Celebrating National Arts & Humanities Month with Round Up for the Visual Arts!

October 1st, 2015 by Amina

October is National Arts and Humanities Month and we’re celebrating with an exciting initiative called Round Up for the Visual Arts! All month, when you shop at any of PLAZA Artist Materials store locations in Bethesda, Rockville, or Silver Spring you can donate the change from your purchase (or more) to AHCMC!  One hundred percent of the proceeds from this campaign will go to support our grants to individual artists. Last year, Round Up for the Visual Arts! helped Silver Spring-based printmaker Miriam Mörsel Nathan expand an incredible project visually documenting her family before World War II.  Below, Miriam discusses her work and shares how the funding has made a difference.

Miriam Mörsel Nathan:

“My parents came from the Czech Republic. My father was in the Dominican Republic during the war years, my mother joined him after the war and I was born there. My parents spoke Czech and German at home, we ate fried plantains as well as goulash and dumplings. I am a blend of cultures and histories and I tend to think my work has that sensibility– of being a combination, a juxtaposition of many elements that ultimately (and hopefully) become connected and integrated.

We all have a need to make sense of the fragments of our history.  I do this work because I feel it is an imperative to reclaim individuals lost to war and to provide an acknowledgement of lives lived. I have continued to expand a particular body of work for a number of years, the source material being pre-WW II photographs of family members. By transforming the photographs into works on paper and offering narrative, I bring these individuals forward, say their names, give them voice.

Uncle Josef's Wedding Prague 1941 © 2009 Miriam Mörsel Nathan

My process in creating this series has been predominantly through print making. In order to realize this next step of the project, I plan to work with Lily Press in Rockville. AHCMC and Plaza makes this possible through Round Up for the Visual Arts which will subvent studio and master printer fees as well as the cost of materials.

“It is extremely challenging to actualize a vision, to bring forward a project, without financial support. The award provides funding for me to continue to create a visual document of family members and their lives in Europe before and after World War II.”

Marton and Fredy © 2009 Miriam Mörsel Nathan

My vision for this next segment of work is to create a series of prints based on images of my first cousin, Hana, who was a child during the war. Although she did survive the war, for me she has become the bridge for life both before, during and after the war. The images I have of her include those as a child as well as a young woman. Working with her image expands the family archive and brings it closer to present day.

All images ©miriam mörsel nathan

Public Art as Intervention

August 19th, 2015 by Amina

With the development of the Public Art Roadmap and the recent announcement of our  NEA Our Town award, we’ve been having many thought-provoking conversations about public art, urban design and our role as a local arts agency in activating County spaces through creative placemaking and social engagement.

"The Silver Pass" Mural by Byron Peck

Montgomery County initiated the commissioning of public art in 1983 and since that time, this collection has grown to include more than 800 works that are embedded in the fabric of our community.  With the soon-to-be-released Public Art Roadmap, we will now have a tool that will allow us to evaluate exactly how, over the last thirty years, public art has articulated and reflected the County’s neighborhoods as well as help us determine which communities lack these cultural assets.

This project is very much connected to the amazing public art project we are spearheading in Wheaton. In our community convenings in Wheaton, we asked residents and other members of the arts community how could public art best support their neighborhoods.  We learned of the community’s hopes that our work would do more than just place a shiny object in their town center.  They described a host of pressing community issues, including the absence of the lack of performance and exhibition venues despite the abundance of vacant, underutilized spaces and a lack of interactive, socially engaging creative work in the community.  These conversations helped us quickly realize that a public art project similar to those historically commissioned in the County wouldn’t be appropriate.

"A Brushstroke of Discovery" by Narcissus Quagliata

The emerging interest in public art that engages communities and seeks to address social issues is a departure from what has traditionally comprised the public art commissioning process, but at AHCMC we’re not shy about stepping into new territory. We asked Matthew Mazzotta, a conceptual artist known for integrating community voice into his projects, to design a public art project for Wheaton.  Matthew traveled to Wheaton in May and over the course of a week, met with dozens of residents, artists, and policy makers who shared with him their reflections and vision for Wheaton.

