It may or may not be more blessed to give than to receive, but at an outdoor art show this weekend the Laurel Art Guild and the Laurel Shopping Center Merchants' Association will do what they consider the best of both.
The Saturday show in the mall area of the Laurel Shopping Center, Route 1, Laurel, marks the sixth year of partnership between the two groups. For the merchants, the show involves both financial and logistical support. Their association provides the space, pegboards for display and prizes in 10 categories - five for adults and five for children - plus fees for the show judges. The association also gives the event free publicity in its monthly circular that is mailed to 87,000 homes in the greater Laurel area.
The show, which is held bi-annually, means a lot of work for the Laurel Art Guild. The guild handles all the arrangements for the show, including registration, hanging, judging and publicity among the art community and its supporters.
What is given is obvious. What is received is less apparent, particularly when both merchants and artists agree that sales on the day of the show are not a significant factor.
"Saleswise, we never do very well on the day of the show," said Carol Bierwagen, President of the Laurel Art Guild. "A lot of the sales come after - after the exposure." People frequently take down the name and telephone number of an artist whose work interets them and after thinking for days - or even weeks - call about a painting, explained Bierwagen.
"Things like that (the art show) bring people to the center, and anything that brings people to the center can't be wrong," said Joe Shreiber, who with his father-in-law owns Bernard's, a men's store on the mall. "I don't think we get business on the same day, but our windows are our best advertising, so people come back anyway."
In addition to the more immediate economic benefits derived from the art show both groups speak of the importance of community involvement.
"The Merchants Association has to look at the show as a two-way street," said Dick Bromley, owner and operator of Suburban Sports and Hobbies, a leisure activities shop in the shopping center. "Most of the people displaying are our customers. They're in our community, our service organizations. It's a situation where everybody helps each other."
For the guild, the show is a useful part of its program to develop children's art. Both the prizes and the minimal requirements for entry - children, unlike adult participants, can bring their works unframed and unmatted - encourage young artists to enter the show, said Bierwagen.
Community involvement has been a part of the Guild from its beginnings 11 years ago, continued Bierwagen. It was the practical need for a place to show that sent Guild members out into the community, she said. They went to medical offices, small businesses, banks, the library and the shopping center looking for free exhibition space.
"Everything we do is geared with community interests in mind," said Bierwagen. "We give a lot back to the community."
Every year the guild gives a prize for excellence in art to a senior at Laurel High School and Palloti High school, a private school in the area. Guild members volunteer as judges in local art shows. In early May, for example, the guild took on the formidable task of judging all the art work done during the school year by students at Oakland Elementary School.
Last year, members helped with the restoration of an old carousel purchased by the county for Watkins regional Park in Largo by painting eight new scenic panels. Recently, the guild gave some paintins to the new Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital.
For more than four years the Laurel Art Guild has been the driving force in an effort to create a Montpelier Barn Arts Center on the grounds of the historic Montpelier mansion in Laurel. County funds were allocated for restoration of the original barn, but fire destroyed the structure in 1976. Undaunted, the Laurel Art Guild is now appealing to the county to allocate the additional funds that a new structure will require.
When Bierwagen set off in April to testify at a Prince George's County budget hearing, she exhorted members to join her with an appeal that read like the Laurel Art Guild's unwritten charter: "Don't rest your laurels or whatever you call it," wrote Bierwagen. "Get involved."