Board or Committee Meeting
Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 6:30pm


Virtual Meeting-July 29, 2020 at 6:30pm


1. Take roll

2. Review and vote on editing or accepting minutes from the March meeting

3. Conduct business



1. Recap 2020 Projects:

a. 2019 Report Posted

b. Virtual Galleries Laurel High, Pallotti High – Melissa, Nisa

c. Shakespeare Soliloquies YouTube – Chris

d. Chalk Art – Inka

2. Future LAC Plans:

a. Form: All virtual? Budget? Percent for Art? Public art? 150th? – Joanne, others

b. Projects: City’s preferences and suggestions – Joanne, Leigha

c. New performance formats – Heather, Chris

3. Current Projects, Proposals:

a. Postcard Stories – with Laurel Historical Society – Monica  (Chronicling the current moment for history, Curating responses as ongoing community art exhibit).

i. Pilot Project at Selborne House – Charles

ii. Need help distributing postcards, then exhibiting results

b. Container Garden Proposal – Deb Randall, Leigha

c. Art from Recycled Stuff – Inka (team with schools?)

d. Art Specific to Black Lives Matter – visual art, photographs, stories from residents – Charles, Melissa

e. Enhancing our Social Media Reach and Impact – Inka, Nisa, Heather, others

i. Instagram account request under review by city

ii. Laurel TV (meet the author; arts project interviews)

iii. FB presence

iv. Google email - let city monitor

4. Upcoming Virtual Meetings?

a. Tuesday, September 8 at 6:30pm – elections for next year.

b. Tuesday, October 13 at 6:30pm

c. Tuesday, November 10 at 6:30pm

d. Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30pm


Meeting Minutes
July 29, 2020

The Laurel Arts Council (LAC) held its July meeting from 6:30 pm – 8:27 pm via GoToMeeting in Laurel, MD on July 29, 2020. Vice Chair, Melissa Holland called the meeting to order.

PRESENT: S. Nisa Asgarali-Hoffman, Charles Clyburn (by phone), Christopher Dwyer, Kelsey Eustace, Joanne Hall Barr (Dept. of Parks & Recreation, DPR), Melissa Holland, Inka Patel, Leigha Steele (Dept. of Economic & Community Development), Monica Sturdivant

ABSENT: Heather Brooks, Marilyn Byers, Bharati Dhruva, Angela O’Neal

GUESTS: Deborah Randall (Founder of Venus Theatre), Chae Reid (Dance teacher and new Laurel resident)

Minutes from last meeting were accepted.