Matthew (center) in May with community organizers in Downtown Wheaton

Since his visit, Matthew has spoken to us about how his experiences in Wheaton will inform his creative process and include considerations such as, “what kind of intervention will serve the community the best?” Matthew describes his work as “participatory public interventions”, noting that he hopes to trigger conversations and actions within the community where his work is sited that will help create solutions to real issues.  As a local arts agency approaching 40 years of supporting the arts and humanities in this community, we know that the arts and humanities have the power to create solutions to social and community issues, and that is exactly what we aspire to do in Wheaton.  With the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and Montgomery County we are truly excited about the next phase of this project and look forward to staying in touch!

To learn more about this project, contact us at info@creativmoco.com

Working Together to Support Our Local Community & Economy

August 17th, 2015 by Suzan

The FY16 budget for the Arts and Humanities is approved, and in light of the many challenges facing our local economy we believe that this budget is a good one. We are pleased that rather than diminish funding for GOS, MSO, SOG, IAS, AIRSG and ASCG and AHCMC Administration as proposed by the County’s Emergency Savings Plan, that the County Council accepted our proposal to take $200,000 from the FY16 Matching Fund.

The County Council also voted to take $141,000 from the remaining FY16 CIG funds. Consequently, we will not accept any application for FY16 emergency capital improvement grant funds nor will we distribute matching funds in FY16.

The following FY16 amended AHCMC budget has been approved:

  • Operating Support Grants – $3,004,852
  • Small/Midsize Orgs & Individual Artists and Scholars – $698,883
  • Advancement Grants – $250,050
  • Arts and Humanities Matching Fund – $0
  • Wheaton A&E District – $90,000
  • Administration – $429,830

Total AHCMC FY16 NDA – $4,473,615

  • Public Arts Trust – $140,000
  • Capital Improvement Grants – $1,000,000

Thank you for your support of our Savings Plan proposal and for all of your great work on behalf of the arts and humanities in Montgomery County; we sincerely appreciate YOU!


FY16 Arts and Humanities Budget Approved

June 9th, 2015 by Suzan

It’s official!  On May 21, Montgomery County Council approved over $5.8 million dollars in funding for arts and humanities in Montgomery County in the FY16 County Budget on May 21, 2015. The total allocation of $5,813,615, a 4% increase over funding for the arts and humanities in Montgomery County’s FY15’s budget, includes $698,883 in support for Small, Mid-Sized organizations and Individual Artists and Scholars, as well as over $3 Million dollars in General Operating Support to help fund the County’s largest arts and humanities institutions.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Operating Support Grants – $3,004,852
  • Small/Midsize Orgs & Individual Artists and Scholars – $698,883
  • Advancement Grants – $250,050
  • Arts and Humanities Matching Fund – $200,000
  • Public Arts Trust – $140,000
  • Wheaton A&E District – $90,000
  • Administration – $429,830
Total AHCMC FY16 appropriation (in all categories) $4,813,615. Funding notifications for Operating Support Grants will be sent by June 30, 2015.

Additionally, FY16 Capital Improvement Grants have been approved and are as follows:
  • American Dance Institute – $70,081
  • Montgomery Community Television, Inc. – $119,181
  • Round House Theatre, Inc. – $155,572
  • Sandy Spring Museum, Inc. – $30,170
  • The Writer’s Center, Inc. – $250,000
Total FY16 Capital Improvement Grants awarded:  $625,004
Capital Improvement Grants are awarded and contracted directly through Montgomery County Government. Should you have question or concerns regarding your contract, please contact Beryl Feinberg at Beryl.Feinberg@montgomerycountymd.gov or by calling 240-777-6022. Also, when your project is completed please let us know; I am certain AHCMC staff and County legislators would like to attend your ribbon cutting, if possible.

