Archive for October, 2014

2014 Emerging Leader Award Winner Paula Ross

Friday, October 17th, 2014

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

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

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.