The Garrett County Commissioners and Garrett College Board of Trustees each ratified a Memorandum of Understanding that paves the way for construction of a Community Education and Performing Arts Center on Garrett College’s main campus.
The Garrett Lakes Arts Festival (GLAF), Garrett County Public Schools, and Garrett County Arts Council have also ratified partner agreements connecting each organization with the facility, which is expected to open in 2022. The agreements, which cover the performing arts center facilities housed within the larger Community Education and Performing Arts Center, are the result of a year-long process to outline the various partners’ responsibilities and financial contributions to the initiative.
“Garrett College has always been a community-centered institution,” said Don Morin, chair of the Garrett College Board of Trustees. “And this will very much be a community-centric performing arts center. This facility – to be constructed in the only county in the state without a performing arts center – will support the needs of our school system as well as the county’s arts community. We appreciate the collaborative nature of our partners, which was critical in reaching these agreements.”
The facility will include renovation of a space that previously served as the college gymnasium and expansion of the footprint to include state-of-the-art space for the college’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development (CEWD) division.
Architectural and Engineering (A&E) design work began last year with prior authorized state funding and a local match from the county. However, both county and college officials indicated a desire to have an MOU in place before moving beyond design work.
“Every partner is contributing what is within their means and their capabilities, including both in-kind and financial contributions,” said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College’s president. “I can tell you that Garrett College by itself could not afford to operate and maintain this center. I’m very appreciative of having the county, the Board of Education, GLAF, and the Garrett County Arts Council as partners in this endeavor. The chance to bring a performing arts center to Garrett County may not have come again in the foreseeable future, so we’re seizing this opportunity we have now.”
“GLAF is very pleased to play a role in bringing this facility to Garrett County,” said GLAF Executive Director Mary Callis, whose organization’s entire performance season will take place in the Performing Arts Center per the agreement. “This facility will open up a world of possibilities for the county’s arts community.”
Superintendent of Schools Barbara Baker said she is also enthusiastic about the participation of the school system, which will have 10 weeks of priority Performing Arts Center use during each school year as part of the agreement.
“This project will have a positive impact on performing arts in our schools at every level from elementary through high school,” said Baker.
“The Garrett County Arts Council views this partnership as an exciting, creative strategy in helping meet our mission of spreading the arts through the county through the funding of arts-related organizations, events and activities,” said GCAC Executive Director Kathy Beachler, whose organization will have space within the performing arts center for GCAC-supported activities as part of the agreement.
The design process for the Community Education and Performing Arts Center is being led by The DLR Group, an architectural firm out of Washington, D.C. The project is centered around the college’s old gymnasium, which will be renovated into a state-of-the-art proscenium theatre that will seat approximately 450 patrons.
A 16,000-square-foot addition to the theatre will feature a 2,000-square-foot conference center that can also be used as a recital hall, black box theatre, and reception venue. New educational spaces are also included, such as a 16-seat piano lab donated by the Community Trust Foundation as well as a sound and lighting booth.