There are $141,000 in FY16 Capital Improvement Grant funds remaining available for emergency needs. Should you have an emergency Capital Improvement Grant Request, please contact our grants department by emailing Nabil.Ghachem@creativemoco.com. Any request for emergency funding will go through an ad hoc panel process to provide recommendations to the AHCMC Board and County Executive prior to approval by the County Council.
As with all Montgomery County based grants, please make certain to send letters of appreciation to all Councilmembers; their email addresses may be found by clicking here; Congratulations to us all – wishing you All the Best in FY16!

Public Art in Montgomery County: What’s Next?

May 13th, 2015 by ToddBressi

Todd Bressi, Public Art and Place/Urban Planning expert  is working with the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County to develop the “Public Art Road Map”.  Read below for his thoughts on how this tool will help integrate public art into future development and urban planning strategies:

Chances are, you’ve seen one of the hundreds of public artworks in Montgomery County during your daily travels — perhaps at a school, a library or a park; perhaps in an urban space in Bethesda, Rockville or Silver Spring. Chances are there is a public artwork somewhere that has become a treasured part of your day because it brings a smile to your face, triggers a memory or simply lets you know where you are.

Montgomery County residents can enjoy hundreds of sculptures, murals, glassworks and other public art — commissioned over the years by the County, the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville, and private developers — that are now woven into the fabric of the community.

Now, for the first time, the County is developing a “roadmap” for what kinds of artworks should be commissioned next, and it is asking for input from people who live or work in the County. As the County continues to grow in population, cultural diversity and economic vitality, public are will be an increasingly important part of the mix.

The Roadmap, a project of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and the Public Art Trust, is asking an essential question: What new public art projects would be of the most benefit to people in Montgomery County today?

Looking around the world, there are exciting new models for public art that have emerged in recent years. Some examples of these can already be seen in Montgomery County, and the Roadmap will consider whether there are opportunities for creating more:

  • Placemaking projects, such as the Silver Creek fountain in Silver Spring, Darnestown Heritage Park or the Public Safety Memorial at the police headquarters building, create environments for social gathering, celebration, reflection and other activities.
  • Artist-designed pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, such as pedestrian bridges, bike racks and transit shelters, enhance ordinary infrastructure.
  • Social projects focus on community issues and identity. Just recently, AHCMC organized an Outdoor Living Room with artist Matthew Mazzotta to stimulate thinking about creative placemaking in the Wheaton Arts and Culture District
  • Environmental artists are developing projects that connect people with stormwater, weather, flora and fauna in new and engaging ways.
  • Temporary artworks are activating urban spaces for short periods of time.

The Roadmap will also examine areas of the County that could benefit most from new public art projects.

  • Are there areas where there are fewer public art projects, relative to population? Wheaton, East County and “second-ring” residential neighborhoods just outside the Beltway might deserve a closer look.
  • Can public art ideas and projects be seeded during comprehensive land-use planning process, and implemented as capital projects and private development occur?
  • Are there collaborations that can help support the mission and priorities of other County agencies and cultural initiatives, such M-NCPPC’s focus on small urban parks, or the County’s three Arts and Entertainment Districts?

We hope you will lend your voice to the conversation. How can public art impact the future of Montgomery County? What types of projects would be most beneficial? Take the Montgomery County Public Art Survey to give us your direct feedback.

Public Art as a Catalyst for Community Engagement

May 13th, 2015 by Michele

Michele Cohen, Ph.D is an public art expert who has been working with AHCMC and the Montgomery County Public Art Trust to manage the commissioning and conservation of the County’s broad collection of outdoor sculpture and two-dimensional works.  Below, she blogs about our most recent public art initiative: The Wheaton Outdoor Living Room:

In tune with contemporary public art trends which emphasize social engagement, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County recently launched an innovative public art initiative in Wheaton’s Arts & Entertainment District (AED).  MIT-trained public artist Matthew Mazzotta, widely known  for his award winning project “Open House“, visited Wheaton and met with residents, business owners, and elected officials over the course of a week to gain a sense of Wheaton’s past, present, and future – from the community’s perspective.

