The Garrett County Arts Council’s annual membership drive is underway this month, as announced by Kendall Ludwig, president of the GCAC Board of Directors, and Kathy Beachler, executive director of the nonprofit organization. The council has been in operation for 44 years, with the vision of a vibrant and sustainable arts community for artists, their audiences, and the community at large. The GCAC Board of Directors 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 the community.
An agency of the Maryland State Arts Council, the GCAC is funded in part by state and local government funding, but relies on community membership support for much of its success. Membership affords the contributor several benefits, including a discount at The Gallery Shop in Oakland, operated by the arts council staff and supporting more than 150 area artists. Each member is formally invited to attend the annual Membership Reception and Meeting and enjoys voting privileges. They are the first to know each year’s Friend of the Arts Award recipient, announced at the annual meeting. Invitations are also sent to all members for The Gallery Shop artist receptions and other events, and informational emails are sent out with news and updates. The GCAC offers special member events, such as guided tours to art venues or to various performances.
“And most importantly,” executive director Beachler said, “becoming a member gives each donor the satisfaction of actively supporting the arts in Garrett County!”
In addition to supporting arts endeavors, festivals, performances, exhibits, and more, the GCAC also adds to the local tax base in a number of ways.
“The Arts Mean Business in Garrett County,” Beachler said. “For every $1 spent in arts operating budgets in the state of Maryland, $4.16 is generated. That’s an impressive return on investment.”
In fact, in the state of Maryland in 2018 as reported by the Department of Commerce, there were 16,922 full-time equivalent jobs generated by arts organizations. Each year, $8.9 million people attend arts events in the state, and $462 million is spent by arts audiences in a single year. The state and local tax revenue was listed in 2018 at $60 million, and direct spending into the economy that year by arts organizations was $944 million. That translates into a $1.3 billion total annual impact of the arts in Maryland.
A membership to the Garrett County Arts Council is $25 per year. With this support from the community, the GCAC provides a wide range of programming and arts support, and works toward obtaining additional funding at both the county and state levels. The organization takes an active role with organizations such as Maryland Citizens for the Arts at events like the annual Arts Day presented to legislators in Annapolis, and the staff works in collaboration with the Maryland State Arts Council’s leadership.
Locally, the council operates the annual Artist Studio Tours to celebrate and support the many Garrett County artists who operate their own home studios. Arts in Education programming is a high priority of the organization, which strives to offer multi-cultural programs for county schools students, sponsorship of annual Student Arts Fair, Achievement in Art Awards for area graduating seniors, periodic student visual art exhibits, sponsorship of high school literary journals, and more. The literary journal Ginseng is produced biannually by the council, with works written by local authors and juried for admission into the collection.
Each year the GCAC offers Community Art Development Grants to local non-profits, educational entities, and government agencies that present arts related programs and activities. The funding arm reaches wide and far in the county, as the GCAC traditionally supports such organizations as the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival, Spruce Forest Artisan Village, the Celtic Festival, the Garrett Choral Society, the Garrett Community Concert Band, Our Town Theatre, and many more.
Collaborations are built between the GCAC and many local programs as well, such as Art in the Park at Deep Creek Lake State Park and Blooming Art, a floral and visual art exhibit with the Mountain Laurel Garden Club. Workshops and demonstrations are scheduled and presented throughout the year by the GCAC in several areas of the county.
A vital collaboration of the GCAC is with the towns of Oakland and Grantsville, where Arts & Entertainment Districts have been established. The towns and the GCAC work together to support, promote, and celebrate the artists and artistry of these two distinct Garrett County communities. Together the arts council and the town councils help to fund a coordinator position and activities of each A&E District.
The GCAC maintains an active website located at garrettarts.org. On this site users can find events listings, announcements, grant information, and more. The staff maintains active social media accounts for the organization on Facebook and Instagram.
The newest endeavor by the council and the staff is an online marketplace, built chiefly to offset the losses to artists in the pandemic. SEYMOUR: An Art Experience began as an in-person marketplace held at the Simon Pearce glass facility. To abide by best safe practices while also supporting its member artists, the GCAC staff opted out of the actual market and jumped onto the development of a virtual option, a fully accessible online market. It can be found at SEYMOURart.org. This inaugural online effort has proved to be quite successful, helping to further the mission of the GCAC to support and promote local artists, even in the time of quarantine and a national shut-down. This holiday season, SEYMOURart.org is welcoming new artists to the online marketplace.
The Gallery Shop is a vibrant and active GCAC program. Located in downtown Oakland’s A&E District, the retail storefront provides a venue for local visual artists and writers to show and sell their creations. Staff members maintain the shop, keep up the inventory, communicate with artists, advertise artist work in print, radio and social media, and provide a professionally run gallery that both supports its artists and provides the community with an impressive collection of expertly created art, to both view and to purchase.
One exciting new program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is $MART ART: Shared Workspace, an ADA-accessible shared community workspace coming soon to Oakland, equipped with a variety of digital and traditional tools and services that will assist artists and community members to flourish in the global digital based economy. $MART ART Supplies (watercolor paints, recorders, theatre mask plaster, etc.) are being distributed to local students so they have art materials to assist them while learning from home.
“We think membership in the Garrett County Arts Council is a fantastic value,” Ludwig said. “Already a member? Thank you! Please now renew your membership for 202I. Not a member yet? Please join! We need your continued financial support, and we need your voice, your ideas, your passion, your participation, your time and your love of the arts.”
Persons may join by going online to www.garrettarts.org and clicking on “Become a Member” found on the bottom left of the home page. Persons may email firstname.lastname@example.org to join, visit The Gallery Shop at 108 S. Second Street in Oakland, or call the office at 301-334-6580.
By Mary McEwen of The Garrett County Arts Council