Les­lie Rai­mond

Kent County Arts Coun­cil di­rec­tor cel­e­brated

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By LEANN SCHENKE lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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.

PHOTO BY LEANN SCHENKE

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.

PHO­TOS BY LEANN SCHENKE

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.

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