By Ennis Barbery Smith, Assistant Administrator, Maryland Heritage Areas Program
The Maryland Heritage Areas Program is thrilled to announce the successful formation of its new Grants Review Panel, made up of 20 individuals from across the state of Maryland. The 20 panelists represent a wide range of areas of expertise – heritage tourism, public art, historic preservation, education, project management, museums, marketing, and other fields – all of which relate to the types of projects that are eligible for funding from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA).
In autumn of 2019, the program held an open call for panelists, inviting members of the public to nominate themselves or others to review MHAA grants in FY 2021. As part of the process, six state agencies nominated representatives with relevant expertise, and MHAA staff invited Maryland’s seven ethnic and cultural commissions to nominate panelists. In total, nearly 70 nominations were received.
The 20 individuals who will make up the FY 2021 Grants Review Panel are diverse not only in terms of expertise, but also in terms of racial and ethnic background, gender, and geographic associations. The Panel includes Commissioners from the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, and the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. It also includes representatives from the all corners of the State: from Garrett County in the west to Worcester County on the Eastern Shore.
Mr. Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer will chair the new Grants Review Panel in its inaugural year. Spencer was nominated to serve on the Panel by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, on which he also serves as a Commissioner.
Born, raised, and educated in Anne Arundel County, Spencer has an extensive background as an artist, as well as a background in public administration and a track record of serving his community. His CV includes time spent in the United States Marine Corps and a 23-year career with the Annapolis Fire Department. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and has served on the Anne Arundel County Public School Board, on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and as a grants evaluator for the Maryland State Board of Education. Currently, he devotes his time to the arts. He is the founder of A. J. Spencer Consultants, LLC and Enrapture Records. Plus, he manages a career as a performing artist, which has included appearances with a host of local, regional, national, and international artists and philharmonic orchestras.
Spencer shared these thoughts on his new role as Chair: “I have come to understand the value of giving back and serving the greater community. Serving with the Maryland Heritage Areas Program as a grant evaluator provides me the opportunity to ensure that the communities and organizations within Maryland have access to resources to research, preserve, present, and celebrate our collective histories.”
The deadline for Intent-to-Apply forms – the first step in the MHAA application process – was January 31, 2020, and the Program received over 240 forms, requesting over $10.4 million in grant funds. With such a strong turnout, MHAA staff are expecting a large number of applications this year. The panelists will soon be busy reviewing the applications, and the Program is grateful for their willingness to read, review, and rank the hundreds of applications that come in each year. The panelists’ duties will also include participating in a training session and two day-long grants review meetings. Be on the lookout for our follow-up blog post, which will include more panelist profiles!