A ceremonial groundbreaking took place Friday at Garrett College
, starting the next phase of the Community Education and Performing Arts Center project.
The center will be derived through a renovation and expansion of the old gymnasium building.
The project represents a five-entity initiative, with Garrett College, the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival, Garrett County Public Schools, the Garrett County Arts Council and county government all serving as founding partners.
College President Dr. Richard Midcap said it has taken 40 years for the project to reach this point.
“That’s how long various groups, organizations and community members worked in order to bring a performing arts center to Garrett County,” he said.
Midcap noted that the contractor has wasted no time in starting the actual work, with the gutting and rehabbing of the current building taking place prior to the new construction component.
The new building will be open by Spring 2022.
“We will be back in no time for the grand opening,” Midcap said.
Dr. Brenda McCartney, vice chair of the Garrett College Board of Trustees, noted that while the CEPAC will be located on the Garrett College campus, “this will be a community center in every sense of the word, intended to meet the cultural needs of everyone from students all the way to senior citizens.”
Midcap stated that the project was made possible by more than $16 million in state funding and more than $4.2 million in county funding.
U.S. Rep. David Trone attended the ceremony as part of a multi-school celebration of capital projects Friday.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I love to work with students. I love working with kids. What you’ve put together here is just going to really, really help our community here and help these students see a different world than they might have seen before with so many opportunities here, and the same thing on the community function side.”
Mark Widmyer, Gov. Larry Hogan’s Western Maryland representative, brought greetings from the governor.
“He’s sorry that he could not be here today,” he said. “During this whole ordeal we’re all going through, he does not leave Annapolis very often — and if he does, he doesn’t go very far.”
In a video message, Hogan said he looks forward to “standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we build a brighter future for Western Maryland and our state.”
Widmyer presented Midcap with a gift from the governor, a Maryland flag to hang in the new building when it is completed.
“What a great day this is for Garrett County and the surrounding area,” said state Sen. George Edwards.
He noted that the project has had “its ups and downs and starts and stops,” and he detailed some of the history and spoke of other buildings that had risen on the campus.
“I challenge anybody out here today to find me another college this size in the whole country that has these kinds of facilities in a rural area to provide the citizens of this county and the surrounding area an equal opportunity to get educated like everybody else in the metropolitan areas where they have a lot more money than we do,” Edwards said. “Garrett College is recognized throughout the state as one of the best community colleges in the state of Maryland and probably in the whole country.”
Del. Wendell Beitzel said the center will allow for a deeper appreciation of the arts and provide the county with opportunities for growth.
County Commissioner Paul Edwards said he and the other commissioners are very excited and proud of the project’s progress, and how everyone worked together for the center.
“I think that’s what separates us from a lot of other communities,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican or you live in the north or the south. You don’t make facilities like this happen without putting that stuff aside and coming together and working together.”
The Garrett College ceremony was the first of a three-part joint celebration highlighting capital projects among Western Maryland’s three institutions of higher education — Allegany College of Maryland, Frostburg State University and Garrett College.