All creative communities need infrastructure improvements and new venues that look to the future, and yesterday, UMBC gave the local arts community another boost by opening its new Performing Arts & Humanities Building. To its credit, the school also went beyond the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony/in-house booster-ism by engaging the arts community in a far-reaching discussion about the impact of such a space. In his comments during the outdoor ceremony, Governor Martin O’Malley alluded to that potential by noting that these types of projects “proclaim to our neighbors in our state, in our nation, and in our world that, in fact, our best days are in front of us.”
After O’Malley, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski, Willard Hackerman, and other dignitaries cut the ribbon that officially completed Phase 1 of the construction (classrooms, studios, computer labs, offices, and two theaters), they donned hard hats, grabbed shovels, and broke ground on Phase 2 (concert hall, recording studio, lecture halls, and more classrooms). Then, everyone adjourned to the spiffy Proscenium Theatre.
After O’Malley performed with a student trio—referring to himself as “the artist formerly known as the mayor” and playing a lively version of Luka Bloom’s “Tribe”—Tom Hall moderated a discussion about “new space,” or more specifically: “How do new spaces inspire us to think, create, and engage in expected and unexpected ways?”
He posed some form of that question to more than a dozen local arts leaders, including BMA director Doreen Bolger, MICA president Fred Lazarus, MICA curator-in-residence George Ciscle, Everyman founder Vincent Lancisi, Arena Players director David Mitchell, Kalima Young of the Baltimore Art & Justice Project, Muse 360 founder Sharayna Christmas-Rose, Jewish Museum executive director Marvin Pinkert, Kevin Griffin Marino of Full Circle Storytelling, and UMBC faculty members Jessica Berman, Tim Nohe, Wendy Salkind, and Nicole King.
The 90-minute program produced its share of insight and inspiration—Hrabowski’s vigorous head nods and occasional grunts of approval were proof of that. But Lazarus cut right to the chase, saying that such projects “enable people” to produce innovative work: “Things you never imagined happening will happen,” he said, with a smile suggesting he had firsthand knowledge of exactly that.
At the end, Pinkert noted that the new theater already had a history of its own, having hosted the governor and the wide variety of speakers. “There will be a lot of heart in this space,” he predicted, and it was hard to argue with him.
Back outside, pianist Lafayette Gilchrist called out a tune to his band (which included saxophonist John Dierker), food trucks circled, and a great day at UMBC continued.
[photos: John Lewis]