Archive for the ‘News and Events’ Category

Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County Celebrates 40 Years!

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

On Friday, April 21 the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery (AHCMC) celebrated 40 years of service to communities across Montgomery County with a board reception and unveiling of our new five-year strategic plan. This was an incredible milestone and pivotal moment for the organization.

In 1976 a small group of individuals with a passion for the arts formed what was then called the Arts Council of Montgomery County. The new nonprofit had three objectives: (1) to establish an art center; (2) to provide grants to artists, and (3) to provide space for artists to work, exhibit, and perform. Over the past 40-years, these goals were realized and the scope of our work, programs, and activities grew and evolved, resulting in a new strategic plan and mission statement: The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, in partnership with the community, cultivates and supports excellence in the arts and humanities, expands access to cultural expression, and contributes to economic vitality in the region.

The new nonprofit had three objectives: (1) to establish an art center; (2) to provide grants to artists, and (3) to provide space for artists to work, exhibit, and perform.

To celebrate our new strategic plan and mission statement, AHCMC held a reception at the home of our board chair, Eric Siegel. The reception was an evening of reflection on our 40 year history in Montgomery County and celebration of our service to the arts and humanities. The guest list included current and past board members, donors, Montgomery County council members, and AHCMC staff. This past January, our board approved the new strategic plan, which includes four primary goals: optimize grant making; invest in the organizational capacity of AHCMC; strengthen the capacity of the arts and humanities in Montgomery County; and augment the social, economic, and cultural development of the county.  Click here to read the entire strategic plan.

In addition to our new strategic plan, we turned a fresh eye to the county’s public art program with the release of The Public Art Roadmap, which is included in the strategic plan. The county’s public art program launched in 1978 and it was time for us to develop a new roadmap for public art. The Public Art Roadmap is a collection of key information on the county’s public art program and sets forth recommendations that will elevate the visibility and impact of the Montgomery County Public Art Trust and its programs. Click here to read the entire Public Art Roadmap.

The strategic plan and Public Art Roadmap reflect our dedication to making arts programs and cultural events accessible to all residents in Montgomery County, and we are fully committed to providing sustenance, opportunity, and growth to the arts and humanities sector of the county.

The reception was a magical event – a time for attendees to celebrate the past and plan for the future. A future that includes continued support for sustainable arts, creative place-making initiatives to increase vibrancy, and a grant funding portfolio that builds capacity in Montgomery County. We are encouraged and excited to embark on the next 40 years as the designated arts agency for the county

See below for photos from the strategic plan!

2015 Emerging Leader Award Winner Jason Loewith

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

At this year’s County Executive’s Awards ceremony, Mr. Ike Leggett will present the 2015 Emerging Leader Award to Jason Loweith, Artistic Director of the Olney Theatre Center. A brilliant producer, director, playwright and dramaturg, Jason has directed the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of Steven Dietz’s Rancho Mirage, Avenue Q as well as the musicals Carousel and the Helen Hayes nominated How to Succeed in Business.  Below, Jason discusses his remarkable career and shares his vision for future of regional theater.

Reserve your ticket today and join us on October 26 at 7pm as we honor Jason and many others, at the 2015 Montgomery County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts in Humanities

Jason Loewith on joining Olney Theatre Center:

I’ve always been a storyteller – from the kid in the family who spins a shaggy-dog story to a young professional with inspiration, pen and paper.  Somewhere along the line I learned I could gather groups of likeminded souls to tell stories for whole communities of people:  one hundred, five hundred, even a thousand at a time.  And if I could do it with enough artfulness and emotional depth, I could share a glimmer of transcendence with those communities.

Producing, for me, is about getting the right creative minds in a room to tell a story, and then sharing it with the audience. So when Olney Theatre Center announced it was looking for a new Artistic Director, I was really intrigued.  I’d run a suburban theater company previously just outside Chicago, and was known in my little world as a bit of a turnaround expert when it came to institutions.  And Olney Theatre Center was in great need of a turnaround.  It was a perfect match of skills and interests and needs.

