Moving Full STEAM Ahead!

August 29th, 2019 by Suzan

Dear Colleagues,

Can you hear the bells? Ready or not, it’s back to school time! Across the country families have traded beach bags for back packs and geared up for the start of a new school year. As we fall back into the swing of things, I am reminded of a quote from former President Barak Obama, “The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.” A solid academic foundation, coupled with the ability to be creative will equip our youth with important skills they need to thrive in this fast-paced and ever advancing world. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or arts administrator, let’s move full STEAM ahead together and ensure that all students residing in Montgomery County have an opportunity to receive the well-rounded education they deserve.

There is more information available demonstrating the benefits of art education today – both in and out of the classroom – than ever before. Studies have shown correlations between engagement in the arts and students’ academic, social and emotional well-being. Participation can lead to higher academic performance, improved critical thinking skills, greater ability to collaborate, and increased creativity, confidence, empathy and cultural awareness. In an area as diverse and cosmopolitan as Montgomery County, including arts experiences that are culturally and socially relevant to students is critical – particularly for those whose families have recently migrated to the United States. To borrow from a perspective piece in the Washington Post, “being culturally responsive means teaching art where the students are and with what interests them. It means providing space for them to express themselves and take a break from immersion in a new culture they otherwise experience all day long.” At the Arts and Humanities Council, we proudly support arts education programming. Want to learn more? Click here to read about our Artist Residencies in Schools program.

While most Americans believe arts education is important at all grade levels, nation-wide funding for these programs continues to dwindle. According to the Brown Center Chalkboard, this trend is “primarily attributable to the expansion of standardized-test-based accountability, which has pressured schools to focus resources on tested subjects.” Unfortunately, these pressures have disproportionately affected access to the arts for students living in underrepresented communities. Thankfully the opportunity for students to engage in creative experiences does not have to be confined to the classroom. Get those creative juices flowing after the final bell rings! Our bilingual Guide to Children’s Arts Activities is an excellent resource for after-school and weekend activities in music, visual arts, dance, creative writing and more right here in the county.

Whether you are an individual or an organization, parent or educator, student or principal, join the growing movement to keep the arts at the forefront of education! Elevate the critical role arts education plays in the lives of young people by sharing your story during National Arts in Education Week, September 8-14Remember: Stories + Data = Impact. Help us continue to demonstrate the transformative impact of the arts with lawmakers, stakeholders, and the greater Montgomery County community!


AHCMC Welcomes Tonya Jordan

August 28th, 2019 by Brittney

Meet our new Public Art Manager, a multidisciplinary arts administrator and 3rd generation D.C. native. We sat down with her to learn about her background in the arts, her interest in working for AHCMC, and more!

AHCMC: So, tell us about yourself.

Tonya: Working in the public art field has increased my understanding of what is to be a part of a community. Community comes in all forms whether its group focused, residential, commercial, industrial or any form of mixed use development. My family has lived in the Petworth/ 16th Street Heights neighborhood since the 50’s. Nowadays, it’s a fairly unique phenomenon that most of my neighbors have lived there for over 30+ years.  Even more important is the diversity of families our block has maintained—-with people of all ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic statuses. We have become like family—looking out for one another, cooking together, pitching in collectively when someone is in need, raising kids and staying socially, environmentally and politically active. This presents a different way of looking at collaboration and like public art, there are preferences, differing opinions and ways at looking at the aesthetics of a neighborhood and how it defines a community.

For me personally, growing up in DC and Maryland (Silver Spring and Takoma Park) in the 70’s and 80’s, two very dynamic and transitional decades—politically and artistically, was a joyful freefall! These two eras contributed to shaping my life, lasting friendships and the creative choices I’ve made and continue to make. Many of these choices were formed by relationships with access and exposure to the arts.

As children and teenagers, the arts (especially music) were a mutual connection for us, despite our different backgrounds—in the 70’s there were new kids from Vietnam, El Salvador, Jamaican kids, Jewish kids, kids with gay parents…Food, music, and our collective ethnicities were our cultural connectors and art was a shared curiosity through the exploration of fashion, design and popular culture.  It was a natural exchange. Growing up in the DMV also facilitated access to free museums on the Mall and a host of other special places throughout the region that were primarily free to enter.

