Donations to Baltimore's Lyric, DC's Kennedy Center set standard worth emulating
On Tuesday, movers and shakers from the Baltimore area gathered at the old Lyric Opera House to honor Patricia and Arthur Modell for their $3.5 million donation toward the renovation of the venue, which now bears their name. And on Wednesday, the Kennedy Center announced a remarkable $10 million gift from its own chairman, David M. Rubenstein, in support of the National Symphony Orchestra, new programming initiatives and more.
Such acts of kindness mean more these days than ever, since all cultural organizations and endeavors face extra financial pressure in recessionary times. (I know, the recession officially ended some time ago, according to great experts, but what do those policy wonks know about real life?) If we're lucky, more people from the upper echelon will be motivated to emulate Rubenstein or the Modells -- after all, there's something of a
And, in case any of you upper-crusties need a little inspiration, I'd like to suggest that someone step up with another big gift to the Lyric -- I mean, the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric. A total of $12.5 million is going into the badly needed upgrading of the Lyric's stage area, so we'll end up with a much more versatile house inside next year, but the outside will, alas, still look dreadful. I wish we could go all out an improve the whole place.
Somewhere along the line, a heavy, oh-so-20th-century-in-the-wrong-way exterior was stuck onto this 1894 theater. I know there were good reasons at the time, and I know that the addition proved valuable in several ways -- a proper lobby, for one. But next time you're on the Maryland Avenue side of the Lyric, where scaffolding now indicates the renovation work in progress, look up and see the original red brick rear wall of the opera house. Imagine if something architecturally similar could be seen on the sides and front of the space, providing a truly elegant and distinctive look. Right now, the heavy bulk of the edifice resembles a 1960s office building with an almost brutalist streak. Yuk.
I think of what the Peabody Institute managed to achieve a few years ago during renovation and expansion there -- an effective fusion of the new, the retro and the original. That's my lil' ol' dream for the Lyric. Now all I need is a big-hearted billionaire to fulfill it.
BALTIMORE SUN STAFF PHOTO (Barbara Haddock Taylor)