The annual membership meeting of the Garrett County Arts Council (GCAC) was held in June, and for the second consecutive year it took place online as a precaution regarding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The GCAC Board of Directors opted to keep the event virtual with the hope that next year’s event will once again be an in-person celebration.
The GCAC holds a meeting each year to update the general membership of the past year’s activities and successes, to elect new officers, and to announce the recipients of this year’s grant funding. The annual Friend of the Arts Award was also presented.
Kathy Beachler is the executive director of the arts council, and Kendall Ludwig is the president of the board of directors. The two co-hosted the online event in June, which was publicized throughout social media and in correspondence with the 450 members of the nonprofit organization.
Those currently serving on the board were introduced and in addition to Ludwig, are as follows: Mikal McCartney (vice president), Frank Shap (outgoing treasurer), Stephanie Murphy (secretary), Dave Bruffy, Tom Dabney, Jack DuBose, William Hentosh, Susan Johnston, Maggie Robey, Samantha Roller, and Mikey Virts.
Two new board members inducted during the meeting were Emily Newman-Edwards and Thomas Vose. Newman-Edwards is a member of the Grantsville Town Council as well as the Grantsville Arts & Entertainment Advisory Board. She is active with the Grantsville Revitalization Organization (GRO) and is the director of operations for Fronterra Resources: Savage River Lodge and the Cornucopia Café. Vose is the director of the Ruth Enlow Library, the public library system of Garrett County. He is an active member of the Grantsville Lions Club. He earned state recognition earlier this year when he was presented with the Maryland Library Association’s President’s Customer Service Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding achievement in offering customer service and providing community leadership.
“We are so fortunate to add both Emily and Thomas to our board,” Beachler said. “They are both civically minded, hard-working, innovative people – perfectly fit for our organization in so many ways.”
Staff members of the GCAC, in addition to Beachler, are Rachel Precht, The Gallery Shop Manager; Becky Dillar, Sales Associate at The Gallery Shop; and Mary McEwen, Coordinator of the Arts & Entertainment Districts of Grantsville and Oakland.
“GCAC’s Board and staff are committed to aiding, encouraging, advising and coordinating activities dedicated to the promotion of cultural arts in Garrett County, and to integrate such activities into the life of our community,” Beachler said.
She went on to explain how annual membership contributions (as an individual, business, or foundation) enable GCAC to sustain and grow its programs. In FY21, GCAC focused on the following program areas: advocacy, Artist Studio Tour, the Grantsville and Oakland Arts & Entertainment Districts, Arts in Education, creative writing programs such as Ginseng and Play Bake, SEYMOUR and the design of SEYMOURart.org, The Gallery Shop, grant awards for organizations and independent artists, and the creation the new $MART ART: Shared Workspace.
“GCAC advocates for increased/continued funding for the arts at both the county and state levels,” Beachler said. “We take an active role with organizations such as Maryland Citizens for the Arts, and attend annual events like Maryland Arts Day to present to legislators. GCAC is also a member of the County Arts Agency Meetings the Maryland State Arts Council (CAAM) which involves all the arts council executive directors across the state.”
In FY21, GCAC awarded more than $53,500 in grant funding directly back into the community to support local arts organizations and independent artists. With additional funding awarded to GCAC at the state level, plus membership donations, GCAC was able to increase the FY21 Community Arts Development Grant Awards.
General Operating Support Grants were awarded to organizations applying for funding to help with activities scheduled during the annual support period. The FY21 General Operating Support Grant recipients were the Barn Quilt Association of Garrett County and Spruce Forest Artisan Village.
Program/Project Grants were awarded in FY21 to organizations for public arts programs and projects held in Garrett County for the benefit citizens and guests. The recipients of these grant funds for FY21 were as follows: Broad Ford Elementary School, Deep Creek Lake Lions Club, Friendsville Days, Garrett Choral Society, Garrett Community Concert Band, Garrett Lakes Arts Festival, Grantsville Lions Club, Highland Festival of Garrett County, Northern High School, Oakland Heritage Community Foundation, Our Town Theatre, Southern High School Marching Band, Southern Middle School Theatre Department, The Reading Station, Town of Kitzmiller, Town of Mountain Lake Park Victorian Chautauqua, and Town of Mountain Lake Park Writers Workshop.
GCAC was also able to offer Independent Artist Grant awards to recognize achievement by Garrett County artists making work independent of an institution or organization. The awards are accompanied by grants that encourage artistic growth and sustained practice. Grant winners in this funding category were Caroline Blizzard (photography), Julie Turrentine (glass), and Annie Simcoe (paper artist).
As a result of the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GCAC recognized artists may experience financial emergencies because of unexpected income shortages. Artists who were accustomed to attending festivals, regular markets, and other pre-pandemic events were facing financial needs in areas such as housing (mortgage, rent, utilities), medicine, childcare, and food.
“We were pleased to be able to create this new $500 grant award to provide Garrett County artists of all disciplines with immediate relief,” Beachler said.
In FY21, GCAC was awarded a grant from the Rural Maryland Council allowing for the creation of $MART ART: Shared Workspace, an ADA-accessible community workspace equipped with various digital, traditional tools, services assisting rural art entrepreneurs to flourish in a global digital-based economy. The space is located in The Gallery Shop building at 108 S. Second Street, Oakland. First used as an office area for the staff, the area has now been revamped to a multi-use classroom facility, able to accommodate up to 25 people. The space is already being utilized, with students attending workshops this summer through the Smithsonian Institution. Demonstrations and workshops are being scheduled, to be held regularly in the new space in the coming weeks.
The meeting concluded with the presentation of the Friend of the Arts Award to Frank Shap, outgoing GCAC board member who has dedicated much of his time and energy to the support of the arts in the county. Frank served as the GCAC treasurer for much of his time on the board, and although he has served a full six years — the term limit for all members — he will be continuing in other volunteer capacities. He is a member of the Oakland A&E District Advisory Board and also active with the Garrett Mentors Inc. The award presentation was done online, with Frank’s sons able to log in as a surprise to him.
“We so appreciate Frank’s dedication and hard work for the arts council,” Beachler said. “We will miss him on the board, but we’ll still be calling on him to help out!”
For more information about GCAC or any of its programs, feel free to contact the GCAC office at 301-334-6580 or through email at email@example.com. The website is located at garrettarts.org. The organization maintains a Facebook page and Instagram account. The A&E Districts of Grantsville and Oakland can also be found on Facebook and at oaklandaedistrict.com and grantsvilleaedistrict.com.
By Mary McEwen of The Garrett County Arts Council