CenterPiece Family Arts Center celebrates grand opening
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 15:29

Center located in former Graff building

by Nicole Rodman

    Though the weather was gloomy, the crowd was upbeat during the grand opening of the CenterPiece Family Arts Center last Saturday.
    The journey to CenterPiece began last July as the Baltimore Art & Music Project (BAMP), the Dundalk Youth Services Center (DYSC) and Lifepointe Community Church moved their offices into the former Graff building at 2-4 Dundalk Avenue.
    With offices on the building’s second floor, the first floor was renovated to create the CenterPiece Family Arts Center.
    CenterPiece will serve as a community arts center, offering afterschool and summer programs and arts programming for children and families.
    DYSC executive director Linda Bryan sees the center as a way to extend the counseling services already offered by DYSC.
    “The counseling and services that we provide are just one piece of a much bigger picture,” Bryan explained.
    “We can provide prevention services, we can teach in the schools ... but the other piece of that is to allow kids that come from some of these backgrounds to have a safe place to actually practice these skills.”

Carla Crisp, executive director of BAMP, sees the center as a way to bring art to the community.
    “The main goal was to expose communities that did not have access to the arts that other communities and the city usually does,” Crisp explained.
    While each person involved brings their own passion to the project, they all hope that CenterPiece will help revitalize a struggling community.
    “We all love this community — greatly,” Lifepointe pastor Raymond Almsteadt, noted. “We all want to serve this community; we all want to see it do better and get back on its feet.”   
    The creation of CenterPiece was made possible through a state bond bill sponsored by Dundalk’s House delegation, led by Del. John Olszewski Jr., and state Sen. Norman Stone.
    Funding for the project included $250,000 from the state and another $250,000 from the Steamship Trade of Baltimore Charitable Legacy, Inc.
    “I think a center like this can be the heartbeat of a community,” Del. Olszewski said.
    “What they are able to do by bringing families together, and the idea of keeping kids out of trouble, is an admirable goal,” Stone noted.
    Bryan, Crisp, Almquist, Olszewski and others came together last Saturday to open up the new CenterPiece Family Arts Center to members of the community.
    The grand opening celebration included children’s activities, arts and crafts vendors, a magic show, live music and a variety of food trucks.
    Inside, visitors toured the center’s art gallery, filled with works by art students at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts.
    Some of the student-created pieces were being sold to raise money for a scholarship fund.
    “This is our first year partnering with [BAMP],” Patapsco art teacher Jessica Powell told The Eagle. “I think we’re going to keep doing it. I’m really excited.”
    The new center also includes a stage for concerts and other performances.
    The center’s tentative calendar includes Underground Concert Series performances, a Halloween Trunk or Treat event and a Summer Solstice Festival next June.
    While some programs may include a fee, Crisp noted that any fees will be “nominal.”
    Crisp and her partners hope that the power of art, channeled through the new CenterPiece Family Arts Center, will help heal a community in need.
    “Dundalk has suffered these many years with the demise of industry, with unemployment, with all the things that, of course, leads to,” Crisp said.
    “I can’t stop believing that, with what we do, that we can’t help Dundalk revive again.”
    For more information on CenterPiece, call 410-288-0610, e-mail or visit