2014 Emerging Leader Award Winner Paula Ross

October 17th, 2014 by Carolyn

At this years County Executive’s Awards ceremony,  Mr. Ike Leggett will present the 2014 Emerging Leader Award to Paula Ross for her work with The Metropolitan Ballet Theatre and Academy (MBT).  Paula Ross has been Executive Director at MBT since 2012 and has helped  guide the organization through a major capital campaign and tremendous growth.

Reserve your ticket today and join us on October 20 at 7pm as we honor Paula, and many others, at the 2014 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities

Paula Ross:

I like to think that the arts chose me and not the other way around. I have no professional background in the arts or dance, although I enjoyed dance and theater years ago as an activity in high school and college. I have a degree in Environmental Science and English, and prior to Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, I was a strategic communications consultant working on projects as diverse as environmental cleanups and retail marketing.

I came to MBT as a contractor to write a capital campaign strategy and re-vamp the marketing plan. I stayed on after that initial contract period as the Director of Development & Marketing for two reasons:

First, the organization needed someone full-time in marketing & development. Second,

“I fell in love with the company, the people, the mission and the challenge presented to get MBT into a new space and to find funding for it.I am very proud of the work that our team at MBT is doing to serve our community and to advance the arts in Montgomery County.”

It sounds cliché, but I really feel like the universe had a grander plan with my involvement at MBT. I was only supposed to be at MBT for four months. My love for the organization grew during that time and I can’t envision doing anything else now. I am thrilled to take on a larger role in the organization.  My work is exciting and rewarding and each day is different. The advocacy portion of my job really makes me tick because the issue of arts education matters so much, particularly because the core curriculum at our schools are changing to reduce the frequency and duration of arts experiences. Being able to see that value every day with our students and in our outreach programs, and with my own children, has been immensely rewarding.

“A few months into my work at MBT, a parent pulled me aside and made a comment that the ”energy” had changed at MBT with Elizabeth Catlett and I being involved, and that she noticed a change in the students’ and parents’ enthusiasm for our programming and outreach activities. There was a “buzz” building.”

Liz and I were really just getting started, but that sense that things were refreshed and growing was very exciting. More recently, we held a ribbon-cutting for our brand new space. Our team stood among community members, business leaders and elected officials at all levels of government – including our County Executive and our U.S. Congressman – to officially welcome MBT into its new home. That moment was the culmination of an immense amount of work and community support and left quite an impression on me and my colleagues.

“We know that we have a responsibility to these people, to the community that we serve, to advance arts education and to instill a sense of civic responsibility in the students we are putting forth into the world.”

On a more personal note, I also have able to witness my daughter fall in love with dance here over the past two years, and I’ve seen her dance on stage in her first Nutcracker. That moment above all others brought me to happy tears.

MBT is unique as a dance academy and performance company in that we want everyone who desires to dance to be able to experience the joy of this art form, regardless of age, body type, ability, prior experience, future aspiration or financial means.

We will never turn anyone away. We have been growing our residency programs over the past couple of years to take arts education beyond our own walls into the broader community, and it is my goal to continue growing these outreach programs. MBT has a 25-year tradition behind us, but we feel like we are just getting started!

Arts education can take many forms. We are able to collaborate with nearly any other organization to build communities through the arts. Scientific research makes it clear that arts experiences positively influence a child’s overall academic performance, the ability to concentrate, and to learn and memorize. What’s more interesting to examine is the ability for arts experiences to bring a community together.


For instance, can our programs at Title 1 schools bring together diverse families that are feeling the day-to-day stresses of poverty? Can a community come together to support a performance by these students, who otherwise may not have had exposure to arts education? Can we provide opportunity for cross-generational support through our programs to seniors? We think the answer is a very strong yes. All of these programs- alongside other organizations across this wonderfully creative county- are building stronger, more vibrant communities. I am proud that MBT is playing a role in that effort.

2014 Community Award Winner Ricardo Loaiza On Dance and Dedication

October 16th, 2014 by Carolyn

Ricardo Loaiza, Founder of the After School Dance Fund, Inc., produces the Annual MCPS Latin Dance Competition at Strathmore. This event, now in its 15th year, has become the County’s premier Hispanic grassroots community event.

In recognition of Ricardo’s dedication to youth, community, and the preservation of Latin American musical and dance traditions, he will be awarded the 2014 County Executive’s Community Award! Reserve your ticket today and join us on Monday, October 20 at 7 pm as we honor Ricardo and many others, at the 2014 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities.