At the end of his visit, Matthew staged an “Outdoor Living Room” in the middle of  Wheaton Veteran’s Park, located in the convergence of Downtown, the Wheaton AED and Central Business District.  The sight of rugs, sofas, and lamps in the middle of this public space helped spark an incredible dialogue about public art amongst a diverse cross section of community members.

Matthew’s projects grow from the inside out; not only do they provide visual interest, they act as sounding boards and community catalysts.

Before Matthew’s arrival, we collected ideas and feedback from Wheaton residents and policy-makers about how our new “Wheaton Cultural Grants” funding opportunity could help support local creative placemaking activities and promote Wheaton’s relatively young Arts & Entertainment District.  We held several charrettes to hear directly from residents how they envisioned the arts and humanities playing a transformative role in their community.  What we learned was that Wheaton’s cultural and creative community wanted more places to display expressions of culture that embodied the spirit and diversity of their community and that would have the potential to transform Wheaton into a cultural and creative destination.

These outreach and research activities culminated in Matthew’s “Outdoor Living Room” which was an inspiring convening of community members truly invested in Wheaton’s future.  Matthew is developing a proposal for a public art design informed by his observations and the feedback he received.  We all look forward to seeing the next stages of this incredible project take shape!

AHCMC Welcomes Nabil Ghachem

April 3rd, 2015 by Joe

Nabil Ghachem, a grants manager with an impressive background in theatre and arts education, recently joined our staff as our new Grants Program Officer.  Below, Nabil discusses his new  role at the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, his international career in grants management, and more.

I was born and raised in Tunisia, a tiny country on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa lodged between Libya and Algeria. I grew up in a neighborhood where a mosque, a church and a synagogue were established only a few blocks from one another. This incredible diversity along with my family’s multi-cultural lineage had a huge influence on what would become a bit of a globetrotting career.

After high school in Tunisia, I was accepted into university in Brussels, Belgium, where I earned an accounting degree and was able to visit almost all of Europe.

In Brussels, I worked at the Arab Cultural Center, writing operating grants, producing international music and theatre festivals, and locating city and state project funding and office space. There, I developed a passion for theatre and enrolled in the Brussels Theatre Academy training program.

I participated in several theater residencies with Yoshi Oida, the GITIS Moscow School of Theatre, and the NO Japanese Theatre and led an immigrant theater group to win the Brussels Capital Theatre Tournament with Dario Fo’s Not to Pay.  Together, we developed arts education programs, short films, and documentaries that dealt with youth, education, and social issues. Following Brussels, I spent two fabulous years in New York  translating and directing Algerian author and poet, Hawa Djabali’s, The Cry of Desire for the Lincoln Center Theatre Director’s Lab, and Athos Fugard’s, Master Harold, and The Boys.

My work in grants management began in Santa Cruz, CA where I managed the County Arts Council’s Grants Program from 2002 until 2012. During my tenure, we completely re-structured the program by implementing new funding criteria, panel processes, and evaluation mechanisms, while initiating collaborations with the private sector and education institutions. We moved the grant making process online, expanded the technical assistance program, strengthened grantees’ managerial capacities, increased access to funding opportunities, and facilitated numerous forums, including the Bay Area Funders’ Forum.  I also had the privilege to launch the Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate program.

We were able to maintain a strong grants program thanks to the support from local city and county council members, local and regional foundations, state and federal support systems, and most of all thanks to a community who was involved in and advocated for the arts as a tool to enrich people’s lives, emotionally, intellectually and economically.

