Carroll County Arts Council Executive Director Judy Morley said art can lift up and inspire people — and potentially alleviate stress brought on by a pandemic.
The coronavirus crisis forced the Carroll Arts Center to close in March and a majority of its spring and summer events were either canceled or moved to a virtual format, but the theater underwent major renovations in June to prepare for when guests could safely return for live events.
The Arts Council recently announced that the theater will reopen in October for live entertainment, starting with a performance from Urban Artistry, a dance troupe based in Silver Spring, on Oct. 17, according to an Arts Council news release.
“I’m looking forward to having music in the building again,” Morley said. "I mean, it’s just a different place when there’s live music here. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to have our Festival of Wreaths at Christmastime because that’s such a beloved community event … "
“I’m looking forward to seeing old friends who used to come to everything that I haven’t seen now for six months.”
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Sept. 1 that Maryland would move into Stage 3 of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” with additional reopening of businesses Sept. 4. This stage includes a flexible, community-based approach that gives individual jurisdictions control over the timing of these re-openings.
Under this third and final stage, indoor theaters could open to the general public at 50% capacity or 100 people per auditorium, outdoor venues could open at 50% capacity or 250 people, and retail and religious facilities could increase capacity from 50% to 75%.
Morley said the theater would look more like 35% capacity with social distancing guidelines. Part of the theater renovation project included a new stage floor, designed to diversify the theater’s programming and provide a friendlier platform for dance.
Morley said the Arts Council had already planned its entire 2020-21 season prior to shutting down in March and were forced to cancel events as each month arrived. Nevertheless, the staff continued to find ways to stay connected to the community.
“A huge percent of our budget is on earned income,” Morley said. “We aren’t funded really that much by grants or donations. We sell tickets and sponsorships and things like that to events for income, so we canceled one-third of our year’s programming for months … We took a pretty heavy financial hit, so we’ve had to pivot a little bit and look at fundraising in new ways.”
The Arts Council hosted a fiber art electronic exhibit prior to returning to in-person visual art exhibits over the summer. The PEEPShow, one of the best-attended annual tourist events in Carroll County and the Arts Council’s largest fundraiser, was also moved to a virtual format.
Morley said the Arts Council has increased its health and safety measures and will continue to practice these protocols going forward.
“Everybody who comes into the building will need to be masked,” Morley said. “We have hand-sanitizing stations all over the building and we will be taking temperatures of the staff and volunteers on a regular basis. We will keep the performers fairly segregated because we don’t know where they have been before, so they will be confined to the green room and stage.”
The Arts Council has never used ushers in the past, Morley said, but they will implement ushers during the reopening in order to ensure groups don’t sit closer than 6 feet apart.
Urban Artistry will be performing a new original piece called “Love in a Time of Pandemic: Meaningful Movement for Uncertain Times,” according to the release. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for ages 25 and under and 60 and up.
The Leister Quartet with Jay Fenner returns for the Third Wednesday Jazz Series Oct. 21. Fenner joins the Leister Quartet as they perform a sophisticated menu of Swing, Jazz, and Blues standards mixed with original compositions, according to the release. All tickets are $10.
Sagamore Band, a classic rock cover group, will close out the month Oct. 24 and provide guests with a variety of classic rock hits from artists such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, CSN&Y, Jackson Browne, Chicago, and more, according to the release. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for ages 25 and under and 60 and up.
“We’re doing our best to try to have people come in, enjoy the experience, and stay safe,” Morley said. “Like I said, I think it’s going to be exciting to have music in the building again.”