Black Rock Center for the Arts, at 12901 Town Commons Drive in Germantown, is a one-stop-shop for performances, art exhibitions and creative expression. Audiences not only get to see a wide variety of shows – they also get direct access to the artist.
The center is a multi-disciplinary facility, offering performing arts, visual arts, arts education and more. It’s also the only performing and visual arts center based in Montgomery County.
Black Rock has a spacious dance studio, a piano room, a performance theater and other spaces, which people are able to rent for their own events, and a summer arts camp for children.
Black Rock Executive Director Krista Bradley said the very location of the building makes it easy for county residents to access, especially those in the Germantown. The Washington Post has listed its main gallery as one of the top 10 in the area.
“A lot of this area is bursting at the seams and more families are moving here and more older adults are aging in place here, so we’re really perfectly situated to be a cultural cornerstone for Upper Montgomery County,” Bradley said.
Bradley said Black Rock is perfect for people who miss a lot of performances because they don’t live in Washington D.C. The center, she said, gives people a chance to see some of the best performing artists in not only the United States but all over the world.
Lynne Kinglsey, director of Marketing and Communications, said the sheer range of disciplines Black Rock provides makes the center very unique.
“Some of the likes of performers that will perform at the Kennedy Center, like Wolf Trap, we get them here at our 250 seat theater,” she said.
The 13-year-old two-floor building also provides arts education classes and free exhibitions like “Pop: Everlasting,” an exhibit showing paintings of popsicles which will be held from Sept. 10-Oct. 3.
You can also catch “Timeless Traditions, Today’s Landscapes, Washington Society of Landscape Painters,” from Oct 8.-Nov. 1, also in the main gallery.
There are tons of live shows to take in, like a performance by jazz and blues singer Deanna Bogart, on Sept. 20, and comedy shows like “An Evening with Groucho Marx,” in the building’s comedy theater and “District Comedy” taking place on Sept. 27.
Despite the facility’s huge size, the performance spaces are extremely intimate, which Bradley said gives audiences a pretty rare experience.
“Nothing beats seeing an amazing artist up close and personal,” Bradley said. “We are an intimate performance space, literally and figuratively, so our spaces are smaller so you can have a much more visceral experience with a performing artist. We also try to provide our audiences and our community opportunities to interact with the artist in meaningful ways. You don’t often get that. Our artists often come out after the show and hang out in the lobby and meet and talk with audiences, which doesn’t happen.”
Kingsley said some people may be surprised at the star power the center attracts.
“We have artists from all over the country coming to Germantown, not D.C., they’re coming to Germantown,” Kingsley said. “We say there’s so much to do, so much to see so close to home, because people can just literally [go] in their backyard, and see some of the best artists.”
In addition to performing, many of the artists hold workshops at the center. Ballet Hispanico, out of New York City, teaches dance to children from low income families. Guy Davis, son of late actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, will be teaching a Blues guitar workshop on Feb. 21 after playing a show with blues singer-songwriter Eric Bibb. Bradley said the arts center is also a huge education resource for families and older adults.
Bradley said one of the chief goals of Black Rock is to make the arts accessible to everyone, including the workshops they provide, so there are scholarships for families who may find it difficult to generate some of the costs.
The scholarships cover 70 percent of tuition, so a 12-week course costing $250 will cost a family under $100. Black Rock also conducts classes offsite at elementary and middle schools. Davis said it’s important to make sure Montgomery County residents recognize the importance of art in their lives and take advantage of what’s being offered right in their own community.
“Our mission is to encourage our community to explore, experience and celebrate the arts,” she said.