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Brush up at theater gets artistic sendoff


Groundbreakings can be deadly predictable. Dignitaries in hardhats make lofty speeches, then try to look dignified as they tromp through the mud and wield golden shovels.

Yesterday's celebration to mark the start of work on the Carroll Arts Center in downtown Westminster had a decidedly different flair.

Politicians and representatives from the city, county and state attended, but after their speeches at Harry's Main Street Grille, they paraded a half-block down West Main Street behind a brass band to the site of the new center, the former Carroll Theater. Instead of hardhats and shovels, they wore black artist berets and carried oversized paintbrushes.

"We know ribbon cuttings can be very boring and we're trying to make this not so boring," said Sandy Oxx, executive director of Carroll County Arts Council, which will be the primary tenant of the city-owned center.

About 70 guests, including state Sen. Larry E. Haines and Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, Carroll Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge and Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff were on hand to celebrate the $1 million renovation to the art deco theater, paid for with state, county and private funds.

"It's really amazing that a community can come together for this," Gouge said. "It just really shows us that we all want to have the finer things in life."

The new center will include a 250-seat theater, a large community art gallery and two classrooms. Westminster bought the former movie theater from Church of the Open Door in June 2000 using $310,000 in program open space funds allocated by Carroll County commissioners.

More than half the cost for the renovation, expected to take nine months, has been funded by Westminster and the arts council's recent fund-raising campaign. The project also has received $100,000 in Neighborhood Business Development Program funds and $200,000 in state bond money.

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