Below, Ricardo  shares his story and reveals how dance helps bring people and communities together.

Ricardo Loaiza: I have been a resident of Montgomery County since October of 1997.  I moved to the US and specifically to this area in 1990 from Suriname, where I lived for 10 years with my mom, late-stepfather, sister and brother.  Salsa dancing and teaching has always been my passion, and it’s actually how I met my lovely and patient wife Elba.

When I first moved to Montgomery County, I began volunteering at different high schools. I helped some students with their performance at a Multicultural night at Seneca Valley High School.  Since then, every year a small exciting event was held at a different school’s auditorium, and slowly it became a large competition and place where Hispanic Latino families in Montgomery County could gather to support their kids exhibiting their culture through dance and healthy fun.

I started teaching Salsa in DC nightclubs and other venues in 1991 and continued from 1995 to 2007. When I met Elba, I asked her to join me in a Colombian Folkloric Group called “El Tairona”. We then created the first Salsa Dance Group of the area and started to travel abroad to teach and perform.  From Japan to Aruba, and from Holland to Dubai, we kept pretty busy.  The Latin dance demand was there, and we even founded the region’s first Latino owned dance studio in 1999, exactly where the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center currently is, though it only lasted a year.

“We also had the privilege to accompany great Salsa legends of today and yesterday on stage, including International artists such as Celia Cruz, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Victor Manuel, Tito Puente, Israel Lopez “Cachao” (the founder of Mambo), and Marc Anthony at the beginning of his career.”

In 2010 we found ourselves at Strathmore talking to Monica Jeffries Hazangeles because the Latin dance competition kept growing, and there was no school auditorium big enough to host the competition.  Three weeks before our competition, we couldn’t find a non-profit to underwrite the event, especially on such a short notice.

That is when my wife Elba suggested that we create one.  I started doing my homework, in three days we created The After School Dance Fund Inc.  My proudest moment was when the IRS determination letter came in the mail in April 2012, exactly 18 months after I filed.  I wasn’t expecting to receive approval on the first shot of writing FORM 1023!  All of my learning experiences as part of a nonprofit have been memorable. It is quite a journey, but I have a great support system at home, an excellent Board, many other people in the Montgomery County community who are always willing to hold my hand and show me the way.

The connection between art and community building is what the After School Dance Fund stands for.  Our mission is to promote health, exercise, cultural diversity and unity through Latin dance education.

“The special thing about dance is that it is a healthy skill to have or acquire at any age.  It can help with social and emotional development. Regardless of where in the world you go, if you dance, it will help you communicate.”

The annual Latin dance competition at Strathmore is by far the County’s premier Hispanic grassroots community event, because it defines the different cultures within Hispanics, and non-Hispanics through Latin dancing. My most memorable moment at After School Dance Fund is always when the kids receive their medals at the end of the competition.  They all cry out of emotion, because it is over, and they feel so accomplished that they got to be on a world class stage to represent their school.

2014 Volunteer Award Winner Jeff Struewing On the Magic Of Theater

October 16th, 2014 by Carolyn

Today we are featuring Jeff Struewing, the winner of the 2014 Volunteer Award for his work with Lumina Studio Theatre. As a volunteer with Lumina for over nine years, Jeff has become a regular backstage fixture.  He devotes his time and care to finding props that will help make Lumina’s theatrical productions the very best they can be, contributing memorable and eye catching props to each production.  Every prop Jeff finds, he provides to Lumina free of cost (!!), allowing them to save resources for other production expenses.  His dedication is truly inspiring!

Reserve your ticket today and join us on Monday, October 20 at 7 pm as we honor Jeff, and many others, at the 2014 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities.

Jeff Struewing: My son’s  first show with a large role was my first show doing props – Midsummer Night’s Dream – and what a show it was.  It was set in a French Cafe with beautiful music, some sung in Flemish.  We went through gallons of Cool Whip (yes, Cool Whip) because the couples get into their tussles by having massive cream pie fights, with seltzer water to boot.

As the show came to a close, with the little kids singing as they sat around an accordion player and the glitter falling from the sky, I was incredibly moved and knew I was involved with something special.

“I am a scientist and have worked at NIH for over 20 years. I had never set foot on a stage before and had no idea what “theater magic” was, but after that show, there was no doubt in my mind: theater was magical and I was hooked.”

