From the City of Havre de Grace:
On June 16th at 10 am, the fundraising thermometer in front of the Havre de Grace Opera House, 121 N. Union Street, will be raised to reflect a $200K grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Everyone is welcome to attend the presentation of the check, tour the Opera House and view the planned renovations.
The arts, regardless of the exact form, have served throughout time (from cave paintings to graffiti) and different cultures (from primitive peoples to Broadway) as vital nourishment to the human soul. We use the arts to explore our world and the truths that more practical endeavors can sometimes obscure. Whether you are a practitioner of the arts or the audience, the medium can be theater, song, dance or paint on canvas; all of the arts have a direct pipeline to our inner life. The vehicle can be a song that touches the heart and brings tears, or a theater performance that opens our eyes to injustice, hope, change, or a painting that evokes a strong memory. The Arts Matter: they allow us to open our eyes to see what is beyond the horizon, expand our minds beyond what we may have been taught, and mold our dreams beyond what we have previously experienced.
Havre de Grace is at a very special time when it can become an anchor for the arts in the county. Such an anchor could strengthen existing art venues and organizations, as well as attract further growth and expansion of the arts within the area. Such an anchor could establish a legacy for our children and their families. This anchor is a renovated Havre de Grace Opera House. But we need the full support of the community to make it happen.
First opened in 1871, the building was an actual Opera House; hosting touring opera companies from around the country but since then has served many purposes from dance hall to city government offices. The building is still city-owned and located on Union Street next to the historic firehouse and immediately across from the library. It’s possible to overlook this unremarkable building unless you’ve attended a performance of the Tidewater Players or participated in its rich history. The two story brick building is underutilized and is in critical need of renovations to make it ADA accessible.
But the planned renovations will bring this building back into the limelight. Upgraded utilities, sound/lighting infrastructure, carpeting, and new seats will transform the interior space into a 200 seat theater, and a main floor that houses an art gallery, atrium with elevator, offices, and rehearsal rooms. The renovated Opera House will host theater performances, presentations (from comedy to educational lectures), concerts of all kinds, and art showings in its lobby gallery. The Opera House’s first commitment will be to nourishing local talent and providing space for rehearsals, performances, and recitals.
Architectural plans for the renovation are complete and about half of the $2.8 million required for renovations have been obtained through the City, County and State along with several legacy grants. However, all grants require the Opera House Foundation to privately raise and match these funds. Over the next two years, the Foundation is planning a number of performance events and fundraisers. Most recently, with the support of Bulle Rock residents, the Foundation hosted Havre de Grace’s first annual Mardi Gras MasquerAid Ball at the Vandiver Inn and successfully raised $10K. That’s a good start.
More private funds are needed. To raise these matching funds, the Opera House Foundation is kicking off its “Sponsor a Chair” campaign. Every sponsored chair will include a bronze plaque on the arm of the chair in memory or celebration of the individual, family, or organization. Chair sponsorships are $1K each.
The Arts Matter. Everyone can be part of this special place and give support to the renovation of the Havre de Grace Opera House. Join us on June 16th or visit the foundation’s web site at www.operahousefoundation.org for more information.