I think we were able to instill a model for collaboration and mutual support that I already see in effect here. As I learn more about Montgomery County’s arts and humanities landscape, I hope to have a chance to meet and work with the exceptional individuals, small, mid-size, and large organizations that contribute to advancing the creative economy in this region.

Nabil brings accounting know-how, extensive grantmaking experience, and a background as creative and cultural producer to this role.  We could not be more excited to welcome him to the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.  To learn more about Nabil, check out his bio and send him a note of welcome at Nabil.Ghachem@creativemoco.com!

The County Executive Announces FY16 Budget

March 18th, 2015 by Suzan

The County Executive’s Budget for FY16 is Positive for the Arts & Humanities

On Monday, March 16, County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommendations for Montgomery County’s FY 16 Operating Budget, recommending a flat appropriation for the arts and humanities for FY16.

The County Executive proposed a total budget of $4,442,700 for the Arts and Humanities Council. This budget proposal includes $2,876,763 in funds for general operating support for arts and humanities organizations and $90,000 in funds for grants to support cultural activity in Wheaton.  Given low tax revenues and other constraints and challenges on the County’s budget overall, we are pleased that the arts and humanities budget was not diminished.  We are also encouraged that the County Executive continues to support an additional $1,000,000 appropriation for capital improvement projects in our sector and $140,000 for public art.  We were able to do a lot of rebuilding in FY15 and this budget allows us to sustain that momentum.

Here’s how this funding breaks down:

FY16 Arts and Humanities Council Proposed Appropriation – $4,442,700 which includes:

• $2,876,763 – Operating Support Grants
• $616,557  - Small & Midsize Organizations & Individual Artists & Scholars
• $90,000 – Wheaton Cultural Grants
• $250,050 – Advancement Grants
• $409,330 – AHCMC Administration
• $200,000 – Arts & Humanities Matching Fund

Additional Appropriations:

• $140,000 – FY16 Public Arts Trust
• $1,000,000 – FY16 Capital Improvement Grants

Consequently, a total of $5,582,700 is proposed for the FY16 arts and humanities sector appropriation.

Overall, this is exciting news and we thank County Executive Ike Leggett for strengthening the County’s investment in arts and humanities organizations, artists and scholars through this “standstill budget”.

As always, we must continue our advocacy efforts and encourage the County Council to adopt the budget County Executive Ike Leggett has recommended. Here’s how I hope you can get involved:

Send a message of support to the County Executive, thanking him for this budget recommendation.  His email address and social media contacts can be found HERE

Also, plan to attend our Advocacy Potluck where you will be able to speak directly with the County Council to thank them for their support and hard work, as well as to encourage them to accept the County Executives budget recommendations.  We will be announcing the date of the potluck shortly; sign up HERE to receive our Advocacy Alerts to learn about this event and stay updated on our advocacy efforts.

As always, thank you for all you do to support the arts and humanities in Montgomery County.

Onward! Upward!

Cultural Grantmaking for Equity, Inclusion, and Community Development

February 13th, 2015 by Amina

Across the country, communities are integrating their unique heritage, culture, and design in successful urban planning strategies that are creating economic growth and community development.   From our headquarters in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, we have seen how an effective community arts strategy implemented over time can attract tourism, businesses, and encourage the right kind of placemaking.

As Montgomery County’s designated local arts agency, we are constantly thinking of ways to create innovative and impactful funding opportunities that develop strong communities and are responsive our community and constituents.  With Montgomery County’s FY15 budget allocation of $90,000 for cultural regranting in Wheaton Maryland, we have an incredible opportunity to do this work in a very special urban district.

Not only is Wheaton home to one of the County’s three Arts & Entertainment Districts, it is one of the state’s most culturally diverse areas. The AHCMC Wheaton Cultural Grants increase our capacity building offerings to artists, scholars, and cultural nonprofits while allowing us to advance a very important conversation about inclusion and equity in the arts.