David Minton (Executive and Artistic director) and Jillian Raye (Artistic Director and Founder) expect a lot of the actors and it is amazing to see how they respond.  My son continued for several more years, having larger and larger roles.  Basically, I saw him grow up at the Black Box in Silver Spring.  I continued with props and supporting the productions in any way I could.  When my son finished at Lumina, I was torn about whether to continue. But one more year was followed by another, and 5 years after my son’s last performance, I am still at it!  I just love getting to know the kids and see them grow into amazing young adults. It is truly a privilege to witness.

“Being part of Lumina has really opened my eyes to the arts.  I am experiencing most of these Shakespearean and other classic works for the first time in my life. ” The language is so beautiful, and I learn as much as the kids do when David and the other directors explain what is going on and how to convey the meaning. I am in awe at what young high school kids can do –tons of original Shakespeare lines that they nail every time.  The costumes are fantastic, the sets are so clever and professional, the music is usually live, and the sound and makeup are great as well.

Lumina has grown and matured a lot over the past decade.  It is a treasure for the community.  I feel very lucky to live in Silver Spring and Montgomery County where there is such a vibrant arts community.  It is easy to pour your heart and soul into something that everyone else is so dedicated to as well.

Sometimes during “hell week” it can be exhausting and I have more than once asked myself if I should step back and hand it over to someone else –after all, none of my children are involved anymore and the time commitment is significant. But then something will happen that makes me know it is worth it. One such time happened late one night during hell week when I told myself that this was my last production. –I had a rough day and was tired and anxious to get home.  Then, out of the blue, one of the actors whom I had not interacted with a lot over the years spontaneously thanked me for everything I did for them, and I just about collapsed.

We don’t always know the impact we have on people or how important a kind word can be, so I try to keep that in mind and acknowledge what other people do for me. In receiving this award, I hope that David, Jillian, Julie, and absolutely everyone involved in Lumina know how much I appreciate the support they have given me.  My life is so much more enriched for having been part of such a wonderful organization.

2014 Lifetime Impact Award Winner Bonnie Fogel Shares Her Story

October 14th, 2014 by Amina

Bonnie Fogel, children’s theatre pioneer and Founder/Executive Director of Bethesda’s Imagination Stage is the 2014 recipient of the County Executive’s Lifetime Impact Award. Imagination Stage is the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest multi-disciplinary theatre arts organization for youth and their families and is nationally regarded for inspiring theatrical productions and educational programs.

On Monday, October 20, 2014, County Executive Ike Leggett will present Bonnie with the Lifetime Impact Award in recognition of her leadership in Montgomery County’s arts and humanities community that has undoubtedly impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands.  Below, Bonnie shares with us reflections on her career and the importance of children’s theatre.

Reserve your ticket today and join us as we honor Bonnie, and many others, at the 2014 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities Monday October 20th at 7pm.

Bonnie Fogel:

I came to Montgomery County in 1967.  I established the Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts (which became Imagination Stage in 2003) in 1979 when my children were 7 and 3 because I was concerned that my children would not enjoy the same kind of cultural activities that were a regular part of my life as a child growing up in England.

Imagination Stage brings together professional theatre productions, theatre arts education, and a philosophy of access and inclusion that is simply not matched anywhere in the country. Add to that our solid management, engaged Board of Trustees, and our vision for the future – which is ever expanding.  This is what makes Imagination Stage unique.

The one event that changed our trajectory from a small community arts organization to a major institution in the county, in the state, and in the region was when we partnered with Montgomery County as the occupant of the lower levels of the county-owned and operated garage on Auburn Avenue. This really changed our world. Finally, we had a home and we were able to dream our biggest dreams, provide world class entertainment for children and families and offer the most comprehensive theatre arts programming and programs for children with disabilities offered anywhere in the country.

“Strong communities include an active and vigorous arts industry.  This is true for all segments of society.  Such a presence is essential if a community is to offer a “quality of life” which supports the needs of families, encourages business to locate and stay in a community, and supports business development because of the economic benefits arts organizations provide local businesses”

Also, and perhaps more importantly, arts organizations can help other community agencies, such as police departments and health and human service providers by working with them to ameliorate or solve their persistent problems.