AHCMC: Tell us about your background and what led you to the arts field and more specifically public art?

Tonya: Theater! It started with theater when my family lived in Montgomery County and I took my first theater class at Eastern Junior High. Back then, there really was no debate as to whether the arts would be part of our learning experience—it was just a given. I joined the drama team and debuted as the town gossip, Miss Soames in Our Town. The minute the audience fell over laughing, I was hooked!

In high school I snuck with some friends from Silver Spring and auditioned for the Theater Department at Duke Ellington School. I was in 11th grade and my parents were miffed, but I did get a degree in Theater from the University of Maryland. I loved that discipline, but not enough to starve for it! It did facilitate the realization that I had other talents and transferrable skills.

The 80’s which was such a crazy-creative and complex decade…Like the 70’s it was a period of abandon that was reflected in the art world. It was a rebellious, over the top and great time for experimentation and going beyond institutional boundaries in the arts! In DC there was Go Go music, the emergence of Hip Hop, the DC Punk scene at the old 9:30 Club on F Street, DC Space, District Curators, Mapplethorpe at the Corcoran and Woolley Mammoth Theater when 14th Street was still gritty. I was in a band called Noumenal Lingam. We had a close affinity to Sun Ra, storytelling in abstraction, improvisation and all out otherworldliness. It was an incredibly creative period for me personally.

My transition and interest in the visual arts began with a friend and artist Paula Stanley. She was/is a profoundly talented mixed media artist and showed me how to do beadwork and introduced me to Frida Kahlo. This was way before all that overhyped and saturated Frida craze. I was just intrigued by her, because I thought I was the only one that was proud of my unibrow! Her art was so brutally beautiful and her story, culture and politics were fascinating. Biography is a powerful through line in any form of art.

This curiosity paved the way for my exploration of other artists and how world history and art sparked creative, social and political motivations and art movements. This curiosity led me to curating independently.

AHCMC: What would you say is the defining moment in your career as an arts administrator?

Tonya: One of the turning points in my career was an amazing opportunity to work at the Smithsonian. I was given access to an incredible learning experience by an amazing woman-leader in the arts. I was mentored by other brilliant women and men.  It was there that I was able to build some intellectual, creative and management muscle by working on public programs and exhibitions related to Jazz. I was really fortunate and worked with curators, musicians, exhibit designers, archivists, historians, curriculum specialists and public programmers. That career turning point set the spark for a career in visual arts curation and more specifically, public art. I try to pay it forward, as I know how challenging and competitive it can be as a young arts administrator of color. Mentoring is so important. It brought me to where I am today.

AHCMC: How did you enter into the public art field and what are some of your most notable projects?

I worked in the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District for about 7 years. I did some independent curatorial work, managed open studio tours, festival events and led some small mural projects. The DC Arts Commission was where I became fully immersed as a public art manager. Some of the more notable projects include the St. Elizabeths East Redevelopment (artist Sheila Crider), The Golden Triangle BID’s Murrow and Monroe Parks projects (artist Duillio Pasasriello), Kent Bloomer’s New York Avenue Gateway Wings, the 2014 5×5 temporary public art project with a host internationally renowned artists and curators and bringing New York’s Creative Time to DC at the Lincoln Theater. I worked with a very talented and dedicated creative team at CAH, as well as host of city-wide stakeholders, planners, BIDs and developers. I learned a lot about politics too.

AHCMC: What interested you to come work for AHCMC?

Tonya : Opportunity, and being able to demonstrate that as a striving arts administrator, I always want to bring something new, expansive and accessible to the communities I serve.  I’m excited about working with a new artist community as well. There is always something else to learn—just by the very nature the creative process and the fact that art is always in flux.

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Public Art Manager?

Tonya: Exploring the vastness of spaces to site public art and fine art in Montgomery County and working with Montgomery County communities, agencies and stakeholders who value the impact art has in our day to day lives. I’m looking to break new ground with exploratory and sustainable projects along with the people in Montgomery County.  Managing and curating exhibitions at the Kramer Gallery is the cherry on top!

