There isn’t much that speaks more to a person’s individuality than the art they create, yet that art, which once only existed in a singular imagination, can open doors to a bigger world, bring people together, and strengthen bonds within a diverse society.
The Queen Anne’s County Arts Council, headquartered at the Queen Anne’s County Centre for the Arts on Commerce Street in Centreville, has been dedicated to “promoting, sustaining, and expanding” art in the community since 1977 and they’re not slowing down any time soon. In fact, there’s a move toward the future regarding both what the Centre for the Arts can be in concept and function, as well as plans for physical expansion.
Executive Director Rick Strittmater, a Maryland native and a resident of Centreville, was hired by the Arts Council’s Board of Directors in September 2016. With an art degree, a passion for music, and a background in business, teaching, and designing large scale projects like trade shows and wildlife exhibits at the Baltimore Zoo, Rick’s extensive resume combined with the working relationship he’d already established with the organization after serving on the board for two years made him the perfect candidate for the job.
Inclusivity has always been among the director’s top priorities. Significant strides have been made to widen the public’s understanding of what art can be while encouraging artists in all their unique perspectives and multitude of mediums to share their work. With the help of office and gallery manager Allison Moffatt, a small support staff, and a board that provides guidance, every year the Centre for the Arts’ offerings grows more varied.
Over the past few months alone, programming at the Centre has included a number of outside-the-box efforts. One of this summer’s exhibits consisted entirely of pictures taken with Polaroid cameras. Participating photographers were provided a classic-style instant camera for three days along with a package of self-developing film with eight exposures. Captured in real time without any editing, the resulting display was an eye-opening “visual walk through the community.”
Tattoo & Bike was a monthlong exhibit spotlighting the history of skin art and the art of the custom motorcycle and featured a live tattoo demonstration by the staff from Centreville’s own Ink or Dye Studio on the day the show opened.
To mark this year’s Veterans Day, the Centre hosted A Cup of Joe with Joe – an evening of storytelling by a panel of local veterans. The house was full, the presentation was educational and entertaining, and by all accounts the event was a resounding success.
Of course, the Arts Council still mounts the tried and true programming that the public expects and looks forward to. This year’s annual Heck with the Malls shopping event will be held on Saturday, December 2 and will feature many one-of-a-kind custom handmade crafts – jewelry, textiles, woodworking, ceramics, toys, furniture, holiday decorations, personal care and household items – created by small business artisans.
On Saturday December 9, as part of their Coffeehouse 206 Concert Series, the Centre for the Arts will host the accomplished classical pianist, Stefan Scaggiari. A composer and recording artist who also lives in Centreville, Stefan has performed as a soloist with symphonies around the country and on international concert stages, and as an alumnus of the U.S. Marine Band has performed at the White House over 200 times. In September 2023 he was appointed music director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Centreville.
Moving into 2024, one of the Centre for the Arts’ first exhibits will be the always highly anticipated Small Works show now in its thirteenth year. Entrants in the competition will submit donated works no larger than 11”x11”x11” in any medium and patrons will be able to purchase chances to win the submitted art.
Along with 2024’s Coffeehouse 206 concerts, the Arts Council, with support from partners like the Maryland State Arts Council, Queen Anne’s County Parks and Recreation, and county business venues, will be continuing their popular Thursdays in the Park series of summertime concert series. They will continue to work with groups such as the Board of Education, the Kennard African American Cultural Heritage Center, and the Maryland START services for citizens with developmental disabilities to promote and celebrate the arts in the community. And as always, the council will host workshops and classes for both adults and children in a variety of disciplines.
The Queen Anne’s County Arts Council is also in the earliest phase of expanding the physical dynamics of the Centre for the Arts with The Annex, a to-be-constructed gallery and classroom space that will provide room for more programming, exhibits, and learning opportunities. If all goes as planned the Annex should be completed by the council’s 50th anniversary year in 2027.
Rick Strittmater says the proposed expansion will advance the council’s mission to “honor the vision of serving our whole community, of creating a Centre for the Arts where everyone feels welcome and where we attract not only the traditional demographics but where we also appeal to people who might not normally even walk through the doors of an organization dedicated to the celebration of art.”
One of the many mysterious powers of art is how it can’t help but be unique, specific, and personal to the artist, but sharing it can help us all understand how much more people might have in common than our surface differences might imply. Because of its potential to touch us emotionally, art can inspire empathy to the experiences of others and deepen our understanding of the world.
Art is integral to a healthy community.
And it’s too important not to share.
The Queen Anne’s County Arts Council is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization. Financial donations are tax deductible. Volunteers – who can help in so many ways, from being an event greeter to helping with programming to membership outreach – are always appreciated. The Queen Anne’s County Centre for the Arts is located at 206 Commerce Street and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit queenannescountyarts.com/ or contact the staff at 410-758-2520 or [email protected].
Brent Lewis is a native Chesapeake Bay Eastern Shoreman. He has published two nonfiction books about the region, “Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake” and a “History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.” His most recent book, “Stardust By The Bushel: Hollywood On The Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore”won a 2023 Independent Publishers award. His first novel, Bloody Point 1976, won an Honorable Mention Award at the 2015 Hollywood Book Festival. He and his wife Peggy live in Centreville, Maryland.