Artistically Speaking: Garrett County Arts Council - Serving the Community Since 1976

Last Updated on May 31, 2017 at 1:50pm | Arts & Culture

"Artistically Speaking" is a regular feature of The Lake-Front magazine, in cooperation with the Garrett County Arts Council, and is being reprinted here in its entirety with permission. This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.
The arts are such a natural part of our lives, we don’t always consider what is involved in incorporating so much enrichment into our world.
In the late-seventies Garrett County Arts Council was a fledgling organization with leadership that recognized the role arts play in the quality of our lives as well as the economic impact on the community. Now 40 years later, the Arts Council continues its mission to place emphasis on the variety of opportunities our artists and organizations bring to the area.
GCAC was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the state of Maryland in 1976. Senator George Edwards, then a county commissioner and Charlie Ross, a local attorney, signed the original articles of incorporation to create an organization to “instill in the citizens of Garrett County the appreciation of the variety of expressions that culture may assume.”
In some respects, GCAC operates as a grandchild of the National Endowment for the Arts, which promoted the establishment of state arts councils throughout the nation. The Maryland State Arts Council, one of these, facilitated the establishment of local arts councils in each county as well as in the city of Baltimore. In fact, the Maryland State Arts Council, operating as an agency of Maryland’s Department of Commerce, continues to provide each county arts council substantial annual funding to support community arts development.
Locally, a grant funding program benefits county nonprofit organizations, including Spruce Forest Artisan Village, Garrett Lakes Arts Festival (GLAF), Our Town Theatre and others. GCAC grant funds also assist county towns in bringing artistic programs to community events such as the annual Grantsville Days and the Little Yough Summer Music Festival in Oakland.
In addition to the Community Arts Development Grant program, GCAC sponsors various other programs throughout the year. The annual literary magazine Ginseng showcases the poetry and prose of local authors. This free publication is distributed at local libraries and at the Council’s gallery in downtown Oakland.
The most visible program of the Arts Council is The Gallery Shop. Opened on Alder Street in Oakland in 2000, this gallery is a year-round venue for visual artists. To date, more than 375 local and regional artists have displayed and sold their varied work at The Gallery Shop. A new larger location was opened in November, 2016 on Second Street and also houses the administrative office of the Council.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Artists Studio Tour. Artists from all corners of the county will discuss and demonstrate their craft, answering questions regarding their artistic process and the business of making art, as well as having their hand-crafted artwork for sale. 2017 dates are July 22 and 23.
For many years, the Garrett County Arts Council has funded arts enrichment activities in the public schools and helped fund the annual Student Arts Fair. Other collaborations over the years have included Art in the Park at Deep Creek Lake State Park, Chautauqua with the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival and the Maryland Humanities Council at Garrett College, Mountain Maryland Plein Air annual painting event with the Allegany Arts Council, and Blooming Art with the Mountain Laurel Garden Club. 
The Council maintains an endowment fund to support community arts development. And advocacy at the local, state, and federal level is always a priority to ensure the arts remain funded and viable. The Council’s executive director and several board members are active in state organizations including Maryland State Arts Council and Maryland Citizens for the Arts.
GCAC operates under the direction of a board of directors comprised of both artists and leaders representing the business community. Currently three staff members oversee the daily operations. Karen Reckner has served as Executive Director since 2009. She is assisted by Gallery Manager Cory Stieringer and Gallery Associate Rebecca Diller.
The Arts Council’s web and social media sites provide additional information about its programs and projects, provide a calendar to promote regional art-oriented events, and share other arts-related information with its members and the community at large. The Council’s website is
Membership in the council is available for a nominal annual fee. As former president Helen Earles often said, “The beauty and serenity of our area enhances all art – in education, recreation, and economics. Studies have shown that the arts improve communities. It is an easy decision to support the arts through the work of the Garrett County Arts Council.”
An annual membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 27th, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. All members and those interested in supporting the arts community are encouraged to attend. For additional information, contact Garrett County Arts Council at (301) 334-6580.