m thrilled to have been selected for this position,” McEwen said. “I have a great love for the arts as well as for the unique and lovely towns of Garrett County. Through this job, I hope to be able to shine a brighter light on the eclectic, wonderful artist communities we have here on the mountaintop.”
The A&E District program is headed up by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), and there are 30 such communities across the state. A rigorous application process must be undertaken to achieve the designation status. Grantsville was the first to obtain the designation in 2015, and Oakland earned it in 2017.
The mission of the districts is to help develop and promote community involvement, tourism, and revitalization through tax-related incentives that attract artists, arts organizations, and other creative enterprises. Districts ideally help to host events such as fundraisers, exhibits, workshops, and other activities in order to both support artists as well as foster awareness of the incentives available to all those who live and create their art within the district boundaries. The districts are generally built around an arts community that is already established, such as Grantsville’s Spruce Forest Artisan Village.
“Spruce Forest is the gem of Grantsville’s A&E District, and a perfect example of an established arts community,” McEwen said. “As the A&E District Coordinator, I am coming into the work well aware that this is a vital part of the district. My job isn’t to change anything, but instead to promote what is already happening and to help disseminate helpful information to the artists. And there are other arts endeavors in the town to be promoted and celebrated as well.”
Oakland’s district was founded on the theme of a “Renaissance,” focused on bringing back some of the arts traditions of the past. The town once had an Opera House as well as a movie theatre. Now the town has Our Town Theatre, a highly successful community stage. It also has The Gallery Shop, the Book Mark’et, Flipside Sounds, Smoke ‘n Mirrors Gallery, and more locations that promote arts of all kinds.
“It’s a great little town with so much going on. There truly is a ‘Renaissance’ happening now, and I’m happy to be joining that and engage in this work,” McEwen said.
As she settles into the job, McEwen is taking part in a MSAC orientation and related webinars. She will soon be meeting with the town’s A&E Advisory Boards to start moving on various projects. Some upcoming events include Oakland’s Winter Fest on Feb. 15, the National Road Festival in Grantsville in May 2020, and the third annual A&E community fundraiser in August 2020. McEwen will also attend Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis in February, along with Kathy Beachler, the executive director of the Garrett County Arts Council. Beachler is also McEwen’s predecessor in the coordinator job.
“It’s great to have Kathy right with me as I learn these ropes. We are both very excited about the future of the arts in Garrett County,” McEwen said.
A native of Mountain Lake Park, McEwen is past president of the GCAC board of directors and is involved in numerous artistic endeavors, including the Garrett Choral Society, Garrett Community Concert Band, the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church choir, Our Town Theatre, and formerly the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival. She earned a bachelor of fine arts in theatre from West Virginia University, and furthered her studies in English and creative writing at the University of North Carolina. Formerly she co-owned The Republican newspaper, for which she served as a journalist and vice president of the company. Her family sold the newspaper in July 2017, and she was the editor of The Garrett County Republican for a brief period, and then was a columnist and the arts and entertainment editor until January 2019.
McEwen is a writer and maintains a blog, located at marysmcewenwrites.com. She is currently working with Our Town Theatre to prepare the 2021 staging of a play she wrote, titled “Trajectories.” She and her husband John live in Oakland. They are the parents of three grown sons.
Submitted by the Garrett County Arts Council