By Kevin Coughlin
Morristown as an art mecca?
That’s the picture four local galleries hope to paint on Nov. 16, during their first Art Around the Park evening.
Patterned after Philadelphia’s First Friday open houses for art galleries, Art Around the Park in Morristown will feature extended hours at the Simon Gallery, the Gallery at 14 Maple, Gallery Egan, and Eclectic Grill at the Hyatt Morristown. The paintings at the Hyatt are curated by Harry Simon.
All four venues are within easy walking distance of each other and the Morristown Green. Gallery owners and artists will greet visitors from 6 pm to 8 pm, ending at the Hyatt.
“Art Around the Park is poised to set Morristown up as a very serious art destination in the state,” said Harry Simon, who opened Simon Gallery with his wife, Mary Ellen Simon, on Bank Street in 1996.
By raising the profile of Morristown’s art scene, Harry said, local galleries aim to attract more than just new patrons.
“Our ultimate goal is to see more commercial galleries in Morristown,” he said.
That might sound like extra competition. Alexis Egan of Gallery Egan on Community Place does not see it that way.
“I think it’s like restaurants. The more there are, the better off we all are,” said Alexis, who considers Harry a mentor.
Morristown is best known for its Revolutionary War history. But Kadie Dempsey of the Arts Council of the Morris Area, which operates the Gallery at 14 Maple, suggested first-time visitors also will be pleasantly surprised “by the level of artistic professionalism at all the places in this art walk.”
Art Around the Park is a free event that melds a nonprofit, a pair of private galleries and a giant corporation, all intent on putting Morristown on the arts map, Harry said.
The Gallery at 14 Maple, which presents two shows a year, is featuring a juried exhibition by area artists called Whimsy.
Gallery Egan’s monthly spotlight will shine on Long Valley artist Andrea Kelly, whose abstract paintings go on display this week.
Exhibitions change every five weeks at the Simon Gallery, where Asbury Park painter David French will discuss his show during the art walk.
Over at Eclectic Grill, the artist du jour is Reese Inman. Diners in the hotel restaurant can order one of the Maine artist’s unusual computer-assisted “algorithm map paintings,” priced from $2,000 to $3,000, for dessert. They can choose from 17 paintings hung in the restaurant.
“We consider it a fairly new adventure,” said Hyatt Morristown General Manager Tom Blundell, who met Harry Simon through the Morristown Partnership.
Some brainstorming ensued, Tom said, and the hotel began catering show openings at the Simon Gallery last year.
In June, Harry curated the first fine art exhibition at the hotel’s Eclectic Grill. These exhibits are scheduled to change every three months.
Tom said it’s a big improvement over the “corporate art” found in most hotels, and gives customers one more reason to come back to the Hyatt.
Hotel management spent $7 million on room renovations last year, in the midst of a recession that Tom described as a “tough, long haul.”
By definition, he said, Eclectic Grill is an ideal place to view paintings. As word trickles out, he hopes people will make it an art destination.
“Hopefully,” Tom added, “they’ll sit down and have something to eat.”