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Impact Of Art: Michael Jonnes

by Michael Jonnes

Michael Jonnes

As a crucial part of our economy, arts organizations are redefining their roles.

Embrace your inner muse. This is your call to arms! An exciting and hugely varied arts scene awaits your involvement in Hagerstown, and Washington County as a whole. In getting to know this community, I have been very pleased to learn just how many arts organizations are active here, and just how busy the calendar of concerts, plays, presentations, seminars, festivals, and fairs is.

The gorgeous Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, The Maryland Theater — a downtown jewel and economic driver — our own superb Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Discovery Station, The Mummers Parade, the Washington County Arts Council and its lovely gallery space, the thriving Barbara Ingram School for the Arts — the list of places and events goes on and on, and this is no small accomplishment.

With more than 30 years of experience in arts management that includes positions with theater companies and a number of orchestras, I have developed a hard-won philosophy about what the arts are, and what they can be to a community. The arts are crucial to the economy, to our culture, and to our being. Through the arts, we are provided with multiple voices to our history, religions, cultures, and to the American spirit. The arts present a way to understand injustice and despair, and to help us heal. Laughter and tears, excitement and repose, and at times, closure are all emotions conferred to us though the arts.

Clearly, our nation and our culture are changing dramatically. The challenge for all of us in this business is how to adapt and meet these changes. For traditional performing arts groups like the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, this is a moment in time when we need to closely examine what our role in the community needs to be. The arts leaders in this community are finding ways to work together collaboratively and collegially to multiply the impact of our individual organizations and events, to work closely with our local governments and advocacy organizations, and with the Washington County Public Schools.

The arts have, and can continue to play an increasingly important role in keeping downtown Hagerstown, as well as Washington County, a vibrant, alive, and welcoming locale. In a community the size of Hagerstown, the arts can also play a crucial role in the town’s economic well-being. By encouraging “feets on the streets” and attendance at events arts organizations present, dollars spread to local businesses and restaurants, and all in the name of exciting performances and events.

Michael Jonnes is the executive director of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.