“Olney Theatre Center has the potential and the energy and the support base to become a mid-Atlantic destination for extraordinary theater performance and education.   We’re the second-largest job creator in Olney, and we’re a theater.”

One day soon, when theater-lovers from around the country plan a visit to the DC region, they’ll go online to check what’s playing at our theater.  And that doesn’t make us unique – each production is, of course, unique – but it makes us an essential part of the national theater fabric.  And on a local level, we become a true cultural center for our neighbors in Montgomery County – a place their children go for classes, their parents go for lectures, their friends go for dance concerts or films, and of course, they all come for theater.  We have the resources in Montgomery County to make it happen, and we have the audience here to make it happen.

Proudest Moments:

Watching audience members burst into tears, night after night, during the finale of A CHORUS LINE, the first show I produced at the theater.  Being thanked by our Master Electrician for bringing the amazing Helen Hayes award-winning play COLOSSAL to the company.  Getting told by artists that they want to work at Olney again, after a long time away, because of the changes we’re making.  But honestly the proudest moment I think was the first Thursday I signed payroll checks… nearly forty full-time staff members, sixteen apprentices, ten National Players, and dozens of part-timers and artists and craftspeople were relying on us for their livelihood, and thanks to our commitment were eking out a living in the arts in this country in the 21st century.

Celebrating National Arts & Humanities Month with Round Up for the Visual Arts!

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

October is National Arts and Humanities Month and we’re celebrating with an exciting initiative called Round Up for the Visual Arts! All month, when you shop at any of PLAZA Artist Materials store locations in Bethesda, Rockville, or Silver Spring you can donate the change from your purchase (or more) to AHCMC!  One hundred percent of the proceeds from this campaign will go to support our grants to individual artists. Last year, Round Up for the Visual Arts! helped Silver Spring-based printmaker Miriam Mörsel Nathan expand an incredible project visually documenting her family before World War II.  Below, Miriam discusses her work and shares how the funding has made a difference.

Miriam Mörsel Nathan:

“My parents came from the Czech Republic. My father was in the Dominican Republic during the war years, my mother joined him after the war and I was born there. My parents spoke Czech and German at home, we ate fried plantains as well as goulash and dumplings. I am a blend of cultures and histories and I tend to think my work has that sensibility– of being a combination, a juxtaposition of many elements that ultimately (and hopefully) become connected and integrated.

We all have a need to make sense of the fragments of our history.  I do this work because I feel it is an imperative to reclaim individuals lost to war and to provide an acknowledgement of lives lived. I have continued to expand a particular body of work for a number of years, the source material being pre-WW II photographs of family members. By transforming the photographs into works on paper and offering narrative, I bring these individuals forward, say their names, give them voice.

Uncle Josef's Wedding Prague 1941 © 2009 Miriam Mörsel Nathan

My process in creating this series has been predominantly through print making. In order to realize this next step of the project, I plan to work with Lily Press in Rockville. AHCMC and Plaza makes this possible through Round Up for the Visual Arts which will subvent studio and master printer fees as well as the cost of materials.

“It is extremely challenging to actualize a vision, to bring forward a project, without financial support. The award provides funding for me to continue to create a visual document of family members and their lives in Europe before and after World War II.”

Marton and Fredy © 2009 Miriam Mörsel Nathan

My vision for this next segment of work is to create a series of prints based on images of my first cousin, Hana, who was a child during the war. Although she did survive the war, for me she has become the bridge for life both before, during and after the war. The images I have of her include those as a child as well as a young woman. Working with her image expands the family archive and brings it closer to present day.

All images ©miriam mörsel nathan

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.

FY15 Budget Moves MoCo Culture Forward

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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)

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

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

$1,111,000for the FY15 CIP Grants
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!


AHCMC Welcomes Kelsey Hutchison

Monday, March 10th, 2014

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

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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.


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.