Cumberland, Md.: A Place That Embraces Artists

Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains on the banks of the Potomac River, Cumberland, Md., is the gateway to Maryland’s Appalachian region. By focusing on quality of life issues, Cumberland has begun to retool its economy.

| October/November 2013

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers a step back in history.

Photo By Bill Merlavage

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2013 installment of 9 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of.

Cumberland, Maryland. When Dave and Meg Romero were considering pursuing their art full time a few years ago, they had never heard of Cumberland. But when Meg read an ad in a trade magazine for an “artist relocation program” intent on recruiting artists to the area, they turned to each other and said, “Hmmm.”

“We had to take out the atlas to even know where Cumberland was,” Dave says. “But the city was offering an incredible deal to recruit artists — grants, low-interest loans — and it seemed worth checking out.”

When they rolled into town, they were immediately struck by the town’s aesthetics. It looks like a little European village, with steeples everywhere and amazing architectural variety in its brick buildings, he says. “It’s not Disneyland — it has its warts and issues — but it is a community that’s open and working to create a brighter future.”

Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains on the banks of the Potomac River, Cumberland is the gateway to the state’s Appalachian region. The town is rich with history, from its role as a major staging point for westward wagon trains after the American Revolution and as a Union stronghold during the Civil War, to its 200 years as a source of iron ore, coal and other resources valued during the Industrial Revolution.

The economy began a protracted downward slide in the 1960s but is recovering now, partly based on the development paradigm that drew the Romeros to Cumberland. The community took advantage of a Maryland legislative initiative to establish arts and entertainment districts. The City of Cumberland and the Allegany Arts Council sponsored the artist relocation program, which brought dozens of artists and several related businesses. A focus on tourism, local food and specialty shopping drive Cumberland’s renaissance.

beatrice wilson
9/18/2013 8:00:48 AM


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