Written by Sandy Oxx

“I’ll never eat chocolate again.” “This is my last puff on a cigarette.” “I’ll commit to at least four trips to the gym every week.” “I’ll only read non-fiction books.”

Been there? Done that? Why not break the cycle of impossible New Year’s resolutions and commit to something that’s fun, enlightening, educational and easy to maintain? Resolve to include the arts as part of your activities in 2005 — and beyond.

A resolution like that is easy to accomplish in Carroll County where you can find a wealth of cultural opportunities throughout the year.

A great place to start your cultural planning would be the newly renovated Carroll Arts Center at 91 West Main Street in downtown Westminster. This art deco former movie theatre was totally refurbished and opened to the public in April, 2003. The $1.6 million facility now houses a 263-seat state-of the art theater, art classrooms and the Tevis Gallery. The facility is owned by the City of Westminster and managed by the Carroll County Arts Council.

The Westminster Ringers, an acclaimed ensemble of English Handbells take the stage of the Carroll Arts Center in “By the Fireside” on December 18 & 19. Their 6 octaves of bells range from huge brass instruments to tiny almost toy-like miniatures for a full almost orchestral sound. It is fascinating to watch the quick movements required of these musicians who must play many different bells in each piece. The sound is heavenly and the perfect pause during the hectic holiday season.

The Center shows classic, independent and foreign films on the big screen every fourth Friday at 2 and 7 pm. January’s installment is the hilarious “Some Like it Hot,” on the 28th. In addition to family matinees on many of the public school holidays, their second annual Foreign Film Festival will include the award-winning films “Osama” on 2/4 “Italian for Beginners,” on 2/11 “Children of Heaven” on 2/18 and “Croupier” to close the series on 2/25. These films will all be shown at 2 and 7 pm.

Live concerts at the Center are frequent and modestly priced and acoustics in the state-of-the-art hall have been described as “nearly perfect” by audiophiles. Blues legend Guy Davis will grace the Center’s stage on January 8, followed by Carroll County Talent Competition winners “The Big Stir” on January 15 and local teen band “As Promised” on January 22. A highlight of the 2005 concert season will be an appearance by award-winning folk artist Christine Lavin in March.

The Westminster Ballet Theatre is presenting its second annual “Nutcracker” at McDaniel College Alumni Hall on December 19 – 21. The timeless classic set to Tchaikovsky’s music and complete with sugarplum fairies and dancing mice will put anyone in the holiday spirit.

Film buffs will be pleased to learn that Carroll Community College’s Campus Activities Board offers a great selection of free films on Thursday evenings in the Scott Center for the Performing Arts. Their magnificent facility on Washington Road also offers student productions and shows presented by other community groups who rent the 400-seat theatre. Their schedule of cultural events is available on their website, www.carrollcc.edu.

Carroll isn’t the only college where one can find thought-provoking cultural opportunities, McDaniel College hosts a wealth of live performances featuring students as well as touring musicians of the highest caliber. Although the campus is pretty much shut down during the holidays, it is normally abuzz with arts activities, ranging from theatre, to chamber music to informal jazz concerts in the student lobby.

Casually known as “the hill,” McDaniel College is home to Chamber Music on the Hill (CMOTH), Common Ground on the Hill (CGOTH) and Theatre on the Hill (TOTH), three of our county’s most active arts presenters. CMOTH presents the finest in small chamber music ensembles, from string quartets to piano duos, their classical offerings are elegant yet accessible. They perform on campus as well as throughout the community and their first concert for the 2005 Season is “A Elephant, a Wolf and 2 Pianos” on Sunday February 6 at The Scott Center at Carroll Community College. It will feature The Mistral Winds, Kreider/Horneff Piano Duo and The Patty Neivert School of Dance.

Although it is best known for its two-week “Traditions” program and the annual American Music & Arts Festival each July, CGOTH is quite active throughout the year. From “Common Ground in Scotland” to its monthly concert series at the Carroll Arts Center, the organization is internationally respected for using the arts to build a bridge between different cultures. Their 2005 offerings include legendary bluesman Guy Davis (January 8), Robin & Linda Williams and their fine group from Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion (February 5), and Latin American Band Rumisanko (March 5) and Scottish Ensemble (April 5). Their comprehensive website www.commongroundonthehill has details about all of their activities.

The McDaniel campus is also home to the County’s only professional theater company, Theatre on the Hill (TOTH). Auditions throughout the northeast help this resident company attract up-and-coming talent for its summer series, a wide ranging subscription season that includes musicals, drama and comedy. Their fine children’s productions are helping to build audiences for the future. The Box Office can be reached at 410/857-2448.

Your resolution can easily include the visual arts as well. Intriguing displays of regional art can be found at the Carroll Arts Center, McDaniel’s Rice Gallery, the Scott Gallery at Carroll Community College and at Ain’t that a Frame in downtown Westminster. In fact, these four galleries will all be participating in the National Ceramic Educators Conference Tour in late February, with each group playing host to a selection of the finest ceramic works from around the country. Gallery hoppers will be treated to distinctive displays that demonstrate the incredible range of styles and forms that can be created from the same artistic medium. Each gallery will be opening their part of the NCECA show at different times, but all will be celebrating in an open house on Saturday, March 19 from 12 – 4 pm. Patrons are encouraged to visit all four sites to meet the artists.

“Quilted Memories: Multi-generational Story Telling” will grace the walls of The Tevis Gallery in January beginning on the 17 and closing on February 18. The display will include local quilters as well as those who have been recognized throughout the world for taking this traditional art form to a new level. Gallery hours are Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri and Saturday from 10 am – 8 pm, and on Thursdays from 10 am – 4 pm. The exhibit will also be part of a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The January 27 event will include free screenings of the Disney film,“Selma, Lord, Selma.” The film, which portrays the civil rights movement from a youth perspective, will be shown at 10:30 am and 1 pm. Art workshops and a meet-the-quilters reception are also scheduled. For more information about the event, contact the Carroll Arts Center at 410/848-7272.

For thespians and drama lovers, community theater abounds. September Song Community Theatre just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, and its annual musical productions attract thousands. The group specializes in classic “Broadway-style” shows such as “Guys & Dolls,” “Music Man,” “Oklahoma,” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” All proceeds go to Change, Inc., a not-for-profit organization serving the mentally disabled in our community.

The Carroll Players have a long-standing tradition of producing quality theater and rehearsals are already underway for their presentation of “Steel Magnolias” in March 11,12 & 13 at the Carroll Arts Center. Their hot-line number is 410/876-2220. The recently formed Little Community Theatre is exploring comedy, drama as well as youth productions and have gathered quite a following in their short history They are part of the Community Foundation of Carroll County and can be reached at 410/876-5505.

So go aheadÉeat that chocolate bar, go to the gym, but keep your resolution to enjoy the arts in Carroll County!

—– Sandy Oxx has been the Executive Director of the
Carroll County Arts Council since 1997. She lives
on the shores of Lake Linganore in Frederick County.
Her New Year’s resolution is to work even harder to
share her passion for the arts with the community! For
more information about may of these cultural events
and arts organizations, visit www.carr.org/arts.