Creative Voices and Cultural Happenings All Summer Long!

July 9th, 2019 by Suzan

Dear Colleagues,

If there is one thing we in Montgomery County take pride in, it is our local cuisine! Cities across the county host “Taste of” festivals throughout the year, showcasing the delicious fare they have to offer. Attendees can sample a variety of dishes that make up their community’s culinary identity and expand their foodie adventures beyond what is familiar. Just as Montgomery County is filled with a plethora of delectable cuisine, it also has an expansive arts and humanities community waiting to be explored. This summer gather up your family, friends and colleagues and take part in your own Taste of MoCo’s cultural community!

From free concerts and film screenings to art exhibitions and historical events, Montgomery County’s residents and visitors, people of all backgrounds and walks of life, are participating in our creative community’s cultural happenings all summer long. Join them! Venture out and engage in the vibrant arts and humanities sector you have helped to create. Sample the multifarious cultures that make up the county’s dynamic cultural identity, discover various creative voices expressed throughout the county, and while you are there, experience the diverse audiences engaging alongside you. Not sure where to begin? We have you covered! Hop over to CultureSpotMC for our comprehensive calendar of events and activities, favorite picks, discounted opportunities and more.

Audiences attend the arts for different reasons. A study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that 73% attend to socialize with friends or family, 64% desire to learn new things, 63% want to experience high-quality art, and 51% are there to support the community. As you journey through our cultural community, take note of who is there and why they are participating. Find out what value they place in that experience, why it is important to them, and begin building relationships through personal experience and participation. As professional arts administrators, we know a cornerstone of building audience diversity is through relationships. Authentic engagement in communities can break down barriers and lead to discovering life-time patrons, community advocates, and future staff, board or committee members. All of whom contribute to making our sector more innovative, inviting, and inclusive.

We are excited to hear stories of your exploration and look forward to seeing you out and about, enjoying Montgomery County’s lively arts and culture scene.


Montgomery County Council Approves $5.6 Million Budget for the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County

June 10th, 2019 by Suzan

Montgomery County Council has approved a budget of more than $5.6 million for Arts and Humanities Council grants and administration. The resolution for FY20 is as follows:

  • Operating Support Grants: $3,374,941 (flat over FY19)
  • Small/Mid-Size Organizations, Creative Projects, Arts Education, and Individual Artist/Scholar Grants: $854,574 (flat over FY19)
  • Advancement Grants: $295,094 (flat over FY19)
  • Arts and Humanities Matching Fund:  $200,000 (flat over FY19)
  • Grants to Support Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District: $91,815 (flat over FY19)
  • Discretionary Grants: $250,000 (increase over FY19)
  • AHCMC Administration: $556,735 (increase over FY19)
Congratulations to our entire arts and humanities sector. We are thankful for your hard work and dedication to the field. The lives of Montgomery County residents are richer and more creative as a result.

Adapting to Montgomery County’s Blossoming Arts and Cultural Community

May 31st, 2019 by Suzan

I love spring. That time of budding cherry blossoms, pansies and tulips always makes me smile. But along with the beautiful gardens, my life becomes fraught with the sneezing, watery eyes and stuffy sinuses known to all of us with seasonal allergies. However, I get through it. I adapt to the change in seasons with a combination of self-care and the support of my trusted Zyrtec. Each year, I get just a little better at adapting by adjusting my treatment for the onslaught of old and new allergens, allowing me to enjoy one of my favorite times of year.

You could say, the shift in my springtime behavior supports a basic Darwinian premise: adaptation is critical to survival. When people cannot adapt, they cannot thrive. It seems to me that much of the senseless violence around the world — with no reverence for life — is a rejection of our changing and widening communities and a failure to adapt. Neither violence or denial can refute the fact that our communities are changing, have changed, and will continue to change. While the onslaught of rejection may seem enormous, we also see the fight for equity worldwide is forceful and unrelenting. Change is hard. We may sneeze, but we can adapt. We must.

