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Finally, a place to call their own


Artists in Carroll County sometimes make concessions for their craft.

With performance and gallery space at a premium, groups have been known to dance in church halls, perform Shakespeare in cafeterias and show sculpture in basements.

When the Carroll Theater in Westminster becomes the new headquarters of Carroll County Arts Council, area artists will finally have a home of their own. Features the former 500-seat movie theater may include will be discussed tonight at a meeting the council is holding for artists and performers.

"What we think it needs isn't necessarily what's going to be right for people who will use it," said Sandy Oxx, executive director of Carroll County Arts Council. "We want to hear what the arts community thinks."

Once renovated by Baltimore architecture firm Beck, Powell & Parsons, the art deco theater will house classrooms, galleries, a 200-seat theater and office space for the arts group.

Westminster dancer Janette Sullivan said she hopes the theater will include a floor made out of something "kinder and gentler" than cement where the dance troupe she is developing can perform.

As for the size of the performance space, "the bigger the better," said Sullivan, 39. "Some of my ideas about performing are big ideas."

Todd Shaffer, a Westminster painter and animator who teaches drawing and painting classes for the arts council, said he hopes the building will include a spacious classroom where he can teach 30 students without worrying that they are unable to see or hear what he is doing. The classroom he now uses is so long and narrow and he must switch to the opposite side of the room midclass so that all his students can keep up. "It's a real chore," he said.

Audrey Cimino, a Westminster lawyer and actress who regularly performs in theater productions in Carroll and Baltimore, offered suggested a place with ample storage for props, sets and costumes, dressing rooms with showers and a "green room" for performers that includes a kitchen.

Other topics Oxx said she hopes performers and artists will discuss include the theater's lighting and sound systems and other equipment needs.

Westminster bought the 70- year-old theater for $310,00 from the Church of the Open Door in June.

The arts council, which has 1,000 members, will be the building's main tenant.

Renovating the Carroll Theater will cost about $660,000, according to Karen K. Blandford, manager of housing and community development in Westminster.

The arts council is expecting to hear in the next two months whether it received a $248,000 grant from the Maryland Neighborhood Business Development Program, which it applied for in June, she said.

The group also is expected to raise money to help pay for the renovations. Blandford said the theater's completion date is dependent upon raising funds.

Although paying for the renovation is certainly an issue, budgets aren't the point of tonight's meeting, Oxx said.

"We want people to know we welcome their feedback," she said.

After the meeting, the arts council's executive board will meet with architect Peter Powell and representatives from the city to review the suggestions from artists and discuss how to incorporate them into the renovations.

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