Another idea that has surfaced is building a performing arts venue on the grounds of Maryland Hall, between the former high school and Bates Middle School. Longtime Annapolis architect Charles Lamb has developed plans showing how a new structure connected to the existing buildings could help create a "campus for the arts."

Besides these projects are many other facilities and proposed facilities within a 90-minute drive of Annapolis, from a large new hall proposed for Washington to a theater complex that Hugh Hardy is designing for Harford County.

Advocates of the Maryland Hall renovation plan say the group's ability to raise $15 million for improvements has been hampered somewhat by concerns about whether another major project will come along nearby.

Bowen said she supports the study as a way to help public officials and others make informed decisions about how to invest in the arts, given limited funds and competing regional venues.

"I think the question is sustainability," she said. "Can this community afford a brand new performance hall, and would it be patronized? We can want it. But can the community afford it and support it, and where is the money coming from? That's the issue. It has to be sustainable."

Tovey said she believes there is a need for both a renovated Maryland Hall and a new theater. She said a new hall can have a larger stage and more seating because the designer doesn't have the constraints of working with a historic building, as Maryland Hall has been designated.

"I feel very strongly that we're the state capital and we should have a very good performing arts space," Tovey said. "We're growing. We all need to work together. One completes the other, truthfully. I know we can support it. I know we need it."

Russell Stevenson, an attorney and member of the symphony's board, said he hopes the study will point the way to development of a broad-based "community for the arts" in the area.

"The history of performing arts centers in this country is dotted with white elephants that turned out not to be financially supported, and we don't want that," he said. This study "will help us figure out what kind of long term plans we want to make. ... We need a shared vision that the entire community can support so we don't end up with competing visions."

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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