They say life begins at 40. That seems true for the Arts Council of the Morris Area, which starts its fifth decade with a new name, a new logo and a new mission.
Morris Arts, the new moniker, “rolls off the tongue like our old name didn’t,” Executive Director Tom Werder told a conference room packed with artists, patrons and dignitaries on Thursday in Morristown.
The new logo is … a swirl of paint…or piano keys… or a stage…or whatever else you perceive. Plans call for an online contest to name the mark, designed by John Weber. A social media consultant also has been hired.
But the biggest change, Tom said, is the new mission statement: “To engage and build community through the arts.”
“It sounds simple, but it’s substantive,” said Tom, who was hired last year after discussions were under way to revamp the Morristown-based organization, which serves parts of Somerset, Sussex and Union counties in addition to Morris County.
The Arts Council had promoted the arts within the community. Morris Arts aims to use art to create communities.
“It’s not just something you do on the side, as a luxury,” Tom explained. “It’s an essential piece of what makes this community great.”
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He cited efforts by staffer Kadie Dempsey to help Boonton galleries band together for monthly First Friday tours, which he credited with helping rejeuvenate the downtown.
Morris Arts also is establishing an endowment as a hedge against lean times, announced Morris Arts President Alan Levitan. Nearly $100,000 already has been pledged, said Alan, who plans to step down this summer after eight years on the board.
Dignitaries in the audience at 14 Maple Ave. included Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), state Sen. Anthony Bucco and his son, state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (both R-25th Dist.); Morris Freeholder Hank Lyons, and Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty.
Elizabeth Mattson, chairperson of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and her fellow council member, Kevin O’Brien, also were on hand.
Morris Arts has an extensive record to build upon. Since its 1973 launch by the Junior League of Morristown, the arts group has given grants to more than 1,000 arts organizations. It also has…
- Administered arts programs serving nearly 100,000 schoolchildren;
- Shown more than 1,000 artworks by almost 300 artists annually, at free exhibitions at the Gallery at 14 Maple and the Atrium Gallery;
- Booked more that 6,000 artists to perform for nearly 200,000 people over 21 years at First Night Morris County;
- Hosted the free Music Without Borders lunchtime series on the Green;
- Entertained residents at the Morris View nursing home with monthly concerts;
- Provided scholarships an mentoring to promising high school students;
- Organized the Giralda Music and Arts Festival for 29 years.
Upcoming Morris Arts events include Celebrate the Arts on April 11, the fifth anniversary of Great Conversations on May 2 and the 30th anniversary of the Giralda Music and Arts Festival on June 23. The Oct. 27 Pumpkin Illumination will be followed by First Night on Dec. 31.
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