Archive for the ‘Do & Go’ Category

Public Art in Montgomery County: What’s Next?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Todd Bressi, Public Art and Place/Urban Planning expert  is working with the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County to develop the “Public Art Road Map”.  Read below for his thoughts on how this tool will help integrate public art into future development and urban planning strategies:

Chances are, you’ve seen one of the hundreds of public artworks in Montgomery County during your daily travels — perhaps at a school, a library or a park; perhaps in an urban space in Bethesda, Rockville or Silver Spring. Chances are there is a public artwork somewhere that has become a treasured part of your day because it brings a smile to your face, triggers a memory or simply lets you know where you are.

Montgomery County residents can enjoy hundreds of sculptures, murals, glassworks and other public art — commissioned over the years by the County, the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville, and private developers — that are now woven into the fabric of the community.

Now, for the first time, the County is developing a “roadmap” for what kinds of artworks should be commissioned next, and it is asking for input from people who live or work in the County. As the County continues to grow in population, cultural diversity and economic vitality, public are will be an increasingly important part of the mix.

The Roadmap, a project of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and the Public Art Trust, is asking an essential question: What new public art projects would be of the most benefit to people in Montgomery County today?

Looking around the world, there are exciting new models for public art that have emerged in recent years. Some examples of these can already be seen in Montgomery County, and the Roadmap will consider whether there are opportunities for creating more:

  • Placemaking projects, such as the Silver Creek fountain in Silver Spring, Darnestown Heritage Park or the Public Safety Memorial at the police headquarters building, create environments for social gathering, celebration, reflection and other activities.
  • Artist-designed pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, such as pedestrian bridges, bike racks and transit shelters, enhance ordinary infrastructure.
  • Social projects focus on community issues and identity. Just recently, AHCMC organized an Outdoor Living Room with artist Matthew Mazzotta to stimulate thinking about creative placemaking in the Wheaton Arts and Culture District
  • Environmental artists are developing projects that connect people with stormwater, weather, flora and fauna in new and engaging ways.
  • Temporary artworks are activating urban spaces for short periods of time.

The Roadmap will also examine areas of the County that could benefit most from new public art projects.

  • Are there areas where there are fewer public art projects, relative to population? Wheaton, East County and “second-ring” residential neighborhoods just outside the Beltway might deserve a closer look.
  • Can public art ideas and projects be seeded during comprehensive land-use planning process, and implemented as capital projects and private development occur?
  • Are there collaborations that can help support the mission and priorities of other County agencies and cultural initiatives, such M-NCPPC’s focus on small urban parks, or the County’s three Arts and Entertainment Districts?

We hope you will lend your voice to the conversation. How can public art impact the future of Montgomery County? What types of projects would be most beneficial? Take the Montgomery County Public Art Survey to give us your direct feedback.

Raising $15K for Arts & Humanities

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Maybe you’ve heard this one: “Say it’s only a micro-gift, a tax-deductible micro-gift…”

Yep, that zippy little jingle for performed by Vaudeville’s Late Bloomers, Diz & Izzy Aster, is just the tip of a sizeable iceberg floating in the Arctic Sea of fundraising. It’s the microdonation. The $5 or $25 gift that can’t even keep a nonprofit in hand soap for a year. How important can that be?

Well, as a matter of a fact, QUITE important!

Factoid: In 2012, micro donations outpaced their macro counterparts. According to PayPal data, the average donation size globally decreased by $0.71 last year, while the number of global donations to nonprofits increased by 20 percent!

So what do Diz & Izzy have to do with it?

Those late bloomers are singing about the thousands of dollars is raising for cool projects right here in Montgomery County. Projects like: a new floor for the Dance Exchange, the After School Dance Fund’s “Dress to Impress” program, and Symphony of the Potomac’s music programs for schools. Programs that are going to impact the quality of life for people living in Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Rockville, Glen Echo and all over the county.

The Asters, created by Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandel of Happenstance Theater, put on quite a show at the launch for on June 12 at Round House Theater.  Special guests included Montgomery County’s most passionate cultural supporters, Ike and Catherine Leggett, and representatives of power2give sponsors: Monument Bank, Ballard Spahr and Bethesda Magazine.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

“We thank the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County for all the contributions that enrich our community,” said  Senior Vice President, Patrick Van Der Ham of Monument Bank, “and are pleased to offer our support.”  Monument Bank is a lead sponsor for power2give and their gift has been matched to 13 of the 21 projects on the website.