Children who are not performing well traditionally (say in schools) and who might be seduced into non-productive lives, can be offered new pathways to success through the arts – in much the same way as athletic opportunities have been a traditional alternative pathway.  Students who are involved in theatre, film making, dance/movement, chorales… etc., can find a new path which gives them new confidence that ultimately benefits and builds the community.  We see this happening all over the world, not so much perhaps in this country

I never imagined this career, I have no professional background in theatre or performance although I enjoyed nonprofessional opportunities all my life.  I  primarily identified as a writer and journalist.  I guess you could say that in building Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts, I was dabbling in the life of an activist, or social entrepreneur – seeing a need and trying to put that right.

FY15 Budget Moves MoCo Culture Forward

April 3rd, 2014 by Suzan

The County Executive’s Budget for the Arts & Humanities Includes Critical Increases to  Grants + More

I am pleased to share with you this tremendous news!  On March 17th, County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommendations for Montgomery County’s FY 15 Operating Budget, which included a considerable increase in funding for the arts and humanities, and supports an exciting new grant category to activate the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District!

The County Executive proposed a total budget of $4,232,700 for the Arts and Humanities Council – an increase of $440,000 from FY 14. This budget proposal includes $90,000 in funds for grants to support cultural activity in the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District. The County’s overall budget also includes recommendations of $1,111,000 for the FY15 CIP Grants, an extension of the CIP budget through 2020 for arts and humanities organizations, and $140,000 for the Public Art Trust.

Here’s how this funding breaks down:

$2,761,563 —for large organization grants
(a $250,000 increase)

$591,807
for small, midsize, artist/scholar grants
(a $100,000 increase)

$240,000
for Advancement Grants
• $349,330
for the Arts and Humanities Council Administration
$200,000for Matching funds for proceeds from the Executive’s Ball
$90,000 for activating the Wheaton A&E district  (a new category!)

Total Funding for the Arts & Humanities Council: $4,232,700
Plus

$1,111,000for the FY15 CIP Grants
$140,000
for the public Arts Trust

For a total of $5,483,700 for FY15 for our sector!

Overall, this is exciting news and we thank County Executive Ike Leggett for recognizing, once again, that investing in the arts and humanities is a strong investment in the vitality, safety, and livability of Montgomery County. By increasing the County’s investment in arts and humanities organizations, artists and scholars, we are able to leverage taxpayer dollars to generate more jobs, foster greater economic activity and enhance the quality of life factors that all County residents value so highly.

While we have much to celebrate, our advocacy efforts have only just begun! With these numbers, our strategy will be to encourage the County Council to adopt the budget County Executive Ike Leggett has recommended. Here’s how I hope you can get involved:

I encourage you to contact to County Executive today and simply say this: “Thank You!” His email address and social media contacts can be found HERE

Also, plan to attend our Advocacy Potluck on April 10th at 5:30 pm. This will be an ideal opportunity 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.

Also, click HERE to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts – it’s the best way to stay updated on our advocacy efforts.

As always, thank you for all you do – I look forward to staying in touch.

Onward! Upward!

Suzan

AHCMC Welcomes Kelsey Hutchison

March 10th, 2014 by kelsey

Kelsey, a professional dancer and arts educator, recently joined our staff as the new Marketing and Administrative Coordinator.  We sat down with her to chat about her role at the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, her life as a dancer and more.

AHCMC: So tell us about yourself.

Kelsey: I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Maryland and have been participating in the arts and humanities in Montgomery County since I was little.  I left the state to attend Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in English and dance.  I spent four years with Muhlenberg’s Department of Theatre & Dance as the Marketing Dance Coordinator. I also interned with Joy of Motion Dance Center and The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

AHCMC: Do you still dance?

Kelsey: Yes, I can’t imagine not dancing.  I am actually a youth dance instructor and love passing on my knowledge of the art form.  I believe that being an artist myself aids me in marketing the arts because I possess a passion for the arts on a very personal level.

AHCMC: Tell us about the past three months you have been working at AHCMC.

Kelsey: It has been an exciting three months with lots to do.  As soon as I came on board, I began working on our Spring-Summer Guide to Children’s Arts Activities, which was sent home to every public elementary school student via backpack mail this January.  The Guide is a great way to find classes and camps that are happening in the county.  I have been busy becoming acquainted with and managing our Do & Go Calendar.  It is a useful tool for finding fun activities and things to do nearby.  Recently, I have been working on various design projects to highlight the marketing and professional development services we offer to local arts and humanities organizations.

AHCMC: Now that you have started to learn the ropes, what are your future plans as the Marketing & Administrative Coordinator?