Part of adapting to new environments involves the collection of data. You have to know you’re treating allergies and not a cold. As public arts funders and united arts funds work to ensure the health, longevity and, relevancy of arts and cultural communities around the world, they are asking questions about their constituents and gathering data about equity, access, and inclusion. Some of these inquiries may not be comfortable to answer. For instance: how can communities find a balance between supporting legacy institutions and art forms while also accelerating the growth of small and midsize groups, art forms and individual artists who are reflecting the changing community interests? Some funders are answering this question through straightforward strategies like proposing to link money to diversity. Others are layering a lens of equity and diversity on their practices and guidelines, impacting how their organizations operate. In Montgomery County, a county dubbed one of the most diverse in the nation, this question is critical. As the landscape of the county and the arts and humanities sector shifts, the funding paradigms must also change and adapt to our expanding community.

This summer, AHCMC will be hosting community listening sessions around the county to hear the needs of our cultural sector. These sessions will inform equity-focused and impact-driven modifications to our guidelines and programs that support the continued growth of an inclusive and holistic portfolio of constituents in Montgomery County. We will be seeking community input and engagement on how AHCMC’s support can:

  • Better foster culturally vibrant and sustainable communities
  • Help organizations develop and engage audiences - placing elders and the next generation of artists, arts leaders, and audiences at the center of their work
  • Promote access, racial equity and diversity
  • Support creativity by building organizational and community capacity
  • Ensure traditionally under-resourced communities have access to arts and humanities programs and institutions
  • Provide professional development offerings that heighten community impact

Your feedback will not only influence policy, but it will also impact the future growth of Montgomery County’s arts and humanities sector. At the end of the day, our goal is to address these critical questions: What are the costs to the community if cultural equity is not supported? And, if the Arts and Humanities Council – the largest area arts funder – does not intentionally cultivate the next generation of diverse arts organizations and audiences, who will? The answers to these questions may very well help us avoid another Ferguson, Parkland, Christchurch New Zealand or any other senseless act of violence tied, at its core, to intolerance.

In Montgomery County we will adapt to our changing community and get a little better at it every year as we enjoy all the seasons in our funding cycle. We look forward to listening, learning and adapting, together with you.

AHCMC Welcomes Mariza June Avila

May 31st, 2019 by Brittney

Meet our new Public Art Intern Mariza June Avila, an aspiring graphic designer and recent graduate from Montgomery College. We sat down with her to learn about her background in the arts and what she is looking forward to most with AHCMC!

AHCMC: So tell us about yourself.

Mariza: I’m a first-generation Filipino-American, originally from San Diego, California. Last fall, I received my Associates of Arts from Montgomery College. I plan to transfer next spring and hopefully major in a mix of graphic design and traditional printmaking. As I have lived near the downtown Silver Spring area on and off for almost 10 years, I’m eager to deepen my relationship with the local arts and humanities community of Montgomery County. I am very thankful to CEO Suzan Jenkins for allowing me to continue learning with AHCMC as the Public Art intern!

AHCMC: What has your internship been like so far?

Mariza: It’s been quite an adjustment. Initially, I joined AHCMC through the Montgomery College Art Internship. When I started four months ago, I knew I would be dipping my toes into a little bit of everything, but I wasn’t sure to what extent. The AHCMC staff have been patient with me, showing me the ins-and-outs of operations. Upon learning that Amina, the Public Art Manager, would be departing, I felt like I still had so much to learn and would feel guilty if I did not “hold down the fort” until a new manager is hired. With two exhibitions already under my belt (The Shape of Things to Come and The County Collects II), I’m looking forward to the process of acquiring artwork as we wrap up the FY19 Contemporary Works on Paper Collection call.

AHCMC: What led you to the arts field?

Mariza: Honestly, college led me to pursue art. Since my dad is a civil engineer and my mom is a surgical technician in the operating room, I assumed I should be pursuing a STEM career. Outside of my studies, however, I was always involved in art. Growing up, I learned how to sing by listening to music. I sang in the school chorus, learned the clarinet and guitar, and eventually performed in talent shows. My “happy place” was at home, collaging, scrapbooking, and conducting experiments in my art journal. I also enjoyed taekwondo and being a member of my high school’s drama club. When I started taking art classes at MC Takoma Park/Silver Spring, I observed the successes and toils of being an artist from the staff, my peers, and professors, but I wasn’t deterred. Although it is a challenging lifestyle, I came to realize the arts have played an instrumental role (pun intended) in my journey of becoming the person I want to be.

