Friday Focus: St. Mary’s Arts Council

The St. Mary’s Arts Council plays a pivotal role in bringing the arts and culture to the smac2013local community. This week, we caught up the Art’s Councils Director of Outreach, Nell Elder, who spoke with us about the Arts Council’s work, some of great partnerships the Arts Council has forged with other community organizations and what you can do to help support the arts!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The St. Mary’s County Arts Council is dedicated to investing in the arts and increasing the awareness of the value of the arts and how the arts can enhance the quality of our community and our individual lives. We provide ladership to arts organizations and artists, encourage new creative endeavors in St. Mary’s County and invest in the cultural treasures specific to our County.

The majority of our funding comes from the Maryland State Arts Council, which we distribute in the form of grants to nonprofit arts organizations. Last year, we awarded over $20,000 of grants to nonprofit organizations in our community. The Arts Council board is dedicated to raising more money, specifically for arts education in the county. We are organizing and hosting a variety of art-related fundraisers throughout the year, and promoting individual and corporate donations.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)? 

A:  We have recently partnered with the St. Mary’s County Library to manage the Lexington Park Library Gallery. The gallery was started by Candy Cummings, a local artist who had the vision to have a Community Gallery in the Library. She made it happen and has continued to run it for the past 10 years. Candy lost her long battle with cancer in November and her wishes were that the Arts Council take over the management of the Gallery.

Last year, we partnered with The House of Dance and hosted the Cha-Cha-Ching Dance Event. This event spoke to the diversity of the arts in St. Mary’s County and to the diversity of the people who are interested in the arts. We raised more money for arts education and we increased awareness of the importance of the arts to quality of life.

Additionally, we recently partnered with Community Bank of the Chesapeake to showcase the work of local artists to the public. The Bank was recently remolded to accommodate a quarterly art exhibit and is now one of the venues where local residents can have access to original visual art.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Increasing public awareness that the arts are of vital importance to any growing, vibrant community is our number one priority. When we have any kind of budget cuts, the arts are the first to go. We need to change our thinking. Art is not just something you hang on the wall, but an essential part to our lives. People are looking for places to live, work, and visit where quality of life and access to the arts are an important thread in the fabric of any county.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  We have a reception for Candy Cummings’ work at the Lexington Park Library Gallery on January 29 from 5-7 p.m. A plaque honoring Candy created by local artists Mary Ida Rolape and Dhyana Mackenzie will be unveiled at the reception, and will hang permanently in the Gallery.

Additionally, On January 31 The Arts Council is sponsoring Guitar Fest at the Three Notch Theater:

21744 South Coral Dr. Lexington Park, MD.

Afternoon 2- 5 PM  Guitar Workshop

Evening 7-11 PM  Guitar Fest

Featuring:  Rob Levit, Hammett Ups, Dave Mileto, Brandon Aksteter, and many more. An Art Exhibit by Color and Light Society of Southern Maryland will also be featured.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Every resident of St. Mary’s County should be a part of the arts council by going to our website: and signing up for our email newsletter

You will receive our monthly newsletter that highlights all of the arts related events in our county. Events include music and art classes for adults and children, exhibitions, music performances, theater events, historic tours, poetry events, wine tasting events and more. There are also volunteer opportunities like helping with our Annual Gala, Artwalk in Leonardtown, Lexington Park Library Gallery just to name a few.

Every resident should donate to the Arts council by going to our website

Why? Because every dollar you give goes directly to local arts organizations, local artists, and opportunities for more arts education for our children.

Every artist should join our Artists Registry by going to our website

Why? Because by doing so, we will connect you to the local arts community and increase your visibility as an artist. We also recommend that you join the MD State Arts Council so that you know of State opportunities in the arts.

Community Bank is proud to partner with the St. Mary’s Arts Council to showcase local artists. Stop into our Charlotte Hall branch and see original works from many talented artists!

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