The 95-year-old Strathmore Hall entered its current incarnation as a Montgomery County-sponsored arts center in 1983. Before that it had many lives, including a brief stint as nunnery. Situated on 11 acres just off Rockville Pike, the historic brick building was recently renovated to the tune of $3.2 million. Much of that money went to create a suite of four interconnecting museum-quality galleries on the second floor -- with state-of-the-art lighting, security and humidity control. The galleries are able to accommodate high-caliber shows or noteworthy individual collections. According to Millie Shott, Strathmore's curator and visual arts coordinator, there is only one or so "not for purchase" show per year. "Generally speaking, all the art on exhibit here is for sale." On the ground level is a second gallery, a gift shop, a music room where concerts are held and an outdoor sculpture garden. Shott boasts that there is no limit to the type of exhibits displayed, with something for every taste and budget. "We exhibit everything: contemporary and historical, regional and international, all media -- pottery, fiber art, sculpture, photography, painting, calligraphy, fashion." But best of all, because of the new security controls, says Shott, "In the new galleries, we can now exhibit traveling museum shows that at one time would have been a security concern." In addition to frequent art lectures and tours, Strathmore offers teas -- featuring scones, Devonshire cream, jam, sweets and salads -- on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 p.m. "I know that one o'clock is not the traditional hour for high tea," laughs Shott. "But if you've ever been on Rockville Pike at tea time, you'll know why we do it then."
-- Michael O'Sullivan