Any Prince George's County resident or visitor may see posters or T-shirts bearing the image of a curly haired man with an artist's paintbrush in his mouth.
It's Prince George of Denmark, for whom the county -- then still part of England's colonial holdings in the New World -- was named on April 23, 1696. (In 1683 the Danish prince married the heir presumptive to the throne of England who as Queen Anne later ruled from 1702 to 1714).
The likeness of Prince George has been selected as the trademark for the month-long "Celebration of the Arts," an event which runs from tomorrow through May 31 and is designed to trigger awareness and support of music, art and drama in the county.
The idea for the festival came from County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, according to Kate Hedberg, one of the festival's coordinators. She said the festival is based on Charleston, S.C.'s annual "Spoleto U.S.A." festival of the arts, which is patterned on the music and drama Festival of Two Worlds held each year since 1958 in Spoleto, Italy.
Sponsored by the county department of progarm planning and economic developement and by the Prince George's travel promotion council, the first edition of the "Celebration of the Arts" was made possible with the help of county officials, businesses, corporations, schools, colleges, public and private institutions and art groups.
Prince George's has a long way to go in time and money in terms of bringing in outside arts groups and organizations, as Charleston has done, but the festival should demonstrate that there are abundant arts activities for all of the county's 665,100 residents.
Nearly 100 groups will perform during the month as part of the celebration. For the record, the county has 45 music organizations or groups including two opera companies, four orchestras, four bands, 10 instrumental ensembles and numerous choral, madrigal and folk music groups; 28 theater groups including a theater for the deaf, teen theater and mime theater; three classic ballet and two modern dance companies, plus folk and ethnic dance groups as well as 13 fine and visual arts groups, three cultural arts centers, four museums, more than 30 historical groups and nine historic mansions open to the public.
In fact, the arts have been flourishing in Prince George's for almost three centuries. For example, a painting -- now hanging in St. Barnabas Church in Leeland -- may have been the first commissioned for a public building in what later became the United States. The painting is "The Last Supper" by Gustavus Hesselius, one of the founders of the so-called American School of painting in the early 1700s.
One of the first great exhibits of European paintings in the United States was held in 1816 at Riversdale, the Calvert family mansion in Prince George's. The paintings were part of a collection owned by Baron Henri Joseph Stier, who fled from Belgium to the United States during the Napoleonic wars.
The first ballad opera sung with orchestration in the United States -- "The Beggar's Opera," by john Gay -- was performed in Upper Marlboro in 1752, less than two years after its American premiere in New Ork City, according to prominent music historian and longtime county resident Charles Jahant.
anumber of accomplished performing and literary artists have lived all or part of their lives in the county. Writers Janes M. Cain and Katherine Anne Porter spent their retirement years here, and two novels -- John Barth's "The Sot-Weed Factor" (1960) and Michael Menshaw's "Man in Motion" (1970) -- were set here. Jim Henson, crator of the Muppets, grew up in the county and attended the University of Maryland. Singer Kate Smith once lived in Riverdale.