  1. Melissa began the meeting with a recap of 2020 projects.
    1. She stated that the annual report of 2019 is now posted on the City of Laurel website. It shows the main projects that LAC accomplished for that year. Melissa noted that the template Kelsey made for 2017/2018 made it easy to plug in current activities.
    2. Melissa discussed how LAC was still able to keep commitments with some of our partners after things were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual gallery of work from Laurel High School and St. Vincent Pallotti High School shown on Facebook resulted in a lot of Likes, views and shares. The galleries are still available for viewing. Melissa stated that we should continue this activity year after year.
    3. At the beginning of the pandemic, Chris sent Melissa videos of soliloquies from his drama students at Pallotti High School. Chris noted that the project was originally supposed to happen live, but the performances are currently on YouTube. Kelsey asked if there was anything else he wanted to add in terms of students being able to continue to make art and anyone being able to watch it online. Chris stated that one of the important things is that we don’t ignore that COVID-19 is happening and that we make art because of it. He plans to focus on that in the coming school year. Kelsey noted that this would be good to revisit.
    4. In May, Laurel Parks and Recreation challenged the community to post chalk art. Inka encouraged neighbors to respond. She helped her neighbors’ children with a drawing on their driveway and posted it on LAC’s Facebook page in celebration of Mother’s Day. Inka also posted her own work. Melissa noted that the response was very positive. Joanne added that she wants to continue the activity and also plans to have more community activities online. She mentioned that the city offered an art night program that became popular with the senior citizen population and that the city is willing to publicize any local challenges to get community engagement. Melissa stated that LAC shared one of the city’s Paint Nights on the Facebook page and that we plan to stay connected to what is going on with the Department of Parks and Recreation. As a side note, Melissa mentioned that LAC participated in the City of Laurel’s Open House before the government was shuttered. She picked up a banner and other display items from Kelsey and those things can be used at LAC’s table for future events.
  2. The meeting continued with a discussion of current projects and proposals.
    1. Postcard Project. Monica discussed the postcard project, a collaboration with Laurel Historical Society (LHS). The activity involves asking the public to respond to a question on a postcard and mailing it to LHS. The question is, “How has your life been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and protests for racial justice?” The public has the option of making their own postcards or responding on postcards that they can pick up at the Laurel Municipal Center. Monica stated that this project would allow us to collect something (while social distancing) that represents how Laurel residents are feeling during this moment in time. The postcards would become a part of the LHS permanent collection and part of virtual exhibits for LHS and LAC. She added that the postcard project information has been shared with Laurel Historical Society’s virtual summer camp participants, recipients of a LHS weekly newsletter, and LHS/LAC Facebook followers. Charles shared postcards with residents of Selborne House, a retirement community on Main Street in Laurel. He discussed how the response to the postcards has not been great, but he feels that residents would respond more positively to oral interviews. Charles expressed concern and mentioned that Selborne House residents did not want to share personal information. Melissa replied that participants may answer the postcards anonymously. Nisa suggested exploring other ways for residents to share responses and offered recording stories on a phone as an example. Charles stated that he would be interested in writing and/or recording stories. Melissa encouraged Charles to collect stories in those formats. Nisa offered to reach out to the Black Lives Matter group in Laurel to see if they are willing to participate in the project. She noted that this group would be a younger, more socially active audience.
    2. C Street Container Garden and Outdoor Stage. Deborah proposed an idea for a container garden and outdoor stage that would honor her friend, Tricia McCauley, an actor and herbalist whose life was taken too soon.
      1. Deborah described putting container gardens in the community as an effort to encourage people to leave their homes when many are afraid to do so, as well as to integrate the whole community and involve local people who are gardeners. This could be an interactive space that offers herbs for pinching. She discussed how she explored ways to do this that are safe and aesthetically beautiful and also spoke with developers who are proposing building between B and C Streets. Her desired location for the container garden is the guard rail at the end of C Street.
      2. Deborah also proposed incorporating with the garden an architectural feature for small stage performances and showed a draft sketch of the project to LAC. Inka asked if the planter sizes will be approved by the City to make sure that we are not taking up a public walking area. Deborah stated that this is being discussed with the Department of Public Works. Joanne noted that the city has an amphitheater in Emancipation Park. She added that it is not in the flood zone and asked if there is any interest in using it for outdoor performances. Deborah described the space as wonderful, but challenging for performances during hot weather. She stated that she would talk to the city about doing programming there. She further noted that she is attached to the C Street location because of her business and the general need to improve the area. Charles added that it may even become a welcome extension of Main Street. Deborah mentioned “Dinner Under the Stars” in Annapolis and how the proposed project could give Laurel the opportunity to do something similar. Joanne stated that the city has been working on a plan to improve the Avondale entrance and the site where the old mill once stood could possibly be a performance area. She added that it would be fairly easy to make improvements to that area and perhaps use it as an outdoor performance space. Deborah discussed the challenges of performing in the Avondale space. She described how it is up on a hill where an audience would normally sit, the background is a parking lot and the space is not very large. Chris expressed support for Deborah’s vision and agreed with her on the limitations of the Emancipation Park amphitheater. He commented that the Park’s ground is uneven, making it difficult to set up for performances. Deborah complimented the aesthetic of the Park and library and said she would like to echo the obelisk and millstone in the proposed plan.