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Public Art intern?

Mariza: I’m looking forward to getting involved in Public Art commissions. I want to see projects from the beginning planning stages to finish and conservation. I haven’t encountered an opportunity like that yet, so it would be interesting to get hands-on experience with the process. Also, I look forward to getting to know the AHCMC staff better. I absolutely love that most of us are artists in our own regard. I think our diverse backgrounds and interests definitely reflect the community we are representing.

Engaging and Empowering Montgomery County’s Arts and Humanities Sector

April 18th, 2019 by Suzan

Dear Colleagues,

Summer is a busy time filled with camps, concerts, festivals, and more, and it’s right around the corner! With students out of school and families seeking opportunities to engage in Montgomery County’s cultural happenings, summer can also lead to an uptick in attendance. Take this great opportunity to get a snap shot of your audience by holding a focus group, hosting a talk-back or meet the artist reception, or conducting a survey to ascertain who you are engaging, what attracts them to your organization, and why they attended your event! As noted in Americans for the Arts’ blog Audience Engagement is NOT Community Engagement, these kinds of audience engagement strategies are designed to deepen relationships with your current stakeholders and over time, improve retention, increase frequency of attendance and expand reach through stakeholder networks.

Knowing your current audience will also tell you who in your community is not engaged; providing you an opportunity to develop outreach and community engagement strategies to expand your reach.  Remember audience engagement is not community engagement, and according to Arts Engaged, “community engagement is important to the long-term viability of arts organizations and to the well-being of the communities they serve.” This statement aligns with Montgomery County’s current reality, mirroring our rich, diverse, and ever-changing population. As the county’s demographics continue to shift, our arts and culture community must adapt to these changes in order to remain relevant and connected with the communities we aim to serve.

Effective community engagement begins by building relationships. Before designing programs based on what we think our community wants, begin with the simple and slow process of learning about the community you are targeting.  Listen to the people, involve them in the planning process, and address the issues they tell you are most important to them. Arts Engaged believes that “in successful engagement work no change should happen quickly…” and AHCMC agrees. Building authentic relationships takes time, but the value of this work can make your organization an indispensable pillar of your community’s framework. Check out Create Community Connections: Embarking on Community Engagement for some ideas to help kick-start this process.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this thought. Words Matter. Think about how you are giving voice to your community. As we work to reflect the diversity of Montgomery County, let us practice creative placekeeping: the active care and maintenance of a place and its social fabric by the people who founded, live and work there. This mindset values the cultural memories associated with a locale by supporting and honoring those that came before. Much like the American Museum of Natural History engaged audiences by asking them to reconsider the historical inaccuracies and stereotypes perpetuated in a diorama designed to shape the American public’s understanding of Indigenous people, let us also find ways to positively and accurately uplift the various cultures represented in our county. I’m excited to work collaboratively with you as we engage and empower Montgomery County’s arts and humanities sector this summer and well into the future.


Equity with Intention

March 25th, 2019 by Suzan

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for joining us at Maryland Arts Day and the National Arts Action Summit! Despite the president’s proposed budget reductions, I am confident our strong show of support for increased funding in the arts and humanities sector was heard in the Maryland statehouse and by our Congressional leaders. While I am hopeful that we will see increases from both, your continued support and advocacy will be vital to ensure we as a community can continue working towards expanding access to cultural expression for all residents living in Montgomery County.

Recent studies illustrate that four of the top ten ethnically diverse cities in the United States are located here in the county and as such, AHCMC remains committed to supporting a vibrant cultural landscape county-wide. To improve our process of facilitating a dynamic cultural community, AHCMC will begin to collectively consider engagement and empowerment strategies and will be reaching out to learn more about the community engagement tactics you find effective. Your feedback will be very important as we adapt our policies and procedures to align with the county’s intentions of providing services through the lens of equity.

