Today, the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center (HVPA) has a modernized photo lab with the Carvells’ (Clarence and his wife, Martha) name on the wall. They were among the first HVPA donors as the building opened in 2006. But that wasn’t Carvell’s first instance of supporting photography enthusiasts at HCC.
He retired from a 15-year career as an electrical engineer in the mid-1970s and went into the real estate business before picking up photography as a hobby. He eventually earned associate degrees in business and art from HCC and made a successful proposition during his time as an instructor.
“The photography program was pretty sad,” Carvell says. “The equipment was old and didn’t work well. I couldn’t finish my photography courses because there wasn’t any color photo equipment. I had to take my color courses at UMBC.
“There was a darkroom in the basement of the old building,” he says. “It was pretty dingy, and it wasn’t well-equipped. There was a piano practice room next to it. I asked the dean if I could expand the darkroom and take over that piano room. I said I’d put up $25,000 for it if the school put up $25,000. They agreed.”
The result was a larger, updated darkroom with classroom space. Not only was it better for students, who previously struggled to learn photography in the old studio, the renovation helped HCC recruit instructors. “Teachers were a lot more willing to come because it was a better all-around facility,” Carvell says, adding that it lasted until the new HVPA building was opened.
An accomplished freelancer who has specialized in travel and outdoor photography for 30 years, Carvell fears that the arts are becoming an afterthought. He sees them losing ground to business and technology, which is one reason he sponsored the HVPA space. Seeing his name on a plaque was the least of his motivations.
“It wasn’t important to me,” he says. “But if it encourages people to donate and get involved, it’s worth having their name where people can see it and recognize them. That’s certainly one way of doing it.”
The HVPA is a gem and cultural hub for Columbia and greater Howard County. Carvell believes the same is true for the college in general.
“Without HCC the whole community would suffer,” he says. “It keeps people going. I meet people every day who have been to the school, gotten a degree or gone for different courses. I have friends who have taught there over the years. The fact that it’s here has a big impact.
“People don’t have to drive to College Park or Baltimore to get an education.”