So, nine days out where are we?  Just a smidgen under $15,000. Pretty impressive for a bunch of little microdonations, huh? The average gift in Montgomery County is $52. As Catherine Leggett said in her remarks at the opening, “You don’t have to be a millionaire to be a patron of the arts and humanities. That’s what makes so special.”
In fact, you can donate amounts as small as $5 to power2give. As Ryan Rilette said, “every little bit helps.”  For funders who want to make a bigger philanthropic statement, you can become a matching sponsor at varying levels from $1,000 to $10,000.  For matching sponsors gifts under $1,000 make your donation to the Collective Impact Fund for the Arts & Humanities. That’s what the Eric and Sue-Ann Siegel Family Foundation did and through the Impact Fund they’ve helped Create Arts Center and Friends of Library move closer their goals.

So, let’s recap: microdonations, matching sponsors, big impact, Montgomery County. That sounds like a hit!

AHCMC Launches With Special Guests County Executive and Mrs. Leggett

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

County Executive Isiah and Mrs. Leggett where the special guests of the Arts and Humanities Council ofPhoto Credit Montgomery at the official launch of (one of the hottest new charitable giving sites for arts and culture in the country) in Montgomery County, June 12, 2013, at Round House Theatre in Bethesda. Since its inception in 2011, has raised over $3.076M in support for the creative community, and received over 13,245 total donations.

Jump-starting the momentum in Montgomery County, the Leggetts gave $200 to Round House Theatre’s “Act Now” project, sponsoring scholarships for children and youth from around the county to attend RHT summer camp.  It was an incredible moment.

AHCMC’s power2give corporate matching sponsors were also there in full force showing their support. Patrick Van Der Ham, Senior Vice President of Monument Bank, Steve Hull, Publisher of Bethesda Magazine, and Erica Leatham, an attorney for Ballard Spahr and the chair of the AHCMC board all donated matching funds to that provide an additional 50 cents towards each creative project for every dollar raised on Their generous support made the Leggett’s first $200 gift instantly transform into $300 for Round House Theatre, demonstrating the full power in

Photo Credit“People often feel that if they can’t make a really big donation, they shouldn’t donate at all,” said Ryan Rilette, Producing Artistic Director at Round House Theatre. Power2give capitalizes on the surge in mircrodonations that has swept the philanthropic community.  power2give let’s donors know “that any little bit you can give will actually make a very clear difference in people’s lives,” Rilette commented. makes it possible for anyone to be a philanthropist and everyone to make a difference.

Since went live in Montgomery County, it has raised over $10,000 in support for creative projects in the nonprofit arts and humanities community. “This is bigger than we imagined,” said an enthusiastic Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the AHCMC. Jenkins was the inspiration behind introducing power2give to Montgomery County. “I’m an early adopter of technology and when I saw a demonstration of at a conference two years ago, it was love at first sight. We were excited to receive a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to bring to Montgomery County. We’re the first jurisdiction in the Washington region to participate in the power2give network.”

Only one day after the launch, is making a huge impact in our community.

Photos courtesy of BethesdaNow.

Budget Buster! FY14 Arts and Humanities Budget Approved

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

On May 23, Montgomery County Council approved a $4.8 Billion total operating budget for FY 2014.  The overall County budget, which reflects a 4.1 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2013, “…Continues an investment in our economic and social infrastructure,” said Council President Nancy Navarro. Navarro also noted that, “…Budgets are a reflection of our values.”

Well, my friends, if that is the case, then I’m happy I live in Montgomery County, a place that values the arts and humanities, because the County Council approved a FY14 $4,921,700 budget for arts and humanities,  a 40.55% increase over the FY13 budget for the arts and humanities!

Here’s how it breaks down:

$3,921,700 for the Arts and Humanities Council specifically:

  • $2,511,563 for Operating Support Grants for Large Organizations
  • $491,807 for Small and Midsize Organization Grants and Grants to Individual Artists
  • $240,000 for Advancement Grants
  • $200,000 for the Arts and Humanities Matching Fund
  • $129,000 for the Public Arts Trust
  • $349,330 for AHCMC Administration

Additionally, we are thrilled that the County Council appropriated $1 million a year for five years for facility construction or improvement grants for new construction, expansion of a project, renovation of an existing structure or physical plant repairs critical to an organization’s arts or humanities mission.  We know this grant category will go a long way to help us attend to those repairs and renovations that had to be put off for far too long over the last four years of the economic downturn.

To read more about the approved budget click here. The budget will take effect July 1, 2013.