      3. Kelsey asked what were her next steps. Deborah replied that the City requires a written proposal and that she would welcome help in preparing it from anyone in LAC. Kelsey asked that she keep LAC informed on progress and that she be aware of grant opportunities. Melissa noted that there could be art in the proposed space in the form of a removable mural panel. Leigha suggested a virtual fundraiser involving performances and visual art and noted that it could get the community excited about the project while promoting local artists. Nisa asked if the guard rail at C Street Flats would be removed and if the city has approved that for safety. Deborah replied that the guard rail would be lifted out and replaced with the proposed structure but that it had not yet been approved. She described how a rain garden would absorb the flooding that comes down the street.  Nisa further asked about the private residence at the end of C Street. Joanne noted the possibility of easements, depending on who owns the actual project. She suggested that the written proposal consider how the project will be maintained and what happens when pieces become broken or need to be removed.  
  3. Melissa moved the discussion to future projects and noted that we would discuss the things we missed in our next meeting.
    1. Melissa stated that Marilyn Byers proposed offering a creative movement workshop that Laurel TV could televise. The class would be conducted outside which would allow social distancing. Melissa noted that Marilyn gave this type of workshop at the Kennedy Center and had won an award for being able to reach various audiences. Melissa asked how we would work with Laurel TV. Joanne replied that we would need to contact Audrey Barnes or Joyce Jackson to coordinate that. Melissa added that we should ask Marilyn for more specifics on the idea and discuss it in September. Joanne replied that right now, the city is not permitting the use of its outdoor spaces. It is difficult to have open programs and we have to be mindful of the executive orders that address social gatherings. Kelsey clarified that the class could be presented on Laurel TV or YouTube. People would watch at home, allowing them to social distance. Melissa noted that this would meet the requirements. Joanne agreed and reminded Melissa to coordinate it with Audrey or Joyce.
    2. Melissa stated that she and Charles had discussed art specific to Black Lives Matter. This could involve collecting stories from the Grove community near Emancipation Park. It could be a continuation of the Laurel Leader article that shared stories from African American Laurel residents who described what it was like to live in Laurel in the 1950s and 1960s. Melissa expressed the desire to see the stories go deeper.
    3. Chris discussed his idea of a Shakespeare in the Parks audio drama. He has been doing Shakespeare in the Parks productions for the past eight years with Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were unable to tour this year. Chris mentioned that there was discussion about theater performances on Zoom, but the platform presents challenges, so they decided to make an audio drama of the tragedy MacBeth. He noted that radio drama existed in the 1950s and his audio drama is an updated version with high quality sound effects. The production is about an hour and ten minutes and includes a teacher’s packet. He discussed how an audio engineer put a lot of work into the project and there is talk of doing another drama in November/December. He described a rigorous rehearsal process and the challenges of recording at Montpelier Mansion. Melissa asked if it would be possible to do something like this locally. Chris discussed how a really quiet room is needed for recording. Joanne asked if the Laurel City TV studio would work. Chris replied that it would be ideal since it is designed to be sound efficient. Nisa suggested splitting up the segments of the audio drama and posting it once a week on the Facebook group. Chris agreed and mentioned that chapters were discussed with verbiage included that would encourage people to “stay tuned.” The audio could also be stopped wherever they want. Melissa noted that since the production belongs to the MNCPPC, so we would need to get permission to air it. Chris replied that he would connect her with the person who could make that happen. Melissa suggested that we consider doing something similar on a smaller scale and mentioned finding a way to involve St. Vincent Pallotti High School and Laurel High School.
    4. Melissa asked Joanne if there were any immediate projects, ideas or constraints that the city wanted to convey to LAC. She asked if there was any information on when the city will have in-person meetings and what impact COVID-19 would have on the budget. Joanne replied that the city is being very cautious in regards to reopening and ensuring that all buildings are safe for employees to enter. Meetings are virtual now and any change will be based on the status reports of the virus. Regarding financial impact, we will probably see that in FY22/FY23. There is no discussion at this point on what might be reduced but the city is trying to be cautious with spending. Joanne noted that it is difficult to give answers at this time but that the city will continue moving forward and there will be challenges. Kelsey asked what other councils were doing in regards to meetings. Leigha described how some councils and committees have not had meetings since the pandemic began, but others have met on the GoToMeeting platform. She offered to help set up links for future events. Joanne said that she would try to coordinate dates for LAC’s upcoming virtual meetings with the office admin to ensure there is adequate bandwidth.
  4. Melissa asked Kelsey if anything else needed to be said and decided tonight. Kelsey reminded the group that the smaller non-public meetings (subcommittee meetings) can continue for projects that have already been decided on by the full arts council. No decisions can be made about funding or implementing new projects. Those should be discussed in an open meeting with the council members present. Kelsey noted that we are still in a pandemic and it is great that everyone made time for the meeting. She stated that her three year term is up on September 11 and she is committed to seeing out the end of her term, attending the September meeting and helping ease the transition of the next chair. Kelsey remarked that Melissa has done an amazing job during Kelsey’s absence due to her injury. She thanked everyone for their support, dedication and passion. Kelsey reminded the group that LAC officers are elected in September and to think about new leadership and the future of the council. Melissa reminded everyone that it was Kelsey who built the council and established its path. Kelsey requested that we plan to meet on the second Tuesday in September. She also asked that we all stay in contact and continue to work on our projects.
  5. Upcoming Meetings
    1. Tuesday, September 8 at 6:30 pm
    2. Tuesday, October 13 at 6:30 pm
    3. Tuesday, November 10 at 6:30 pm
    4. Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30 pm


Meeting adjourned at 8:27 pm.

Monica Sturdivant                                                                                  Date: August 24, 2020

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Parks and Recreation

The Department of Parks and Recreation offers recreation programs and services throughout six facilities and 19 park sites encompassing over 222 acres of parkland.