How Havre De Grace Became The Cultural Center For Northeast Maryland

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Credit: Van Fisher/Patch

HAVRE DE GRACE - This friendly community has transformed itself in the past decades from a sleepy town on the shores of the Upper Chesapeake into a cultural and arts hub for northeastern Maryland.

Havre de Grace now features three theatre venues, The State Theatre, The Opera House, and The Star Center. Combined, these theatres can seat over 1400 people. William Price, chairman and founder of the Havre de Grace Arts Collective, said, "there are more theaters in Havre de Grace than there is probably anywhere until Baltimore."

In 2008 the State of Maryland designated Havre de Grace as a "arts and entertainment district." This classification provides tax incentives to artists and arts-related businesses within Havre de Grace.

The city quickly moved to establish a task force of citizens and members of the city to look at renovations for the Opera House and to establish the downtown area as a space for artists and makers. Price says this was good both for artists and the city's economy as a whole.

"The idea was to try to coalesce the artistic elements of Havre de Grace," he said. "The purpose is to leverage the arts to stimulate economic development, or as I like to say, building a sense of place within a community using the arts."

The historic Opera House completed a $4.2 million renovation in 2017 and now provides a stage for local and traveling theatre groups. This renovation and a suite of other projects designed to sponsor the arts in Havre de Grace have been part of a concentrated effort by the Havre de Grace Arts Collective and the City Government.

The Havre de Grace Arts Collective was founded in 2017 with the goal of building a vibrant and inclusive arts scene through a commitment to excellence, diversity, and enrichment.

Due to the diligent work of the Arts Collective, Havre de Grace hosts some sort of community event every weekend: from the Fall Waterfront Festival to the Spring Jazz and Blues Festival. According to Price, "the opera house is utilized in some form or fashion 52 weekends out of the year."

One local artist says that these efforts are paying off. Jean Baker-Priebe, a local artist, living in Havre de Grace, says, "it's a place to, you know, not only show and sell your work, but also to be around other artists and that kind of community to get, you know, inspired and all of that."

As Havre de Grace continues to grow and expand its arts scene, residents can look forward to many performances in the years to come. The newest addition to Havre de Grace will be a renovation of the Graw Alley area. The city is planning to landscape the alley so visitors can better enjoy the selection of murals depicting the history of Havre de Grace. The groundbreaking ceremony for this new development is planned for October 26.

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