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Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

Now's the Time to Get Involved With the Arts in Maryland

Looking to start a new phase in your life?
Want to add spice to the one you're in?

Maryland's arts landscape – from the urban centers of Central Maryland to the picturesque countryside of the Eastern Shore to the mountains of Western Maryland – can afford you opportunities to infuse your lifestyle with creativity.

Wherever you are in Maryland, you can engage with the arts and rekindle your artistic passion. You can revive a long-standing interest in music, theater, dance, painting, ceramics, sculpture or photography.

Maryland has arts centers where you'll re-connect with your imagination, museums and venues where you can enjoy the work of masters, and free community-wide events that are geared to the arts. You will also discover chances to volunteer or to train as a docent.

The listings below are a sampling of Maryland's arts resources. Check individual web sites and call for updates. Or, call the Maryland State Arts Council, 410-767-6555, for general inquiries. The Arts Council's web site has links to local arts councils in the state.

Links on the site also connect to arts organizations, events and festivals. Arts festivals spotlight visual arts, folk art, music, film, books and more.

And, watch for First Friday or First Saturday celebrations. Frederick, Leonardtown, Annapolis, Frostburg, Cambridge, Easton are among the towns that regularly stage these events. Typically, they showcase restaurants, galleries and musical attractions. Information is usually on the web sites for local tourism offices and local arts councils.

As a starting point, here are five arts centers that offer ways to channel your artistic energies:

Baltimore Clayworks has 13 resident artists who teach classes. The ceramics center also maintains a gallery, presents on and off-site exhibitions and provides access to all who want to learn or develop ceramic-arts skills. And, because of its wide range of community programming, Clayworks often needs volunteers.

In Frederick, The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center is another place to go for classes and exhibits. A membership – special rate for seniors – gives you discounts on classes, trips and even a reduced commission rate on the sale of your artwork in the gift store.

The Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel – located on the grounds of Montpelier Mansion, an 18th-century summer home that's a National Historic Landmark – offers numerous classes (welding, digital photography and rug hooking, among them). It also has galleries and artist's studios. And, it hosts year-round musical performances – jazz, folk and blues, and classical.

Annapolis' Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is an arts destination that has it all – classes for a cross-section of artistic disciplines, exhibitions and cultural presentations. It even has four resident companies – Annapolis Chorale, Annapolis Opera, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Theater of Maryland – that perform and provide educational opportunities.

Annmarie Garden, located near the waterfront town of Solomons in Calvert County, is a 30-acre sculpture park and arts center. Much of the sculpture is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum. Aside from providing a place to enjoy art in the environment, Annmarie offers an array of classes – drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, book arts, fiber arts, ceramics and more.

Getting an up-close experience with the work of masters can provide entertainment, pleasure, and sometimes, stir inspiration. Here's a group of world-class museums and venues. Admission is free, except for some special exhibitions. Volunteer opportunities are available, too.

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, you'll find the prominent Cone Collection – early 20th-century artwork by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Gaugin and others – as collected by Baltimore's Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta, during their trips to Europe. The museum, which owns 90,000 works of art, has various other world-class collections.

The Walters Art Museum in downtown Baltimore has a representation of world art that includes early Egyptian artifacts, Greek sculpture, Old Master paintings and Art Deco jewelry. In Hagerstown, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has 6,000 objects of art – from Old Masters to 20th-century paintings. American art of the 19th and early 20th centuries are spotlighted here.

Maryland also has places and groups that showcase folk art – visual, music and dance. Here are five options:

The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in the Eastern Shore town of Salisbury has "the most comprehensive collection of wildfowl carvings in the world" – from antique decoys to contemporary sculpture and painting. The museum offers carving classes and presents special exhibitions, including the annual Ward World Carving Championship – held at the Ocean City Convention Center.

Another place for decoy art is the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, located by the Susquehanna River in the Harford County town of Havre de Grace, the "decoy capital of the world." Here, too, you can participate in classes, workshops, festivals and exhibitions.

The Institute of Musical Traditions in Montgomery County's Takoma Park presents concerts, workshops and educational programs related to American and international folk music traditions. As a volunteer for this group, you can assist with concert production, host traveling musicians at your home and bake your favorite dessert for special programs.

The Baltimore Folk Music Society hosts contra and square dances, as well as English Country dances and events with Cajun and Zydeco music. It also offers open-mike nights for acoustic musicians, poets and storytellers at its "Friendly Coffeehouse."

Penn Alps, located in the Western Maryland town of Grantsville, is a cultural center that spotlights the region's arts and crafts industry. At Spruce Forest Artisan Village, a part of Penn Alps, resident artisans work out of log-cabin studios. You'll find them busy with blacksmithing, stained-glass making, quilting, bird carving, basket making, hand-loom weaving, pottery and other crafts.

