Artist haven at Glen Echo Park back in business

GLEN ECHO, Md. (WJLA) - Actors, painters and potters are back in business at Glen Echo Park. The artistic haven is operated by Montgomery County and non-profit Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture. The campus however sits on land owned by the National Park Service, which kept the gates closed during the federal government shutdown., which ceased late Wednesday.

During a media conference this week, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced Glen Echo Park had forfeited $300,000 because of the shutdown. Leggett also called on the National Park Service to allow county workers to re-open the facility immediately.

"All the National Park Service does at Glen Echo is grounds maintenance, trash collection and provide security," said Leggett. "If the National Park Service will open Glen Echo, Montgomery County will provide these services until the government shutdown ends. If NPS does not reopen Glen Echo by Thursday, the county will."

Despite the shutdown and Glen Echo Park re-opening ending before Leggett could make real on his threat, the plethora of artists are still in financial dire straights.

The Puppet Co., a favorite among children and parents, is still calculating its shutdown losses, but believes they're north of $25,000. It all adds-up, said general manager Mayfield Piper, the canceled school field trips, birthday parties and days out with grandma - gone.

"Birthday parties really hurt us because they usually cannot be re-booked. So, not only are we not making any money, but we're giving it all back," Piper remarked.

Needless to say, the 80 Vienna Elementary School students who attended Friday's morning performance of Peter and the Wolf - the first in 18 days - were a welcome sight.

"I got on the stage and I thought, 'wow,'" master puppeteer Christopher Piper said. "Still, I can't understand why we were shutdown. The National Park Service is not vital to the operations of the park. If we had to take out the trash to remain open as we did in 1995 and 1996, we would have. We just weren't allowed this time."

Painter Jordan Bruns was also confused by Glen Echo's shutdown. For 16 days, Bruns didn't sell a single painting in his abstract studio or teach an on-site art lesson. Together the two ventures make-up 100 percent of his annual income.

"It crippled us yeah. I felt hopeless and helpless when the government shut down. I couldn't get to where I go every day. I just can't express how happy I am to be back," Bruns said with a relieved chuckle.

But Blair Anderson isn't laughing. The silversmith was scheduled to display her high-end jewelry in Glen Echo Park's most prominent gallery space from Sept. 21 until Oct. 27. The lease was for five weeks, the shutdown invaded three. To date, the Silver Spring resident has sold just five pieces.

"You spend months preparing, you create the work and then it's not even seen. That was what broke my heart, because you work really hard to do this," Anderson said inside the silversmith shop she leases at Glen Echo Park.

Montgomery County leaders and the park's non-profit partnership say they plan to contact the National Park Service to amend the current joint-contract. The goal would be to allow county employees to fulfill park service tasks in the event of a future shutdown so Glen Echo Park's gates are never indefinitely shut again.