On behalf of the Board and staff of AHCMC, Thanks! to each and every one of you for the work you did to help pass this budget. Thank you for contacting your constituents, board members and council members to ask for their support. And Thanks! for attending the Potluck, the April 10 Hearing, and the follow-up working sessions. I’m proud of our collective work this year and I hope you are too. We look forward to working with you in the coming year and wish you a productive and prosperous FY14!


Good News for FY14 Budget

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

It takes a village… to advocate for increased public funding for cultural activities and I’m pleased to say that Montgomery County has an active village of arts and humanities advocates. This year, Montgomery County Arts Advocates (MCAA)  has been especially helpful in highlighting the needs and strengths of the County’s arts and humanities community. In collaboration with MCAA, the County Executive’s office, County Council and AHCMC’s board and staff have crafted a strong FY14 budget for the Arts and Humanities NDA.

So, let me be the first to congratulate Montgomery County’s arts and humanities advocates for their tireless devotion, for sending emails, attending meetings, bring yet another tasty meal to the County Council Potluck in early April, and most of all for demonstrating culture’s vital role to Council members. Congratulations on a job well done!

Our collaboration bore fruit on Monday April 29, when the the Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee of the County Council met. At this meeting the HHS Committee demonstrated its on-going commitment to keeping arts and humanities alive and vibrant in Montgomery County by recommending increased funding for FY14.

Chaired by Councilmember George Leventhal, the HHS Committee also includes Council President Nancy Navarro and Councilman Craig Rice, recommended:

• An $120,000 increase to Arts and Humanities NDA allocated as follows:
$2,511,163 Large Organization Grants
$240,000 Advancement Grants
$391,807 Small, Midsize Organization Grants
$349,330 Arts and Humanities Council
Total FY14 Arts and Humanities NDA – $3,492,700

• To support the County Executive’s recommendation of $1 million per year for five years for the Cost Sharing CIP to assist arts and humanities organizations with facility construction or improvements, new construction, expansion of a project, renovation of an existing structure or physical plant repairs critical to an organization’s arts or humanities mission

• That $200,000, recommended in the Department of Economic Development budget, be managed and distributed by AHCMC to match Executive Ball proceeds. Additionally, if funds remain in this pool after Ball proceeds have been matched, AHCMC can go back to the HHS Committee to discuss using other tools, like power2give, to exhaust the $200,000 pool of matching funds

• That two pools of funds in increments of $100,000 be put on the Council’s Reconciliation List and appropriated to the Arts and Humanities NDA should funds be available at the end of the budget session

• That $129,000 in funding for the Public Arts Trust for maintenance and conservation of the County’s public art collection remain as recommended in the FY13 CIP

I’m pleased to share this news with you and welcome your comments and thoughts as always. You can contact me at

Seeing Food an Exhibition

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Seeing Food featuring the work of 15 Montgomery County artists recently opened at the Kramer Gallery.  Over 100 people attended the reception, including a surprise visit by County Executive Ike Leggett. This exhibition of 40 works reminds visitors of Montgomery County’s agricultural roots and explores the ways in which artists have both viewed and manipulated food in paint, fiber, photographs, glass, video, and poetry.   For a “taste,” watch this slide show and leave us your comments below!

Seeing Food is on view through in the Betty Mae Kramer Gallery through May 24th.

FY14 Budget Boosts Arts & Humanities

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Budget Increases Across the Board

On Friday, March 15, County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his proposed FY14 Budget to a packed house at the Executive Office Building. Mr. Leggett noted that, after several years of stormy economic challenges, shared sacrifices and cost cutting within Montgomery County government, the FY14 Budget represents a transition toward better times.

“It’s a better day,” Mr. Leggett told the crowd, “but not the day we hoped for.” Overall, the county budget is proposed to increase by 4.1% with increases proposed for education, fire/police, the arts and humanities, and certain critical services. For more details on the entire budget click here.

Funding for the Arts and Humanities Council is proposed to increase by $120,000 (almost 3.6%), bringing our total proposed budget for FY14 to $3,492,700. While this is not the 14% we asked for, it is greatly appreciated—especially, as our colleagues from social service agencies received flat funding.

Additionally, the County Executive also proposes a $5 Million/5 Year CIP for arts and humanities capital improvement projects and $200,000 for the Montgomery County Cultural Funds for the Arts and Humanities to leverage private sector funding for arts and humanities organizations throughout Montgomery County. The Public Arts Trust received a proposed appropriation of $129,000 for ongoing maintenance and conservation of the County’s extensive collection of public art.