Kelsey: I am currently refreshing some of the pages on our website to make them more exciting and engaging.  I am also looking forward to growing our social media impact by engaging with our constituents on multiple levels to spark public interest in their organization and the events they bring to the county.  You can help by liking our Do & Go Facebook Page while staying up to date with the latest happenings in MoCo.

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

Kelsey: I consider the arts and humanities an essential part of a healthy community.  I am honored to work for an organization that does so much to promote and support the arts and humanities on a local level.  I enjoy my job because every day I am immersed in the cultural happenings of our creative county.

Special Feature: Lifetime Award Winner Nilimma Devi

October 21st, 2013 by Amina

The extraordinary career of Lifetime Achievement winner Nilimma Devi has been one of groundbreaking accomplishments and discoveries, all poignantly documented within the stunning beauty of her artistry.  As Founder and Director of the Silver Spring based Sutradhar Institute Dance and Related Arts, she has transformed the Silver Spring based Institute into a community touchstone of classical art and culture.  Through performances that have graced the stages of the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian Institution, and scholarship that has taken her to Iran, Kenya, and Indonesia, she has helped usher in a renaissance in Indian dance.

Tonight, Nilimma is being honored with the County Executive’s Lifetime Achievement award, in recognition of her work as a cultural preservationist, scholar, and artist who  builds and bridges communities through dance.

To mark the occasion, Nilimma spoke with us about the milestones in her career and the moments she felt helped transform her understanding of art and community.  One such moment was her  travel to India, where she explored the role of creativity in hand gestures of classical Indian Dance under the senior research grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies.  Below, she shares her personal account how her global travels informed her philosophy on creativity and the role of art in our community.

Nilimma:

In India they long ago said that art brings your soul and body together. The essence of art is to bring you closer to your core as a human. Creativity was very much part of that process, the evolution.

When I went to India I thought I was going to look at the role of creativity and hand gestures in a very specific way. I discovered that there are no boundaries to knowledge, to creativity, to moving on with your own truth. That was very groundbreaking for me.

In the west, there was a pressing need I think for an artist to be by himself. The aesthetics, it has to be very personal. Whereas in India, the individual is not emphasized.  You cannot say that this is my expression if you cannot carry it to somebody.  So audiences becomes a very integral part as your expression as an artist.

In India, the map is so beautifully laid out for people who are pursuing art.  So many stories are told that begin to open up your eyes to that main thing about art; it’s uplifting you, it’s not just entertainment.  If it does not uplift you then art is just a tool.  Given that map the goal for dance or other arts is to create rasa.

The word is taken from the culinary arts.  Rasa was then equated with spiritual bliss.  Once you get to the spiritual part with the art, all these regional identities can easily be dissolved.

The language is universal; we are all a part of the human race.

I came to Montgomery County 26 years ago, and I believe that Montgomery County is one of the nicest counties in the country. Greatest social work system, public parks, libraries, you name it. It has a visionary thing for its people and for their educational system.  What I would like to see an educational system where arts is not taught as a separate thing but integrated in to the education. [Art] is the education.  Without art, education is not complete.

Guest Blog: Executive’s Award Recipient Patricia Woolsey

October 18th, 2013 by Amina

Today, the spotlight is on Patricia Woolsey, Executive Director of ArtStream and this year’s winner of the Executive’s Award for Arts and Humanities Community Award. Patricia has been instrumental in the establishment of ArtStream’s Inclusive Theatre Companies.  Inclusive Theatre creates performances intentionally developed for actors with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and adults on the Autism Spectrum. The Arts and Humanities Council is absolutely inspired by the work Patricia does to engage all members of our community.

Reserve your ticket today and join us as we honor Patricia, and many others, at the 2013 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities
Monday October 21st at 7pm.

In her own words, she writes about how she became an advocate for inclusiveness, how the arts enrich the lives of people with disabilities, and what winning the Community Award means to her:

Patricia: In the early 1990’s, I was unhappily working in retail and late one night I saw my soon to be mentor Sally Bailey on a local DC TV show.  She was working with a theater company called Pegasus that worked with actors with and without disabilities. Since it was the early 90’s and there was no internet…I could not easily look up the company. All I knew was the name Pegasus and nothing else. About a week later I went to a dinner party at a friend’s house and met a woman who asked what I wanted to do. I said, “work in theater with people with disabilities”, and she said “There’s a group where I work called Pegasus”. And that was it. I interviewed with Sally at BAPA (now Imagination Stage), she hired me and my life changed forever.

