While federal budget cuts threaten arts programs nationwide, the Rockville City Council has given its support to expanding the city's cultural arts offerings by bringing professional touring groups to the city.
Under the plan, the city-owned auditorium and historic mansion would be renamed the Civic Center Park of the Arts in hopes of transforming it into a regionally recognized art center. The "park" occupies several acres outside the downtown area.
Under the direction of June Allen, founder of the successful Street 70 performing company, the city has negotiated with six professional groups to perform in the Rockville beginning this fall. One of them is the Joffrey II Ballet, which features President Reagan's son Ron.
According to Allen, the city has received 50 percent matching funds from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Consortium to cover the cost of the project. The council has set aside $37,567 as "insurance" in case the city is unable to meet its goal of selling 1,015 subscriptions to the performances.
Enthusiastic about the plan, Allen told the council she is confident the series will sell out, "due to its high quality and reasonable cost." Tickets for six performances will be $44.50 -- less than any other theater subscription in the metropolitan area, Allen said.
Allen told the council plans for the arts park include a children's theater and candlelight dinners served in the historic mansion before performances.
At the council's Monday night meeting, Allen said the arts park will "put Rockville on the map in a big way." Referring to the Joffrey dance company and young Reagan's planned appearance, Allen said, "Who knows, maybe the (first) family will drop over to see him."
She said the city auditorium will remain home to local performing groups.
Other groups scheduled to appear in the proposed series are the Baltimore Symphony, the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Folger Consort, the McCarter Theater Company and the Annapolis Brass Quintet.