In the aggregate, funding for arts and humanities for FY 14 is very positive. When you combine the $200,000 from Economic Development; $129,000 for Public Art; $120,000 for AHCMC’s grants and administration and $1M for capital improvement projects.

At the Town Hall Meeting on Friday and in the Advocacy Committee conference call, community members were pleased with the increases but suggested that now might be a good time to ask County Council for more general operating and program support funding.

Consequently, our strategy going forward is as follows:

  • We have asked for details from the various Montgomery County Government Departments regarding the budget items included in the proposed FY14 budget
  • We will host an Advocacy meeting with Chuck Short, Special Assistant to the County Executive, on Friday April 12 at 1:30pm at the EOB to hear the CE’s intention with regard to the overall budget and his thoughts regarding budget advocacy (see details below)
  • Once we receive the details from the various Montgomery County Government Departments and hear from Chuck Short, we can collaboratively craft a message and platform to take to County Council

I am also pleased to share with you these other important Advocacy dates:

  • Join us on April 2, 2013 10AM – 11:30AM at Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring for Advocacy 201-Taking Your Advocacy Efforts to the Next Level, a workshop led by John Schratwieser, Executive Director of Maryland Citizen’s for the Arts (click here to learn more)
  • Save the date for the Annual County Council Potluck at 5:30 -6:30PM Wednesday, April 10, followed by AHCMC testimony at public hearing (click here to learn more)

We look forward to working together in the weeks and months ahead. If you are interested in joining the Advocacy Committee, please contact  Want to make sure you’re receiving the latest advocacy news?  sign up here for our Advocacy Alerts and check out the Montgomery County Advocacy Toolkit here.

Curator’s Blog, Community Reflections, Joseph Craig English

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Joseph Craig English began as a commercial artist, working as a designer and then ultimately as an art director for a D.C. advertising agency. His fascination with the silk-screen process led him to produce his own fine art prints full-time. In our conversation, he explained how he wants his art to be both affordable and accessible to a broad public, preferring realism over abstraction because of the personal narratives that recognizable images can trigger.

Craig prides himself on always selling what he produces, but he pursues the subjects that interest him. Color often dictates what he chooses to portray. Always a camera on hand, he takes constant photographs, often recording places or views that are on the edge of neighborhoods or about to change. Although he regards his photographs as tools and a step along the way, it would be interesting to thumb through images he has amassed since the 1970s of the D.C. area.

To learn more about Joseph Craig English and his creative process, click here:

Musings on Art and Life with Cynthia Farrell Johnson

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

In curating “Community Reflections,” I had the pleasure of spending time with Cynthia Farrell Johnson, one of the featured artists. We had a rambling conversation that touched on the role of the artist in society, the connections between Cynthia’s travels as a U.S. diplomat and her art, the things that inspire her, and her plans for the future.

We often gain a perspective on our own culture when traveling abroad, and Cynthia observed that in many of the places she lived in Central America and Africa artists were much more influential and involved in the public policy debates of the countries.

“It was interesting,” Cynthia mused, “to learn how revered writers, and poets, and painters and musicians were in other cultures and in other countries, whereas here in the United States it is seen purely as entertainment….The role that the public intellectual plays here seems to me to be a bit different than the role they play in Latin America or Africa.”

“Why, do you think that is the case?” I asked.

We agreed that history is partly responsible, as Neil Harris argued in his 1966 seminal volume, “The Artist in American Society.” Deeply rooted cultural values are hard to transform. The country’s founders viewed art as a luxury and artists as marginal, so it is not surprising, that even today, Cynthia perceived marked differences in the role of the artist in society here and abroad.

To learn more about Cynthia Farrell Johnson and her work, click on this icon:

Visiting the Farm with Woody

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

As part of the research for Fragility, curators Michele Cohen and Crystal Polis visited Woody Woodroof on his farm, Red Wiggler Community Farm (a recognized 501c3 non-profit), located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Founded by Woodroof in 1996, Red Wiggler provides gainful employment for adults with developmental disabilities and supports organic farming.

The farm has also inspired much of the camera-less photography that Woodroof has been exploring in his banner-like cyanotypes. On the day we visited, the sun was shining and we enjoyed munching on crisp yellow tomatoes as we strolled among the rows of sorghum and other plants. 

We also had an opportunity to talk to Woody about his creative process.  Click on the audio icon below for excerpts from this interview.