Archive for May, 2019

Adapting to Montgomery County’s Blossoming Arts and Cultural Community

Friday, May 31st, 2019

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

Friday, May 31st, 2019

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.