The Old Blair Auditorium Project Continues to Persevere and Rebuild a Beloved Theater

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By Iman Smith, Bloc Reporter 

When Stuart Moore decided to attend a PTA meeting at his daughter’s school, Silver Spring International Middle School, in fall 2004, he discovered something unexpected.

Sealed off was the Old Blair Auditorium, once a major performing arts venue in Silver Spring.

Dave Ottalini/ For The Bloc~ The theater continues to diminish while construction delays and council members converse.
Dave Ottalini/ For The Bloc ~ The theater continues to diminish while construction delays and council members converse.

Today, the auditorium is in horrendous condition: mold is scattered in numerous places, entrances are boarded and asbestos is littered within the walls.

Moore, 50, is president of the board of directors of the Old Blair Auditorium Project, Inc. In 2004, the group formed in an effort to advocate for the auditorium’s repair, he said.

Old Blair is located in the former Montgomery Blair High School building, Moore said.

Moore said his past encounter with the auditorium’s poor condition frustrated him.

“I thought it was wrong for the county to just have this and try to sweep it under the rug,” he said. “It’s not good government to take a resource like this and just shut it down because you don’t feel like dealing with it.”

Moore initially only signed up to operate the organization’s website. Somehow, over time, he ended up becoming president, he said.

The organization has been collaborating with Montgomery County Council members and although logistics regarding the auditorium’s renovation have been discussed, construction has not begun.

On March 18, council members voted to spend the design money for the project but did not program any construction funds until fiscal year 2021 or beyond, according to the meeting memo.

In May, the design money will start the “design phase,” where select areas of the auditorium like the seating and wall coverings will be demolished.

The organization’s desired construction process is still delayed.

“Our organization’s in a little bit of a predicament,” he said. “Here we are, 10 years after the organization formally started, and there’s still no plan to bring it to the conclusion.”

Moore and about nine other associates on the board of directors volunteer for the project.

The group has made petitions and posted personal stories from those affected by the auditorium to their website, OldBlairAuditorium.org.

Iris Argueta, a 50-year-old Blair High alumna, said the facility was a beloved venue. “We had a professional stage,” Argueta said. “The Kennedy Center donated almost everything.”

Iconic acts such as Stevie Wonder and Pete Seeger performed at the auditorium, Moore said.

Argueta is the Old Blair Auditorium representative for the PTA at Silver Spring International.

She said her daughter Alanna Sibrian, a Silver Spring International sixth-grader, should be able to use the auditorium for school productions.

“I walk into the school and I learn that in one little dinky classroom, there’s a little platform and that’s where they put on the plays,” Argueta said. “This year, there’s no place to perform.”

Sibrian testified on the auditorium’s behalf Feb. 6 at the Montgomery County Council hearing for the county budget.

Sibrian, an active young thespian, said she dislikes having to use a small stage.

“What’s the point of having a place in the school that’s supposed to be for performing but you have to do it at another school?” Sibrian asked.

Moore said the organization will continue tenacious efforts. “Our main purpose is to get the doors open and step out of the way,” he said.

“I don’t want the county to win.”

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