According to Reframing the Relationship: Community, Arts, and Engagement, an Americans for the Arts blog, the National Guild for Arts Education defines community engagement as more than an initiative or program, but something that is part of organizational culture. From this perspective, community engagement becomes less of a service and more of a process of inclusion. Often, in our efforts to expand access to cultural expression, we forget to engage directly with the community. By consulting those we wish to serve, we begin a two-way conversation that goes a long way towards building trust, enhancing partnerships and developing impactful relationships. It is through these opportunities that we can discover and develop unconventional ways of operating, providing programming, communicating with the community, and cultivating new audiences.

Inviting the community to become part of how an institution operates is a daunting idea, but not impossible. Several of you have already begun having these conversations and are working through non-traditional methods. Below are some resources that I believe will be helpful as together, we create new pathways to improve the quality of life for all Montgomery County residents.


Expanding Access, Supporting Growth, and Investing Locally

February 6th, 2019 by Suzan

Dear Colleagues,

2019 is well underway and we are in full swing – engaging and supporting the arts and humanities ecosystem in Montgomery County! To all our colleagues who were impacted by the recent government shutdown, we are excited to have had you back with us and grateful the furlough has temporarily ended. It is our hope that good minds will continue to work together to find a solution that brings stability and ensures the government remains open without further interruptions. The Arts and Humanities Council thanks you for your continued work and commitment to strengthening the creative economy during this challenging time.

We also want to send our gratitude to everyone who offered free and discounted opportunities, not only for our comrades, but for all furloughed government employees. The support you showed was indicative of how the arts and humanities are critical to our society. They are a fundamental part of creating and maintaining a healthy community. As stated in Americans for the Arts’ Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018 study, 81% or 4 in 5 Americans believe that the arts are a positive experience in a troubled world. The impact you had will not soon be forgotten. We are confident that should another shutdown occur, our Arts and Humanities sector will be ready to open our doors and hearts to those in need again.

Moving forward, it is also critical that our arts community continue to rally behind one another as we champion funding for the arts at Maryland Arts Day on February 14. Join us for this statewide advocacy event, celebrating Maryland’s arts community and the role we play in the economic and cultural vitality of the state! Let’s do our part to ensure that all voices are heard, and that Montgomery County’s culturally diverse community continues to thrive. Register here.

As always, thank you for sharing our commitment to creating an equitable playing field for all Montgomery County residents. Our unified efforts ensure we will expand access to cultural expression and continue producing excellence in the arts and humanities.


Suzan Jenkins,

AHCMC Welcomes Sierra Smith

February 6th, 2019 by Brittney

Classical Saxophonist Sierra Smith kick starts her career as an arts administrator by joining our staff as the new Programming and Operations Coordinator. We sat down with her to chat about her background in the arts, her role at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and more!

AHCMC: So, tell us about yourself.

Sierra: I am a native Washingtonian and thrilled to work with the AHCMC. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Morgan State University as well as a certificate in Management of Successful Arts & Cultural Organization from the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. I’ve dabbled in many fields but am glad to start my career as an arts administrator.

AHCMC: What led you to the arts field?

Sierra: When I finished undergrad, I was prepared to teach music or perform it and I realized that I didn’t want to do either of those things. I enjoy doing the work that goes into programming whether it be a holiday concert or art exhibit and I wanted to be in a position that would allow me to support and promote the great work happening in the community.

AHCMC: What interested you to come work for the AHCMC?

Sierra: I wanted to start my career as an arts administrator somewhere that I could see myself being for years to come and fortunately I didn’t have to look far. I was also attracted to the opportunity to work with AHCMC’s CEO, Suzan Jenkins. Suzan (in my world) is the equivalent of a Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos but for the arts and for her to not only be a woman, but a woman of color, made the AHCMC my top choice. In addition, as a musician and patron of the arts I wanted to make sure that the programming happening throughout the county mirrors the county’s rich, cultural diversity.

AHCMC: Tell us a fun fact!

Sierra: I’m a collector! I have an expansive shoe collection, watch collection and t-shirt collection. I’m also REALLY into astrology.

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Programming & Operations Coordinator?

Sierra: I am looking forward to becoming more coherent with the arts in Montgomery County. I am also looking forward to sharing and learning about all the cultural events the county has to offer.