News & Politics

2009’s Washingtonians of the Year: Carol Trawick

Keeping the arts alive and growing

Photograph by Matthew Worden

Carol Trawick doesn’t paint, act, or play an instrument—but she makes beautiful music and art possible.

As a community activist and chair of the Bethesda–Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, she helped get downtown Bethesda designated as an arts-and-entertainment district. Now the Montgomery County suburb promotes galleries, theaters, and cultural activities such as the annual Bethesda Literary Festival.

Trawick was the first chair of the committee to save nearby Glen Echo Park. One of the initial steps was to convince a donor to pay for a sprinkler system so the old carousel could operate again. Trawick also helped begin the process for federal, state, and local governments to work together to restore the park.

“I’ve lived long enough to see others carry through and give back a wonderful resource for the arts,” she says.

Trawick has come to the aid of other organizations in crisis. She helped Joy of Motion Dance Center keep its doors open—contributing $10,000 to start a fundraising campaign, then adding a $10,000 matching grant to encourage others to support the center. The Trawick family’s foundation supports many health-and-welfare organizations and gives space and encouragement to emerging nonprofits.

She and her late husband, Jim, created the Trawick Prize, given to a visual artist each year, as well as the Bethesda Painting Awards, and they donated funds to the Bethesda literary and fine-arts festivals. They gave $2.5 million to Imagination Stage and a $1-million endowment to the Music Center at Strathmore for its arts-and-education program. Thanks to people like her, Strathmore has grown from a mansion on a hill to a spectacular performance hall and a teaching center for six arts organizations.

Every Montgomery County second- and fifth-grader has the chance to visit Strathmore for a concert. Trawick was in the audience with a group of fifth-graders when the National Philharmonic played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. “Those children were out of their seats,” she says. “The excitement, the power of a vision, the community coming together—it’s just wonderful.”