Oakland Becomes Maryland's 25th Arts & Entertainment District

Last Updated on Jul 20, 2017 at 9:12am | Arts & Culture

Article courtesy of NCWC Media - The Republican.  Photo credit to Mary Sincell-McEwen.
 
 
The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) has announced that the Maryland Secretary of Commerce has approved the designation of the state’s 25th Arts & Entertainment (A&E) District in Oakland.
 
Effective July 1, the designation now makes available a set of tax credits and incentives meant to encourage economic development through the arts.
 
These benefits include: Property tax credits for development that supports spaces for arts enterprises and artist housing; income tax credits for artists who work and sell within any of Maryland’s A&E districts; and exemptions from the admissions and amusement tax for businesses located within district boundaries.
 
Previously designated districts throughout the state — such as Frederick, Berlin and Station North in Baltimore City — have leveraged the designation with great success, a spokesperson said, generating arts-centered revitalization and places for artists to live and work, with each district retaining characteristics that make them unique.
 
“Oakland’s A&E District will look to the town’s past as a mecca for visual and performing artists as inspiration,” said Karen Reckner, executive director of the Garrett County Arts Council and a facilitator of the application process. “The arrival of the B&O Railroad in 1851 brought an influx of visitors, and with them came the growth of cultural activities available for both the resort guests and residents alike. The Oakland Renaissance A&E District will build on renewed interest in the town by artists and arts-related businesses to revitalize its downtown and attract tourism, seeking to make the town a thriving hub of arts activity once again.”
 
The project was an extensive process and carried out by a committee of volunteers. Reckner was asked by the Greater Oakland Business Association in the early fall of 2016 to spearhead the completion of the application. Assisting on the committee were Bob Boal, Garrett County Historical Society; Bob Carney and Paul Durham, Garrett County Board of Realtors; Elizabeth Gilbert and Mikey Virts, Our Town Theatre; Michelle Ross, Oakland business coordinator; Frank Shap, Greater Oakland Business Association; and Laura Stutzman, Eloqui art studio.
 
The Maryland State Arts Council’s Arts & Entertainment Districts Program was established in 2001 to encourage community engagement, tourism, and revitalization through tax-related incentives that attract artists and spur economic and community development through arts-related businesses and activities. In fiscal year 2014, Maryland’s 22 A&E districts supported an estimated 6,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs (more than $198 million in wages) and over $571 million in total state GDP.
 
The Oakland Renaissance Arts & Entertainment advisory board will begin the planning process to achieve the goals outlined in the application, Reckner said. Specific questions may be directed to Garrett County Arts Council at 301-334-6580 or by email at garrettarts@earthlink.net.
 
MSAC is a part of the Department of Commerce, and it encourages and invests in the advancement of the arts for all Marylanders. To carry out its mission, MSAC awards grants to not-for-profit, tax-exempt organizations for ongoing arts programming and projects. The MSAC also awards grants to individual artists, and provides technical and advisory assistance to individuals and groups.