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.

AHCMC Welcomes Brittney Dubose

February 6th, 2019 by Brittney

Hailing all the way from the great state of Texas Brittney Dubose, a marketing professional with a love for the performing arts, joined our staff as the Marketing and Communications Manager. We sat down with her to learn about her upbringing in the arts, her interest in working for AHCMC, and more.

AHCMC: So, tell us about yourself.

Brittney: I was born in Washington D.C. but raised in Dallas, and I am thrilled to be back in the DMV! I have a Master of Public Administration, with a focus in Nonprofit Management, from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Science in Film, Television, and Digital Media from Texas Christian University. Prior to joining AHCMC, I served as the Special Projects Coordinator with the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). In this role, I worked to rebuild and expand OCA’s brand, create sustainable digital marketing strategies, and increase the visibility of the Dallas arts community. Independently of OCA, I freelance as a digital marketing contractor with artists and arts organizations – producing engaging video content, designing marketing collateral and developing social media marketing campaigns.

AHCMC: What led you to the arts field?

Brittney: I have been involved in the arts my entire life. I began dancing at the age of four and acting around the age of eight. Growing up, my parents owned a fine arts studio and so my childhood was filled with classes, rehearsals, and performances. I loved every bit of it! I believe I was fortunate to have been exposed to many different art forms, cultures, ideas, values, etc. from a young age. After college, I began my career in arts administration as a teaching artist and a programs specialist. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed seeing how the arts positively impacted the lives of my students, and I wanted the opportunity to share these stories with anyone and everyone. Thus, my career focus shifted from programmatic to communications.

AHCMC: Do you still perform?

Brittney: Yes, but more acting than dancing. I am very passionate about storytelling and am excited about what opportunities may come my way in the DMV.

AHCMC: What interested you to come work for AHCMC?

Brittney: Providing artists with resources that support and empower them to achieve their vision is very important to me as a marketer and an artist. AHCMC provides these kinds of innovative services, and this is my opportunity to work with an organization dedicated to implementing creative strategies that ensure the arts remain a vital part of their community.

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Marketing & Communications Manager?

Brittney: Two things: one, I’m looking forward to cultivating relationships with artists and organizations in Montgomery County. Two, advancing the mission of AHCMC by highlighting and sharing the amazing work of our arts and humanities sector.

AHCMC Welcomes Ana-Alicia Feng

February 6th, 2019 by Brittney

Meet our new Grants Program Coordinator Ana-Alicia Feng, a marketing and fine arts professional from Montgomery County. We sat down with her to learn about her interests in the arts, what she is most looking forward to doing in her role, and more!

AHCMC: So tell us about yourself. 

Ana-Alicia: I am a local! Born and raised in Rockville, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in painting, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, and a minor in art history from the University of Maryland, College Park. I was raised in a multiethnic household among dedicated patrons of the arts. I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to many languages and cultures, and have been participating in activities of Montgomery County’s various arts and humanities organizations for as long as I can remember. Having recently developed a passion for evaluation, I am thrilled to interact with the field of my home community in a professional setting and see how I can contribute to AHCMC’s grants process.

AHCMC: What led you to the arts field?

Ana-Alicia: I have had a passion for creating art since a very young age; I took private lessons in fine arts, piano, and chorale music, making these a priority in my education and afterschool activities. Coming into university with the intention of becoming a freelance artist, I found myself pulled towards the administrative side of art. I enjoy organizing and improving the administrative tasks so that programs and services may flow effortlessly in order to increase public interaction with the arts and humanities. Having added a marketing degree, I am able to assist the art that I so cherish flourish by working behind the scenes and beyond the tip of my paintbrush. Of course, I will never let go of the initial compulsion to create art that drove me to this field to begin with and continue my artistic practices whenever I can!

AHCMC: Tell us a fun fact!

Ana-Alicia: I help teach kids Chinese yo-yo, also known as diabolo! I learned it as an extracurricular activity at my Chinese school and now go back as a volunteer to teach.

AHCMC: What interested you to come work for AHCMC?

Ana-Alicia: I have had several wonderful internships at institutions such as the National Gallery of Art and The Phillips Collection, however drawing from those experiences, I am delighted to now serve the local community that I grew up in. AHCMC lives by their mission to cultivate and support excellence in the arts and humanities, expand access to cultural expression, and contribute to economic vitality in the region. I am honored to be a part of such an organization. At the time of my hire, AHCMC was looking to undergo a change and I wanted to participate in that transition to keep the organization moving forward with its mission.

AHCMC: What are you most looking forward to as the Grants Program Coordinator?

Ana-Alicia: I am looking forward to interacting with our creative community, updating FluidReview, and working with the grants team to streamline processes, both for the benefit of the field and AHCMC. I mentioned that I’m newly interested in evaluation, so I’m eager to listen to responses and incorporate feedback as best I can.