Receiving the Community Award is great honor for me and for ArtStream. It means that people are recognizing the very important work that ArtStream is doing in the community.

Awards like this put ArtStream in the middle of the conversation of true inclusion in society for people with disabilities. We are on the cutting edge of a very exciting movement.

We are a unique arts organization in Montgomery County providing a challenging, rewarding acting program for adults with disabilities. In our classes and programs we are learning that acting skills benefit our students in other areas of their lives too, like working and living independently. Actress Laura Linney described what acing has meant in her life. She says “I believe that no matter what you do in life, if you learn the basics through theater, it will help you in everything else – problem solving, communication, discipline, all of that stuff.” I love this quote! It’s so true!

This has been a wonderful year for ArtStream. Our mission all along has been to take our programs out into the community where the need is: into schools and hospitals and communities looking for meaningful theatre programs. We never wanted to be limited to one place.  This year we received grants from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and the Maryland State Arts Council.  We were named one of the best community nonprofits by the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington.  Our plays got good reviews and we had the biggest audiences ever.  We’ve been on radio and television and we’ve expanded classes into Prince George’s County.  To win this award means the community recognizes the need and value of our work. It is gratifying that this work is being recognized by the arts community.

Montgomery County is the best place in the country to run an Arts Non-profit.

Artists, and we are all artists, show us the world as it is or the way it could be. Art invites response and participation. It builds community. There is no such thing as too much art!

The arts and humanities are important everywhere.  It’s how we share our stories, how we begin to understand each other’s differences as assets, how we express what moves us when words are not enough.

On Monday, I’ll be thanking my co-founders Nicolette Stearns, Sally Kinka, Emilia O’Connor and Patty Krauss.  Their vision guides everything we do.  We had a dream and not much else when we started. Eight years later, we’re living that dream every day.

I congratulate all of the other award winners.  I am honored to be in your company and look forward to working together.  Special congratulations to David Minton of Lumina Studio Theatre.  ArtStream and Lumina Studio Theatre share space in the same 105 year-old haunted building and support each other’s work. David and I are collaborating very closely in forming a consortium of theatres in downtown Silver Spring.

Q and A with David Minton, Executive Director of Lumina Studio Theatre

October 17th, 2013 by Amina

We recently had an opportunity to chat with David Minton, theatre guru and this year’s recipient of the Executive’s Award for Outstanding Artist & Scholar.  An accomplished playwright, producer, director, and  actor with over 30 years of experience in theatre, David is the man behind Lumina’s one-of-a-kind approach to community theatre and serves as Executive and Artistic Director.

David Minton as Lord Fellamar in “Tom Jones”(Photo: Linda Parker Photography)

Lumina innovatively re-imagines classic repertory theatre, researching historic plays and literature and adapting, updating, and often re-conceptualizing them for modern audiences.   For instance, their 2012 staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was inspired by the 1920’s cinematic classic “Metropolis”.  Their 2009 production of “The Merchant of Venice” (which David referred to as the “The Merchant of Venice, CA”) took its visual cue from 1950’s Hollywood.

David  has led Lumina since its Founder, Jillian Raye, passed away in 2008; Jillian is Minton’s late wife.  Jillian brought Lumina to Takoma, MD in 1997, envisioning Lumina as an imaginative inter-generational stage for classic theatre, for the enjoyment and participation of the greater community.  Today, that mission is sustained through David’s visionary leadership, artistry, and scholarship.

AHCMC: How did you react upon learning that you won this award?

David: I was delighted! In so many ways this is recognition not for me but for Lumina – and by extension – our visionary founder, Jillian Raye.  I’d like to thank our board, our staff, our volunteers, our actors, but especially Jillian.

AHCMC:  Why are the arts and humanities so important to Montgomery County?

David: The arts and humanities represent the essential character, dreams, and creativity of our County.  They are what make our County special.

AHCMC:  What would you like for people to know about the arts and humanities in Montgomery County?

David: The arts in our community span from the most avant-garde to the revered classics. There is something in our community for everyone.

AHCMC: Would you like to shout-out any of the other award winners?

I would like to give a shout-out to Busy Graham who is truly one of the First Ladies of the Arts in Montgomery County – without her support and encouragement Lumina (and so many other arts organizations) would never have made it this far. And to Patti Woolsey, who founded and operates one of the most important and unique arts organizations in our State.

