Montgomery County, Maryland is Arts Vibrant

Guest post by Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County

I am honored that the Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD Metro Division is the eighth most arts vibrant large community in the country. As the CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) in Silver Spring, MD, I know that this ranking is a testament to the depth and breadth of our incredible community. It is something worth celebrating.

As with many communities ranked in this study, the arts and humanities play a vital role in Montgomery County. There is a strong return on investment from our sector in our community, as evident in the $236 million we contribute to our local economy and the more than 4,000 jobs we support. In other words, the arts and humanities are an economic driver for the county, a vital component to our community’s health and stability. 

In addition, the arts and humanities make our community vibrant and unique. Montgomery County has more than 58 performing arts venues, 60 galleries, and over 2,000 independent artists and scholars throughout the county’s rural, suburban, and urban communities. And our county is rich with diversity –people of color make up more than 55 percent of the population and 33 percent are foreign-born. The diverse population, landscape, artists, and arts organizations have helped build an authentic, holistic and vibrant arts community. This is why the arts and humanities in Montgomery County thrive and why CNN, The New York Times, and others have ranked this region as one of the top places to live year after year.

The number of arts suppliers and the level of individual and corporate public support – both state and local – contribute to our vibrant and thriving arts community. For over 40 years the county government has provided critical appropriations that have built capacity and sustained our sector. In addition, many of our arts and humanities organizations have received financial support from the county and the state that has helped them to build or remodel their infrastructures. These are not only investments in physical structures, but also in our creative community. And these investments fuel our vibrancy and move the arts and humanities in a positive direction.

However, like many, we have roadblocks to sustaining a vibrant cultural community. Despite Montgomery County’s median income of over six figures, 8 percent of the population lives in poverty. This means that many of our residents cannot afford to participate in the arts. While there are many free events, this gap is a roadblock to making the arts accessible to all; making the arts accessible to all is important in creating a thriving and sustainable community. For my agency, equity and access to the arts and humanities for all residents of our county are critical components of our strategic goals, and we are working diligently to reduce barriers to access in that regard.

In addition, it is important that we maintain a strong network of independent artists and scholars. While our network in the creative community represents over 2,000 residents, as indicated in our arts provider score, there is clearly room to grow. We need to engage better with our independent artists, connecting them with arts organizations and creating an environment that supports the growth and sustainability of each other’s work and our creative community and the goals outlined in our 2017 strategic plan will help us do so.

I believe the arts and humanities have a bright future in Montgomery County; I am proud to live in a diverse and vibrant region and to contribute to that vibrancy in the work we do. The arts are important to the health and stability of a community, and I know that Montgomery County has the demand, supply, and public support required to create a thriving cultural community. I salute the more than 900 communities that continue to make the arts and humanities a vital part of this country; we are all worth celebrating.