Some might consider the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to be a place to enjoy folk art. According to the museum, however, that's not quite accurate: Unlike folk artists, "visionary artists don't listen to anyone else's traditions. They invent their own."

The museum's current themed exhibit is The Marriage of Art, Science & Philosophy, which runs till September 6.

For museums with a regional flavor, try these: the Calvert Marine Museum in the Southern Maryland town of Solomons and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore. Both museums feature exhibits that depict local history and lifestyles – especially related to the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have an inclination to perform, here are some organizations to consider:

Montgomery County's Round House Theater has a theatrical performance program just for seniors – "The Heyday Players." The troupe stages productions at community centers, libraries, schools and gatherings in the Montgomery County area. Round House presents live theater in Bethesda and Silver Spring, and runs an education center in Silver Spring.

In Southern Maryland, The Newtowne Players is a volunteer-based group in Lexington Park established to present quality productions, while developing opportunities for residents of the community to participate in theatrical arts – as an actor or behind the scenes.

The Chesapeake Choral Arts Society in Southern Maryland's Charles County is an adult choral group. Auditions are required. Also in Charles County, the Southern Maryland Concert Band is a blend of musicians – from students to retirees – who come with a full range of experience. Auditions are not required. A parallel group, the Southern Maryland Swing Band, plays at parties and fundraisers. It was formed in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

Cantate Chamber Singers, which performs in the greater Washington, D.C., area, is an open group. Auditions are usually held in June for the following season. The ensemble is known for its interpretation of Baroque choral music.

In Queen Anne's County, the Kent Island Big Band is a community band that includes professional and amateur musicians. New members are welcome. The Bay Country Chorus is the Easton chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. This group, too, is open to newcomers. Men of any age – with or without singing experience – are invited.

Another a capella performance group is the Upper Chesapeake Chorus in Harford County. It's affiliated with the Sweet Adelines organization. According to its web site, the chorus has 50 members who range in age from twenties to seventies. They come from Harford, Cecil, Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

Maryland's colleges and universities are often a good bet for performances and special programs. Frostburg State University in Western Maryland, for instance, has a Cultural Events Series – a full schedule of concerts and theater. The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, according to its web site, presents "approximately 1,000 events each year, spanning all performing-arts disciplines."

The River Concert Series at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland features the Chesapeake Orchestra at weekly outdoor concerts during the summer, which draw between 3,000 and 5,000 patrons each concert. Guest artists include professional performers in a variety of musical genres – classical to jazz to bluegrass and blues. This year the series opens with a two-day celebration, June 19-20, in honor of the 375th anniversary of Maryland's founding.

In the Baltimore area, check the Maryland Institute College of Art's schedule of exhibitions and special events, as well as its catalog of arts classes. Also, visit the Asian Arts & Culture Center at Towson University, which offers exhibitions, concerts, films, workshops and demonstrations throughout the year. All of these academic institutions welcome financial contributions and seek volunteers.

And, here are two venues where you can relax and enjoy live theater on a summer evening:

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Ellicott City presents works by Shakespeare and other classic playwrights. During the summer, the company stages outdoor performances at Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park. The park, which overlooks the Patapsco River Valley, was the site of 19th-century boarding school for girls. Remnants of the granite Greek-Revival building, including four Doric columns, forge a signature backdrop for these productions. The company also hosts Pub Nights, free get-togethers at local taverns where you can discuss all things Shakespeare.

At the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, this is the "Year of the Volunteer." The production company has no paid staff. Everyone – actors, technicians, costume designers, fundraisers – are volunteers. This season, everyone associated with the theater has been asked to bring at least one new volunteer into the organization.

If you like a theater with history, try one of these places:

The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown is home to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Originally built in 1915, the theater was a vaudeville house during the 1920s. After a devastating fire in 1974 and years of disrepair, the theater has emerged as a showplace for orchestra concerts, stage shows, visiting musicians and other performers.

Another theater with a storied past is the Avalon Theatre in Easton. This restored art-deco style theater was built in 1921. Today, it presents theatrical productions, stage shows, orchestral concerts and film screenings. It's also known as a place for local talent.

Finally, after connecting with any of Maryland's arts resources, you may want to reflect upon your experience and commit it to paper. The Bethesda-based Writers' Center offers hundreds of workshops for a variety of literary genres each year, in addition to staging literary events and hosting writing groups. Membership is open to all levels of writers.

The arts community in Maryland spans a wide range of artistic endeavors. Take advantage of these resources and enrich your lifestyle.

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