Arts Center Campaign Deserves Attention

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The Berlin Performing Arts Center Committee is hoping to make a presentation to the County Commissioners in the coming weeks, encouraging the elected officials to provide significant funding to an effort to build a cultural arts complex in the Berlin area.

The committee, comprised of a diverse group of area residents, wants to build a performing arts center at the old Cannery building in Berlin along Route 113. This is one step in a long-range vision of expanding the arts in northern Worcester County. According to committee advisor Peck Miller, a local community building dedicated to the arts is long overdue, citing two studies commissioned to determine if performing arts centers were needed in Worcester County. “Not only was there a need, there was probably a need for three, and we’re probably 10 years behind doing it,” Miller said.

The committee’s plan is ambitious. Ultimately, it wants to add three arts centers to the county’s landscape. The idea is for a small venue to be located in a rehabilitated Cannery building off Route 113, a mid-size structure as part of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center expansion in Ocean City and a large performance center at a site undetermined.

The committee’s goal is laudable and their vision is impressive. We support the initiative because we think there’s an obvious need for culture in our area. A dedicated building for the arts has been needed for a long time. This committee is not the first group of volunteers to recognize that, but it does seem to be mobilized and eager to usher this grand plan for the arts through to the end.

The major question is the timing. If this campaign is to get off the ground, a significant public investment is needed followed by a major private fundraising campaign. Whether local governments will allocate public funds to this project is a big question mark at this time.

It’s no secret money will be tight for all governments this year, due largely to state cuts to local jurisdictions and huge drops in revenue generated by the real estate market. Add to this a previous reluctance by the County Commissioners not to many years ago to spend public funds on a similar effort, albeit less organized and logical, and securing public funds could be a tough task.

All that being said, we believe this is a worthy cause that deserves consideration by all the local governments as well as those philanthropic-minded citizens.

We encourage the county to make a long-term commitment to the project. There’s no chance the county will give $200,000, the amount organizers are said to be requesting, but a three-year commitment could be more realistic. This will allow the committee to take their project to the community and maybe even another funding source.

We applaud the committee for becoming organized and setting its sights on a worthwhile goal. The project may not be realized immediately, but it’s worth the fight and will undoubtedly improve and diverse this community.

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