Post-stadium strategy: Go with the arts
To the editor:
Given that Hagerstown has established an arts and entertainment district and is home to the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, the foundation has been put in place to build a lasting artistic environment. Art studios and apartments have even been created to house this targeted demographic. Now the question remains, how do we draw these artisans into a less than vibrant downtown area?
I believe that the key to answering this question begins with The Maryland Theater. Events within Hagerstown that pique the interest of potential visitors are vital to a resurgence of the downtown, and the theater is best positioned to increase visitor traffic quickly, relatively cheaply, effectively and potentially profitably. If the theater can lure visitors into focusing on events, visitors will become more open to the charms of downtown Hagerstown, eventually making it a destination.
Establishments such as Bulls & Bears, 28 South, the Stube, Gourmet Goat, El Paso, and the soon to be Thai restaurant and the Flying Pie Co. will help visitors remember downtown Hagerstown as a potential destination.
However, with all due respect, the theater is underutilized. The theater does not deliver the quantity of broadly appealing entertainment needed, nor does it market effectively, as it is typically geared toward the demographic categories of people under 13 years of age or over 55.
Given that Hagerstown supposedly would like to increase the population of artisans and the homeownership of young professionals within the city, it is vital for the theater to market to this demographic to at least some extent. Specifically, musicians and bands of broader appeal and standup comedians geared toward this younger demographic should be brought to the theater on a more frequent and consistent basis. With Shippensburg, Shepherds-town, HCC, FCC, Hood, USMH, PSU Mont Alto within a reasonable radius; it should not be difficult to successfully market these types of shows toward a young adult demographic.
I also tend to ask myself, if Cumberland can bring in 15,000-plus people for a weekend bluegrass festival (i.e. Delfest, where patrons pay $200 for a weekend pass), wouldn’t some of those same acts, like Del McCoury, easily sell out the 1,300 seat Maryland Theatre? As we are located in Western Maryland, and are part of “Mountain Maryland,” we need to embrace music such as bluegrass, as a marketing tool to help move the city forward.
Even the small town of Jim Thorpe, Pa., with a population of 5,000, has a thriving artisan economy. This is largely due to its 400- seat Opera Theater, which has more consistent entertainment than our very own Maryland Theater. Asheville, N.C., is another city in which we should study as an example of what is necessary to build the arts and entertainment district into an economic generator.
Furthermore, Hagerstown should consider actively seeking a multi-year continuing-education type of institution for the arts. With the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, it is only logical to create a local multi-year continuance for those students once they graduate high school. If these and other artistic students can be located in downtown Hagerstown, vacancy rates of the artists’ studios and apartments would be driven downward.
I, for one, would like to see Hagerstown turn into an arts and entertainment destination, and strive to become the Asheville of the Mid-Atlantic. But it starts with the theater consistently providing broader market shows and bringing in younger adults with expendable income.
Is employment based on number of trips around the sun?
To the editor:
Whether one is trying to break into his or her chosen career, advancing within that vocation, or seeking re-employment due to a layoff, finding a job in today’s economy can be a daunting task. I have submitted hundreds of job applications, which have resulted in many rejections but few interviews. I decided to use my analytical skills acquired during my information technology career to determine why I am not being hired.
Was my experience deficient? I dismissed that due to three decades of pursuing my IT career. During the interview, did I project an inability to learn new technologies? I didn’t think so, since I mentioned to those I would be working with that I am currently enrolled in a major university to expand my IT skills (and doing quite well I might add). Did I project a likeable personality while being interviewed? My career has mandated that I work successfully one-on-one and as part of a group to achieve project goals. During the interviews, I mentioned that skill, so I should have been seen as having the ability to “work well with others.” No, there had to be some aspect of the interviews I was overlooking.
After describing my failed attempts at getting a job to friends and relatives, all my listeners asked the same question: How old were the people who conducted your interviews? In every case, people between 15 to 25 years younger than me ultimately decided my re-employment fate. Could it be that due to my age I was perceived as being unable to fit into youthful working cultures? Was I being rejected because of the increased cost of health-care benefits I could cause? Was the fact that I had taken too many trips around the sun keeping me from reentering the workforce?
I probably will never know the answer to those questions because employers are not required to tell candidates why they are not hired. I will however, continue to look for work with the hope of finding an employer who sees value in a person who has completed a significant number of solar orbits.
Dennis L. Reed