The second First Friday series of events will start up again in the Fall! In the meantime, join us for Downtown Live and Lawn Chair Theater!

About Our Namesake

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Maria Howard came to Rocky Mount in 1946 from Antwerp, Belgium as a young bride. She had married Major Herbert Howard, an American soldier, in Belgium the year before. Before moving to this country, she studied for five years at the Antwerp School of Design. She received her diploma after four years and planned to complete two more years, but all schools in Antwerp were closed in 1944-45 when the V-I's bombed the City. The war ended and, as Herbert prepared to return home, they got married and she prepared to join him in the US.

Maria quickly embraced Rocky Mount and Rocky Mount embraced her as she involved herself in many activities: the Rocky Mount Garden Club, The Rocky Mount Arts Center, the Elks Lodge Auxiliary, the Junior Guild, and a host of civic projects. She was appointed by then Mayor Fred Turnage as Vice Chair of the Bicentennial Commission and played an important part in the Commission's role to develop a program for the celebration of the City's Bicentennial birthday. She served three years on the Sears Garden Club HANDS Board of Directors, coordinating the planting of holly trees on Main Street, landscaping the Battle Park gazebo and planting dogwood trees at City Lake, along U.S. Highway 301 Business and Highway 43, projects for which she was awarded an Award of Merit by HANDS for these projects.

She enthusiastically entered flower arrangements in flower shows where she almost always took away a blue ribbon; she painted, designed and made exquisite clothing for herself; she spoke to and for groups and civic clubs; and sang in the Christmas Chorus at the Arts Center and the Tar River Chorus. She kept extensive and expansive scrapbooks of all her activities and recognitions and loved to share them with any one she could get to pause long enough to peruse them.

Maria Howard loved the Arts Center and took great pride in participating in the many events that took place here during her life time. She was an artistically talented individual who did not hide her talents "under a bushel." She was, in fact, a charter member of the Arts Center, dating back to before the Arts Center became a part of the City of Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department. And she was a staunch supporter of renovating the Imperial Centre into the wonderful facility you visit today.

Maria Howard had a great love for this country, for this City, and especially for this Arts Center. Her life in this country and involvement in the activities of this community are models for anyone who relocates to a foreign environment, embraces the community and becomes a contributing citizen. Maria Howard was that type of person. This community will benefit from her generosity for years to come.

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