The new century should bring more resources than ever to support the arts, and that bounty should flow into Prince George's County artists and arts organizations, arts officials predict.
Late in the new year, the University of Maryland expects to see completion of the $114 million Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, a 318,000-square-foot arts "village" that already has invigorated the arts community.
The construction of the center on 17 acres of the College Park campus should be finished by August, and it should be open to the public sometime next year.
The center will serve as a performance site for the music, theater and dance departments at the university. Officials also expect it to attract regional audiences to performances by internationally and nationally renowned performers at a 300-seat recital hall, 650-seat theater, 1,100-seat concert hall, 200-seat studio theater, 200-seat dance theater and 100-seat experimental theater.
The center's Prince George's County Room and a 23,000-square-foot performing arts library will be dedicated to educational and outreach activities in the community.
The decision during the early 1990s by county and state officials to create the world-class performing arts center came after there already was movement toward expanded support for the arts in the county, coming after a period of economic downturn that limited local support for the arts.
The state has contributed $94 million to the center project, and the county contributed $10 million, in addition to several million dollars raised privately by the University of Maryland.
Although the arts center may be the newest and most massive arts project in Prince George's for some time, the past few years have seen expanded support for the arts community locally, including expanded arts education in the schools to broadened business partnerships and tax proposals to help the arts and artists.
Even before the arts center was conceived, local arts agencies such as the Prince George's Arts Council and the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission have been quietly laying the groundwork for the resurgence in the arts that the county is now enjoying, said Susan Farr, the newly appointed head of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
"There are incredible resources in this county that no one knows about," Farr said. "In some ways, the center is the last partner to come into this."
In addition to the University of Maryland project, arts initiatives that are underway or will be launched in the coming year include:
* Collaboration between the business and arts communities is being institutionalized and fostered through the Prince George's Arts Council's "Arts for Space, Space for Arts" program. The first fruits of those partnerships blossomed late last year when Prince George's developer Herschel Blumberg donated 6,000 square feet for office space, gallery space, a concert venue and dance and visual arts studios in Hyattsville. County and arts leaders say they are working toward duplicating the program county-wide.
* Several new venues have been established or revamped throughout the county for art education programs, among them Bowie Regional Art Vision Association auditorium at Bowie High School, US Airways Arena, National Harbor project and Redskins Stadium.
* The idea of an arts district in Mount Rainier, North Brentwood, Brentwood and Hyattsville is being championed. Local leaders, including County Council Vice Chairman Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood) see the idea as a way to bring economic development to the area. Shapiro organized two arts summits last year to explore the idea of creating the government-designated cluster of arts organizations and facilities in which artists and owners would be eligible for tax breaks.
"There is no doubt that in the next 10 years of this century, there will be an explosion of recognition for arts," Farr predicted. "Prince George's County will become a place where people will want to come and live and practice their art. I think the secret will be out that there is a vibrant arts community and that will attract people."
CAPTION: Albert Maitland is director of the Prince George's Arts Council. The council and other agencies have been laying the groundwork for the county's arts resurgence.