The Montgomery County Executives Awards for the Arts and Humanities will be held on Monday, October 21st at 7pm.  Reserve your tickets HERE

Guest Blog: Executive’s Award Recipient Maritza Rivera

October 15th, 2013 by Amina

Today’s Guest Blogger Maritza Rivera is a multi-talented poet and a leading force in Montgomery County’s literary community. Maritza is the founder of Mariposa Poetry, a community where poets and writers can promote, share, and receive support for their work.  This army veteran also volunteers at the Memorial Day Writers Project and the Warrior Poetry Project at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, where veterans are taught the fundamentals of poetry writing and performance in a mutually supportive space.

We bet you didn’t know that Maritza is also a trained ballroom dance instructor!  Read on as Maritza writes about receiving the 2013 Montgomery County Executive’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Volunteer Award.

It was Friday the 13th and I had just gotten home from work.  The phone rang and although I would normally let the call go to voicemail, lucky for me, I answered it instead.  The last thing I expected was a call from Catherine Leggett congratulating me on receiving an award for excellence in the arts and humanities.

I was ecstatic and probably expressed several rambling sentences like: OMG, are you kidding me, really?  I felt so honored but proceeded to talk about The Writer’s Center fundraiser with Richard Blanco and seeing Ike Leggett at the Rockville Library and leaving for a writers conference in Sicily the next morning and oh no, I hadn’t packed yet and OMG, thank you so much and what a lucky Friday the 13th, all in one breath.  When I get that excited, I sometimes forget to use my inside voice, so I hope my exuberance didn’t cause any hearing loss.  I’m certain though that my reaction did generate some laughter on the part of Catherine Leggett.

Of course I had to call my mom in Puerto Rico, my kids, and then my brother in the arts, Michael Friend from Soul in Motion, an organization that I support and love.  (I consider myself their biggest fan!) Then it was time to finally get packed for Sicily.

The Volunteer Award is a tremendous honor for service to the community.  I am grateful for this honor and humbled by it.

That I am passionate about poetry is not a secret.  Just ask my children who became my first audience in their formative years.  They survived and have been my inspiration and motivation to give back to the community and share my poetry and passion for the arts everywhere I’ve lived and worked.

I first became involved in the literary community in 1995 at a local independent bookstore in Rockville called Leafthrough Books and Gathering Place, which is now long gone.  In searching for a new literary home, I found and became a member of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.  Over the years I’ve attended readings, workshops, Master Classes, book signings, fundraisers, anniversaries and open houses there, where I first met people who have become friends.  Other organizations that have been supportive and encouraging of my artistic endeavors are Washington Musica Viva and Pyramid Atlantic.  Carl and Marilyn Banner (I love and am a collector of her artwork) and Jose Dominguez and Gretchen Schermerhorn have been helpful in so many ways.

Working in Montgomery County first gave me the opportunity to be creative and share dance as a fitness activity at the Dennis Avenue Health Center.  At lunchtime on Fridays it was time for Dancing with the Staff, where I taught rhythm dances over eight weeks.  I still smile when I think about that.  Not too many people know that I’m a trained Ballroom Dance instructor.

I also loved working at the Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity.  I first became aware of the Center while involved in judging a poetry contest and then later had the opportunity to work there and create a percussion instrument petting zoo during the first World of Montgomery Festival.  I remember the Leggetts stopping in with their grandchildren.  Montgomery County and the Arts and Humanties Council also gave me the opportunity to combine my love of poetry and the arts at the Seeing Food exhibit at the Kramer Gallery earlier this year.  It was such an amazing experience to see my poetry hanging as an art installation in the Brazilian tradition of Literatura de Cordel (clothesline literature) that I had witnessed in Brazil in 2012.

Montgomery County is a tremendously diverse county with over 120 countries represented among its residents and numerous languages. The arts provide a universal language most people will understand.  I believe that the arts can unite and create understanding through beauty.

Although we all work hard to make a living, the arts feed the soul.  At a time when we are all faced with financial challenges, lack of resources and funding for the arts and humanities, it is also a time when these organizations are most needed.  I encourage everyone to get involved, volunteer their time and passion to promote and support the arts and cultural organizations.  I think that’s what it takes to keep the hope for beauty and culture alive for all our children and grandchildren.  It’s the least we can do for them and their future.