Wednesday, September 21, 2011 by Kristi Tousignant, Staff Writer
The Montgomery County Council approved an application Tuesday to renew an arts and entertainment district designation for Silver Spring, which has become a mecca for music and cultural events in the past decade.
Silver Spring was first given the title 10 years ago. The designation provides tax breaks for businesses, theaters and arts nonprofits in Silver Spring. It must be renewed every decade.
“We want to continue building the vibrant place that all these trailblazers started,” said Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center. “That’s what the arts and entertainment designation will do.”
This summer, for example, downtown hosted about 20 festivals, as well as the weekly Fenton Street Market.
The Fillmore music hall, which opened Thursday, joins other performance venues such as Round House Theatre, Bonifant Theatre Space and Lumina Studio Theatre. Other arts venues include The AFI Silver Theatre Cultural Center and the Regal Majestic 20 for movies and Pyramid Atlantic Art Center for visual arts.
Veterans Plaza, the open space in front of the Silver Spring Civic Building, also hosts a weekly program of concerts and game nights.
Mike Diegel, member of the Arts and Entertainment Advisory Committee in Silver Spring, said the designation is an economic development tool that will bring more money to the arts community, local businesses, the county and the state.
“From my perspective, we need to continue to focus and keep in mind that the idea is, by bringing more and more people to downtown, everyone makes more money,” Diegel said.
Alan Bowser, president of Silver Spring Town Center Inc., which plans programs for the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza, said the title helps build community solidarity.
“We live in a very diverse community, and we have seen first-hand how arts and cultural entertainment can strengthen the community,” Bowser said. “It makes people more knowledgeable and accepting of certain cultures. It helps people learn about different people and the way they dress and sing and dance, and that’s absolutely essential for the community.”
Diegel said the arts and entertainment committee is discussing adding even more culture options to Silver Spring in the next 10 years. He said members would like to see art studios that house artists in Silver Spring.
Diegel also said committee members would like to see the brand of Silver Spring as an entertainment destination spread across the East Coast.
“Our vision for Silver Spring is to become a regular destination, not just for the surrounding county, but down to Richmond, [Va.,] and up to Philadelphia and Harrisburg, [Pa.],” Diegel said.
In the next decade, Bowser said he would like more public art in Silver Spring, for example local artwork displayed at bus stops. He said he’d also like more local, small music venues that support community bands as well as an expanded Silver Spring Blues Festival.
“I’d like to see Silver Spring go for more indigenous music,” Bowser said. “We have a lot of local people who are very talented.”
There are 19 arts and entertainment districts in the state. Bethesda and Wheaton are the only other two in Montgomery County.
Rodriguez said the application must be submitted to the state by Oct. 1, when the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development will make the final decision.
“After a decade of building the arts and entertainment district, now our challenge, if you will, is to coordinate collaboration and make what we are building that much more useful to our area residents and the region,” Rodriguez said.
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