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County OKs $5.5 Million FY15 Budget for Arts and Humanities

The $5.5 million appropriation, the largest since FY 07, includes increases in grant money for cultural nonprofits and a new fund to activate the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District.

The Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District will be activated thanks to money in next year's county budget. File|Patch
The Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District will be activated thanks to money in next year's county budget. File|Patch

From a news release:

Montgomery County’s arts and humanities community received a boost on May 22 with the approval of over $5.5 million for the fiscal year 2015 budget that begins July 1.

The Montgomery County Council approved a 17 percent increase over the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County’s FY14’s budget, a surge signaling the County’s strengthened investment in its creative and cultural sector and a rebounding local economy.

Funding will be used to provide grants to cultural nonprofit institutions, individual artists and scholars, and support programming within the county’s designated Arts & Entertainment Districts.

“We are pleased that Montgomery County legislators share our belief that the arts and humanities are a smart investment for Montgomery County with a huge return on investment. Investing in our sector stimulates our economy, supports local jobs and contributes significantly to the vibrancy and livability of our neighborhoods,” says Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC). “We are grateful to County Executive Ike Leggett for his budget proposal, and to County Council members for their unanimous approval.”

Of these funds, a total of $5,033,370 will be allocated to arts and humanities organizations through multiple grant categories designed to support Montgomery County’s nonprofit cultural and creative sector. Local arts and humanities nonprofits and practitioners are eligible to apply for funding to support general operating expenses, technology improvements, capital improvements, arts education programs, and the presentation of high quality cultural and artistic programs.

Cultural institutions funded by these grants in the prior fiscal year include Adventure Theatre, BlackRock Center for the Arts, Strathmore Hall, Glen Echo Park, and the American Dance Institute. A full list of FY 14 grantees are available on AHCMC’s website.

The FY 15 budget additionally approved a $90,000 grant fund to support arts and humanities based programming within the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District.

“We have seen many inspiring examples of how the arts and the creative industries have sparked the resurgence of communities in our County and around the beltway,” says Erica Leatham, AHCMC Board Chair and attorney specializing in development and land-use issues. “It is our hope that this allocation for Wheaton will bring attention to Wheaton’s cultural assets, and encourage development and investment within the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment and Central Business District.”

Other initiatives funded by AHCMC’s FY 15 budget include the Public Art Trust, which received an appropriation of $140,000 to continue its work in maintaining, conserving and commissioning much of the public art in community spaces across the county.

The Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, a 38-year-old independent nonprofit that is the county’s designated local arts agency, has managed the re-granting of county funds in support of arts and culture since 2002.

Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council, sees this budget as a reflection of the growing importance of the creative and cultural sector in driving economic development and attraction to the region.

“According to research supported by Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and humanities sector pumps $204 million into Montgomery County's local economy, supports 3,843 local jobs and supplies $81,700,000 in local salaries every year,” says Jenkins.

George Leventhal, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee that oversees the AHCMC’s budget and Vice President of the County Council, sees the arts and humanities as playing a greater role in achieving economic growth in Montgomery County.

“We must do more to attract support from philanthropists, foundations, and businesses, both large and small,” he said at AHCMC’s April 2nd “State of the Arts & Humanities” public forum. “Our business community must understand the benefits to them from having a lively arts presence.” 

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