At Artomatic, Ausherman shares his vision for building


 Photo by Bill Green, Frederick News-Post

By: Mike Persley, Frederick-News Post

May 6, 2016

The county’s former public school administrative headquarters, at 115 E. Church St., was awash with hors d’oeuvres and wine Friday as the city’s month long art exhibit, Artomatic@Frederick, opened with an exclusive VIP gala.

The event brought many people from Frederick’s art, civic and business communities out for a private first look at the displayed works from more than 350 artists who bought spaces in the showcase. Representatives of organizations such as the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, the Weinberg Center for the Arts, and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce attended, as well as politicians from across the county.

Building owner Marvin Ausherman, founder and president of Ausherman Properties, as well as the nonprofit Ausherman Family Foundation, announced at the gala his plans to turn the space at 115 E. Church St. into a school for the performing arts. While the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center focuses on visual arts, Ausherman said his goal is to create a center focusing on theater and dance groups, musical instruction and other performing arts.

He said the school will accompany the performing arts at his building at 15 W. Patrick St. That building is being renovated into a theater through his foundation’s $1.5 million initiative, known as 15 Square Arts Project. He said artists can learn skills at the school and perform at the theater.

Ausherman Properties purchased the buildings at 115 and 117 E. Church St. from Frederick County in 2015 for $1.45 million. In doing so, Ausherman has said he envisioned them being used as a space for artists to live and work. After researching that option, he realized the spaces would not bring in enough revenue and he would need money from the city to sustain the property, he said.

He said Friday night that he hopes his new vision can further put Frederick on the map as an arts destination.

“There’s a lot to be proud of here in Frederick,” he said. “Let’s let everybody know it.”

Jennifer Finley, Artomatic@Frederick’s co-director, thanked the audience for supporting Frederick’s art scene. Finley said the city’s scene has benefits for all aspects of society, from artists to businesses, because it draws people from outside the city.

As many as 25 downtown businesses either offered support or are directly sponsoring the Artomatic@Frederick exhibit.

“This event’s success has always hinged on the support of the surrounding community,” she said. “I feel like this year we’ve really nailed it.”

Steven Dobbin, the exhibit’s other director, praised the surrounding community as well. He also thanked Ausherman for allowing the building to be used for the exhibit.

“This is the perfect space for this event,” he said. “It’s a work of art onto itself, if you think about it.”

The exhibit will be held in both the building at 115 E. Church St. and the building next door at 117 E. Church St. Each building has three floors. The building at 115 E. Church St. is a maze of 125 rooms. Each room is filled with a visual art ranging from paintings, to illustrations, to photographs, stenographs and sculptures.

Those works will be on display for the public from Saturday to June 10. There will be live music each weekend, plus workshops, film, theater, dance, poetry and other events for all ages.

The official kickoff on Saturday will be a nine-hour public reception. It will include hundreds of mini-receptions by various artists, plus music starting at 8:30 p.m. with J Berd, DJ Two Teks and Stitch Early. The exhibit is run entirely by volunteers.

Frederick Alderman Michael O’Connor, who kept a spot near a table filled with breads and crab dip for much of the night, said he had the opportunity to walk around the rooms and check out much of the art. He was impressed.

“This just shows how much talent we have here in Frederick,” he said. “This is such a great event.”

Artomatic started in Washington, D.C., in 1999 when a local artist, George Koch, used an empty laundromat to display works from artists throughout the city. The exhibits developed into a recurring show, popping up every year or so in various, often empty venues around the district. It was used in part to showcase available real estate, but also artists’ work.

The exhibit came to Frederick in 2011 as a smaller, satellite version of the D.C. exhibit. The event was held again in Frederick in 2013 and now in 2016, each time in the same buildings.

The Artomatic model has since been used in Jefferson County, West Virginia, and is in the works in other places, including Alberta, Canada.

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