Kent County Arts Council director celebrated
CHESTERTOWN — Community members gathered Tuesday night to celebrate the achievements of Leslie Prince Raimond during her 30 years as executive director of the Kent County Arts Council.
“Tonight is all about you,” John Schratwieser said at the opening of the celebration, which was held at the Garfield Center for the Arts.
The Garfield was filled with people, on both the main floor and the balcony, there to celebrate Raimond’s achievements as she retires.
“I’m speechless really. I just want to thank all of you. I want to thank everyone for participating in the arts,” Raimond said.
During her time as executive director, Raimond worked to help local artists find a platform for their talents. Many of those artists attended the event to honor her.
Melissa McGlynn, Sue Matthews, Barbara Parker and Karen Somerville opened the show singing “Ain’t I a Woman?” Each also sang solos, which Tom McHugh said were carefully picked to reflect on Raimond’s work.
“She is the sweetest, kindest person I know, but you don’t want to cross her,” McHugh said of Raimond.
McHugh, who worked with Raimond and the KCAC in founding the Mainstay in Rock Hall, along with other musical endeavors throughout the county thanked Raimond for her work.
The New Gospelites, a four-person Gospel group, also took the stage and sang several songs in honor of Raimond.
“It would not be a Leslie Raimond tribute without the New Gospelites,” Schratwieser said.
Robert Earl Price wrote a poem in Raimond’s honor. The title focused on her name, which he said is an Anglicization of the Gaelic name meaning “holy garden.” The poem was titled “Magic Gardener.” It described Raimond’s way of aiding artists within the community.
“Into our hearts she has scattered a seed and awakened a need/ To bare witness to an indelible deed — a scroll for the future to read/ The accounts of creative spirits freed
by the boon of Leslie’s visionary lead,” Price read.
Schratwieser succeeds Raimond as executive director of the KCAC. During the celebration, he said the KCAC building, which has moved to 101 Spring Ave. in Chestertown, will be named the Vincent and Leslie Prince Raimond building.
Raimond began her service to the county in 1985. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Washington College and a Master’s of Arts in English literature. She previously worked for the Kent County Senior Center. It was there that she began working to preserve oral histories and African American spirituals.
She also has put a focus on preserving and sharing African American culture and heritage in the county.
Another of her many achievements was the acquisition and restoration of the Charles Sumner Post #25 in Chestertown. Through her efforts, the building, which was home to the Grand Army of the Republic during the Civil War, was restored and turned into the museum. It is one of only two of its kind left in the country.
Sumner Hall is now a center for performance, display, education and research that honors local African American culture and the country’s Civil War heritage.
Earlier this year, it was home to the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked.”
Many other community members took the stage to thank Raimond for her efforts.
Cheryl Saunders read an email from her son, musician Marlon Saunders, who thanked Raimond for her support and help during his time at Kent County High School.
“There are no words to express the level of gratitude I feel for Mrs. Leslie Raimond. The support, encouragement and faith she has shown me over the years is incredible,” Marlon Saunders wrote. “When I would discuss a creative project I was interested in presenting with Mrs. Raimond, she always smiled and offered her help.”
In the email, he called Raimond his muse and thanked her for helping with his music while he attended Kent County High School. Marlon Saunders is now a professor at New York University.
President of the Kent County Commissioners William Pickrum also thanked Raimond for the work she has done in the community. He presented her with a certificate of recognition for her 30 years of being a public servant.
“One of the interesting things when I moved back to my home here in Kent County was I discovered the vibrance of our arts in all its forms were here in Kent County,” Pickrum said. “The arts in this community, in the county, is really an intergral part of what we are as a society of people here. This makes Kent County very, very special.”
Ken Skrzesz, executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council, began his speech by praising Raimond and the talent seen in the room.
“John Schratwieser and Leslie Raimond? You know how to pick them here in Kent County,” Skrzesz said. “And what happened on the stage tonight? ... I mean this incredible blues music. The singers were phenomenal. ... I didn’t know if I was in Kent County or Manhattan.”
He presented Raimond with a citation from Gov. Larry Hogan thanking her for her efforts in Kent County and her attention to minority populations.
“Every once in a while, we are really lucky when an artist decides to shine her light on the community and that is clearly what happened here for the past 30 years,” Skrzesz said.
Leslie Raimond smiles at the audience following the tribute to her for 30 years of service as the executive director of the Kent County Arts Council.
From left, Sue Matthews, Barbara Parker, Karen Somerville and Melissa McGlynn sing “Wild Women Don’t get the Blues” Tuesday as part of a tribute to Leslie Raimond and the work she did for the arts during her 30 years as executive director of the Kent County Arts Council.
Robert Earl Price reads a poem he wrote to honor Leslie Raimond. The poem titled “Magic Gardener” details Raimond’s ability to cultivate talent within the county.