Legislature passes bond bills granting funds to two local nonprofits

Rendering of the planned media lab courtesy Gandhi Brigade Youth Media.

The state legislature yesterday passed bond bills that will provide matching grants to help two nonprofits move into new spaces in the Silver Spring Library.

Under the terms of the legislation, Gandhi Brigade Youth Media will receive $150,000 and Arts on the Block $100,000. Sen. Will Smith (D-District 20) sponsored the Senate bill. Del. Sheila Hixson (D-District 20) was the lead sponsor of the House bill, with Delegates David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins (both D-District 20) as cosponsors.

Gandhi Brigade signed a 20-year lease (with option to renew) to move into the library’s lower level. The organization plans to begin construction in July and complete the project in late August.

This would be the group’s first permanent home after operating in churches, libraries and storefronts during its 10-year history.

“As libraries are a natural gathering place for youth, the Montgomery County library system was key to our early success, playing host to many of Gandhi Brigade’s inaugural programs,” said Evan Glass, the group’s executive director, in an email.

“The state bond bill will help us to build a digital media center that will include individual workstations, a hangout lounge for small gatherings and casual conversation, a production studio, offices for our expanding staff, and an open space for large events, screenings and community dialogues,” he continued.

“This new space will also allow Gandhi Brigade to create more programming opportunities, such as media production classes geared specifically for teenage girls; digital media workshops for seniors; coding, gaming and app development classes; and GED training, re-entry programs and other continuing education activities,” he added.

AOB, which has operated in the county for 15 years, will move from its current location in Kensington. Plans call for the group to take possession of the library space with a 10-year lease (and two 5-year renewals) on March 1, 2019 and complete construction by the end of June. Approximately 20 percent of the work will add long-term improvements to the library as a public facility.

“We are grateful to the Senator Smith and Delegates Hixson, Moon and Wilkins for sponsoring AOB’s bond bills, and are hopeful for a favorable outcome in the final budget,” said Anne L’Ecuyer, AOB’s executive director, in an email.

“This funding will allow us to help fulfill Montgomery County’s vision for the new library complex as a cultural destination,” she continued. “The extraordinary resources of the library will supercharge our studio curriculum, and being in the arts district and so close to creative neighbors like Gandhi Brigade and Levine Music means that any kid with any artistic interest can find inspiration in downtown Silver Spring.”

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