(March 8, 2019) Since first opening its doors in 2013, the Ocean City Art League’s Center for the Arts on 94th Street has attracted more than 100,000 visitors, with nearly 20,000 of them visiting in the past year.
In her annual report to the Ocean City Council Monday night, Rina Thaler, Art League executive director, said more than attendance is growing, with membership alone more than doubling in the past six years.
“Each year we do more and more so [the report] gets a little bit longer,” she said.
Thaler began by introducing the Art League’s new president, John Sisson, who she said brings extensive experience in non-profit management and has served as a first vice president for the past two years.
Thaler said the center, which is open daily year-round, has continued to prove appealing for an ever-increasing number of people.
“It’s one of the few things in the middle of January that you can visit, and we have been getting a great number of visitors coming specifically as a destination for the arts,” she said.
Thaler also acknowledged for public consumption the financial assistance the art league has received from the Town of Ocean City, Worcester County Arts Council, Maryland State Arts Council, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, the Humphreys Foundation, Staples and Walmart.
“We’ve been able to leverage support by getting grants,” she said.
The arts facility has also benefitted from the backing from more than 1,100 members and 65 local businesses, Thaler said.
“When we moved into the building, we had about 400 members,” she said.
In addition to promoting the art league’s film festival (see page 25), Thaler mentioned the center’s First Friday receptions, which routinely draw about 200 people, and its 365 art instruction classes, which draw more than 2,700 participants.
Thaler said in addition to fee-based classes, there are also numerous programs offered at no cost.
“One of the programs, the Art and Soul monthly workshop, is something we started to help deal with the opioid addiction problem,” she said.
The free program is for anyone suffering from addiction issues, or those impacted by a loved one fighting the same problem.
Thaler said the monthly Free Family Art day has cross-generational appeal.
“It’s the only place where parents and kids can work together on creating art,” she said.
Artrageous, an interactive arts and music experience offered for the first time in 2018, was warmly embraced by the audience and continues to elicit positive chatter months later, Thaler said.
“We are working on bringing them back for 2020 and we’re also working on some other [show] possibilities … for 2019,” she said.
Thaler said the utility box painting program, which has been coordinated with the Ocean City Development Corporation and focused on downtown previously, would likely be expanded in 2019.
“We just signed an MOU with [OCDC] on going beyond the downtown area with the utility boxes,” she said.
Shifting to current discussions regarding tourism strategic planning, and youth sports marketing, Thaler noted art-related offerings appeal to a wide range of ages including baby boomers and millennials.
“We do so much there, and people don’t realize it’s only a 7,500 square foot building,” she said. “Most arts centers are double or triple the size.”