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GAP Grant Impact Stories

It’s not about the notes | Kari Shea 

“I didn’t realize I led a privileged life until I was labeled ‘nonessential,’” said Kari Shea, a freelance Bassoonist and Contra Bassoonist who has performed and taught in Anne Arundel County and the surrounding areas for the past 20 years. After dedicating her life to music, Kari’s entire livelihood abruptly disappeared last spring.

“Having that taken away so quickly and so unquestioningly has been heartbreaking,” she said. “With the loss of all performance work, I spent the morning searching the job listings for a part-time job that would allow me to continue to teach music lessons and support my three children who were schooling from home.” She found a temporary position with the Census Bureau last summer, but when that was over there were still no performance opportunities on the horizon.

The GAP Grant Kari received from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County last fall gave her the chance to breathe and not focus on financial concerns. It also gave her the time to reimagine music-making. “Unable to meet students and colleagues in person, I worked on different ways to effectively teach private music lessons online, experimenting with different platforms, lighting, and equipment.” She told us she, “Explored different ways to engage with other performers online and learned a lot about latency. The ability to connect to people all over the world has been exciting, improvising with a bassist from Germany and playing our annual Christmas concert from our individual living rooms. So now concerts are recitals over zoom with pre-recorded accompaniment tracks and chamber music is playing along with recordings of myself. My students and I have engaged in an in-depth study of Baroque performance practice- something we never had time for before. The truth in all of this is that music-making is not about the notes. It is about connecting to people through a shared performance or a shared listening experience and engaging in conversations and understanding of that experience.”


Creating with Clay on the Bay | SoCo Arts Lab

SoCo Arts Lab is Southern Anne Arundel County’s newest hub for arts and culture. Igniting creativity and artistic expression, the Lab provides myriad opportunities for making and sharing art in all its forms. There is a center for the visual arts and individual and communal workspaces for artists to work in a variety of different media. The Lab offers a breadth of classes, as well as educational and cultural programs, public cultural performances and exhibits, presentations to groups, panel discussions, and public education programming.

The Lab is funded through memberships, tuition, events, jury fees, and fundraising, as well as rentals of studio and teaching space and equipment. When the pandemic hit last year, everyone one of those income sources went dry. Every artist felt the impacts. Some were forced by finances to relocate, including a member who was to manage the renovation and operation of a “Clay on the Bay” ceramics studio. With her departure, plans for the much-anticipated bright and modern ceramics studio had to be put on hold.

Before the pandemic, the Clay on the Bay program had been a big draw, and the Lab was building a steady income stream from in-person ceramics classes, held in its second-floor communal space. When COVID hit a small number of classes were held by relocating to the outdoors, but most had to be canceled. The current space, already inadequate, was not conducive to remote instruction.

For the SoCo Arts Lab, receiving the Anne Arundel County GAP grant last fall turned out to be a game-changer. The timely infusion of funding made it possible to complete the renovation during the pandemic restrictions and to begin offering online ceramics classes to the public. The renovation included laying new vinyl flooring over the unfinished concrete floor and closing in the open ceiling, which had exposed insulation, air ducts, and wiring, with drywall. Lighting was added, as well as dedicated infrastructure to support a second kiln. The resulting bright, clean, and safer work environment made it possible to teach remotely during the restrictions and is now ready for in-person classes.

The Lab used the remaining GAP funds to purchase a webcam and upgrade their technology, which enabled them to pivot to online classes and tutorials in 2021. Through innovation and creativity, they have continued engaging their members and the community through “Art Talks,” lively, informal, open-ended discussions on a wide range of topics.

To connect and learn more about SoCo Arts Lab, visit

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The COVID-19 Relief Grants for the Arts Program (GAP) funding made possible by County Executive Steuart Pittman and the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. 


Click here for information regarding the Anne Arundel County GAP Grant for Independent Artists 

Click here for information regarding the Anne Arundel County GAP Grant for Arts Organizations


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