Recently, we partnered with Americans for the Arts to host The Greater DC Diversity Pilot Initiative - a roundtable discussion about how local philanthropy can advance diversity and equity in the Greater Washington region’s cultural sector. More than 50 of our colleagues and local arts and humanities professionals came together to share their perspectives and ideas on this issue.  Here’s what we learned from their responses:

•  Minority-based cultural groups, small organizations, and emerging artists often experience the most difficulty in accessing venues and other spaces for presenting and creating their work.

•  A shortage of funding opportunities, a lack of awareness of existing funding opportunities, and a sluggish economy have made it difficult to obtain arts-based instruction, professional development, and even art-based experiences.

• Arts presenters embrace diversity and inclusion as core organizational values, but are often unsure how to reflect this in their communication and marketing activities.  These groups also struggle in developing/presenting artforms that can be equally embraced by diverse audiences.

These takeaways echo the feedback we received during our cultural asset mapping and community organizing activities in Wheaton. In December 2014, AHCMC held three charrettes to hear directly from prospective grantees and Wheaton residents about their experiences creating, presenting or accessing the arts and humanities in Wheaton. They voiced concerns about a variety of challenges that include:

• An insufficient number of arts venues, incubators, and affordable housing

•  Residential and commercial developments that exclude spaces for arts

•  Segmentation within the ethnic/cultural community and across mediums

•   “Silos” within the arts and humanities community

(see the full report here).

With these conversations in mind, we have developed the FY 15 Wheaton Cultural Grants Guidelines, now available.  We know from experience that it takes a prolonged and coordinated effort to foster the type of arts-based community development that we are trying to achieve in Wheaton.  The arts and humanities one part of the equation that includes the participation of public and private sectors.  The Arts & Humanities Council is extremely excited about working with all of our stakeholders through this process, and look forward to create a more vibrant arts community in Wheaton that will benefit all residents and reflect the heart and soul of this amazing community.

A “Red Orchard Wall” for Silver Spring’s Fenton Street Urban Park

December 23rd, 2014 by Amina

A Rendering of "Red Orchard Wall", designed by sculptor Michael Enn Sirvet

After issuing a Request for Design Qualifications to the public in October, The Public Arts Trust and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County are pleased to announce the selection of an outstanding public art proposal for the Silver Spring/Takoma Park community.

Red Orchard Wall by DC-based artist Michael Enn Sirvet is a contemporary outdoor sculpture whose design is inspired by the history of the Fenton Street Urban Park’s as a former apple orchard.  The “curving wall” sculpture, approximately ten feet in height and twelve in length, is expected to be installed at the intersection of Fenton Street and Philadelphia Avenue in summer 2015.

The Arts and Humanities Council and The Public Art Trust issued Request for Design Qualifications to the public, inviting local artists to submit their design qualifications to be considered for creating the public artwork that would replace Criss Cross, by artist Albert Paley.

On December 4, three Semifinalists who successfully responded to the RFQ presented their proposals to the community and a panel of judges during a public hearing in Downtown Silver Spring.  Sirvet’s proposal – with its references to the history of the site and the creative engagement that the sculpture creates between its environment, viewers, and landscape – was selected as the winning design.

Sirvet is a full-time artist whose professional experience includes a successful career as a structural engineer.  He has executed similar public art projects in several prominent public/private spaces, including the US Embassy in Malta, the US Embassy in Dubai, and Bowie State University.

Sirvet hopes Red Orchard Wall will reflect the growth and future of the Silver Spring/Takoma Park community:

“In choosing to tell the story of the long-gone apple orchard, we have decided to interpret the idea of an apple orchard in a contemporary way,” he said. “We do this to compliment the new, vibrant and modern nature of downtown Silver Spring, with its many newly constructed buildings and public areas. Modern Silver Spring demands cutting-edge contemporary sculpture to match its contemporary growth.”

AHCMC congratulates Sirvet on his innovative and engaging design, and thank all of the artists who submitted proposals.  For more information, read our official press release.