Local Theater Celebrates 90 Years in the Community

edited.GarfieldCenter_Grayscale_JennaSutcliffe (4)By Victoria Gill

Elm Staff Writer

From having its big screen to a spotlighted stage, the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is quickly reaching a new milestone.

On Oct. 25, the theatre on High Street will be celebrating its 90-year aniversary of it’s very first opening as a movie theatre.

“The Garfield, in terms of its importance to the town, is huge. I consider it the performing arts center for the community. They have consistent events that bring people downtown that are great for them but also great for the businesses around them,” Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino said.

From its original opening in the early twentieth century, the Garfield was exclusively a cinema known as the Chestertown Lyceum, later becoming the New Lyceum in 1928.

According to the Garfield’s website, just as Chestertown itself was growing and adapting to various challenges, the theatre was struggling with changes in ownership, business, and building upkeep.

“I see them as a keystone organization for the vitality of downtown Chestertown,” Cerino said.

According to the Garfield’s website, “Movie houses were the stuff dreams were made of for a child growing up in America before the advent of television.”

This became notably true, as the building fell into despair and closed in 1993 for a number of years.

According to Cerino, later on in the early 2000s, the Garfield was funded by the community to reestablish the original building as a new performing arts center in Chestertown. The new name, Garfield, was given in honor of Matthew and Marie Garfield, who had significantly contributed to the refurbishing of the building by renovating the roof, lobby and foyer, and repainting the stage.

“The fact that [the Garfield] has been there for 90 years shows Chestertown’s commitment to the arts more than anything, because it was really people in the arts community that rallied around it and raised the money to re- and preserve the physical space,” Cerino said.

The Garfield contributes to the Chestertown community as it hosts events such as open-mic nights, guest musicians, and theatrical performances. It is surrounded by the Chestertown traditions, most notably the recent HP Festival, when the theater held tours for children and their families.

“Chestertown is quirky like that,” Cerino said.

Cerino comapred the Garfield to an oasis of the arts, and said that the theatre makes the town more intriguing to visitors who may be experiencing Chestertown for the first time.

Cerino said that all Washington College students should go see an event at the Garfield and take advantage of their time at school to see the town before their years are up. With that said, Cerino said that he cannot attend events as much as he probably should because of the many duties of his position.

The vision of the Garfield, according to its webiste, is to desire a community where the arts and artists thrive, are accessible, and essential to everyday life. With each event and through outreach into the community they strive to “invigorate the cultural life of our community by nurturing, celebrating and supporting arts and artists through performance and education.”

On Oct. 25, the Garfield’s celebratory event will be hosting a lecture and book-signing with Amy Davis, author of “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theatres,” at 7 p.m.

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