Life is Good – in Frederick County! LFC Quality of Life Day

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What makes Frederick (city and county) the “place to be”?  It turns out quite a bit, here are my lessons learned during the LFC Quality of Life Day.  

In the Beginning

It all started on a rainy morning at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET), home of many great performers and performances. Our guide for the day, Shuan Butcher, began with an overview of the impact of the arts in our community. Who knew the considerable financial value that exists in the “Creative Economy”? Or that art related activities bring in roughly $10 million a year and support 239 full time employees (FTEs)?

At the MET

Visions of impact stats dancing in our heads, we began our foray into the world of arts and entertainment by joining in an actors warm up with Julie Herber (here we learned the unforgettable “Booty” song that I hope will become our class theme). We got a guided tour of the MET’s offices and facilities, where we learned the important role volunteers play in keeping the performing arts alive. I learned we all have the potential to be great thespians given time and proper coaching…and maybe a few rhythm lessons!

Due to the dismal weather, our walking tour of Carroll Creek and the Community Bridge was cancelled, but that only afforded us more time with Artist and Community Arts Advocate, William Cochran. Few of us knew the project, started in 1993, was initially controversial with many locals against the idea. Eventually, by involving the entire community in the process, the bridge was completed and became the “catalyst for change” Cochran envisioned.

Artistic Locations

To understand art as a business, Dave McGuire took us on a tour of McGuire Fine Art Gallery, and discussed the challenges of running an arts based business. This was followed by fascinating tours of the Weinberg Center for the Arts and the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center. At the Weinberg we discovered the incredible history of the building with Executive Theatre Manager John Healey, and heard about some amazing upcoming professional programs. At the Delaplaine, we had the opportunity to tour not only a live “open study” class, but to get a pottery “throwing” demonstration. Though we didn’t get to “throw”, we were quite enthralled.

Our Backyard

Our lunch location, the Browning Building at Pinecliff Park, was a good example of the many hidden gems maintained by Parks & Recreation. Our panel presenters Alderman Kelly Russell, Clyde Hicks, Mike Dudash, and Jeremy Kortright taught us about our county’s backyard. From the Appalachian Trail to a wildlife refuge at Lilypons Water Gardens, the spectrum of outdoor venues and activities is almost overwhelming. The only thing missing is an aquatic center – something perhaps we future leaders can facilitate.

At the Catoctin Creek Nature Center the best class ever got some hands on experience with a few interesting (and alarming!) critters. Snakes, and spiders, and lizards – OH MY! While Rose the tarantula was a big hit, no one was brave enough to pet her. We also learned the sensory trail opening in the spring, will provide a nature experience for both the visually and developmentally disabled patrons.

Downtown Breakdown

We then headed to the Griffin Art Center in downtown Frederick where panel presenters Walt Bartman, Justin Kiska, Russ Hodge, & Scott Ambush discussed making a living as an artist. It emphasized that the arts and commerce do not need to compete. I was amazed the center was more than just a studio and gallery for a select group of artists, it also offers classes and workshops for children and adults.

We wrapped up with Kara Norman of Downtown Frederick Partnership who spoke about Frederick as an active and vital place for both business and pleasure. With upcoming projects like the expansion of Carroll Creek Park and the development of a downtown hotel, Downtown Frederick is definitely growing. Her message:  “As a current/future leader, it is important to understand the role Downtown Frederick plays in the health of the overall community. Without a successful downtown, the remainder of Frederick will suffer.”

Not So Hidden Treasure

The proposed end of our day, the Scavenger Hunt, was cancelled due to time considerations. But in all truth, the entire day was a treasure hunt full of hidden delights and new adventures we didn’t know we had been missing.

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