Video: The Folk Project story — in one song!
The arts can transform communities, launch careers, forge lifelong friendships and even kindle storybook romances.
All of the above were evident Thursday at the Bickford Theatre in Morris Township, where Morris Arts handed out its 2015 “Celebrate the Arts” awards.
The fairytale romance belongs to Paul Jach and Kristy Brucale Jach, whose Speakeasy Gallery in Boonton really is a labor of love. Paul opened a gallery a decade ago, met Kristy, and wedding bells chimed.
“I not only found the man of my dreams,” Kristy said, “but also someone who helped me find my true place in this life.”
They founded the nonprofit Boonton Arts, and Main Street has blossomed into an arts district. Morris Arts honored the couple as this year’s outstanding arts professionals.
Downtown Morristown has been transformed, too, with help from the arts. The Trustees of the Green and the Morristown Partnership shared special recognition for their roles: The Trustees for sharing their historic town square for Music Beyond Borders and countless other arts events, and the Partnership for teaming with Morris Arts to launch the Meet Me in Morristown sidewalk fairs, among other artistic ventures in the business district.
“The Morristown Green has been there for hundreds of years, in the same place. Whether there were wagons at the time or cars today, they’ve got to go around the Green. It doesn’t make people happy. But we try to keep the Green looking beautiful,” said Glenn Coutts, president of the trustees.
“We’re proud of the Morristown Green, and when you come to Morristown, enjoy it.”
The Partnership’s Jennifer Wehring invited everyone to Season Two of Meet Me in Morristown, starting on May 28, 2015.
“It’s such a pleasure to work with such rock stars in creative place-making,” Wehring said of her counterparts at Morris Arts.
Caren Frost Olmsted, named Outstanding Arts Educator of 2015, has inspired students to collaborate on eye-popping murals in Boonton schools.
“I love the process, and what art can engender in a school, and how it just makes a school juicy,” Olmsted said.
West Morris Mendham High School must be plenty juicy, too: It nurtured a pair of scholarship winners.
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Reed Puleo, awarded the $5,000 Elaine Ehlers Arts Scholarship, is the state’s top high school percussionist. Last year his Marimba Four band took second place at Morristown’s Got Talent with a dazzling performance that a contest judge described as “outside of the box.”
Classmate Tori Hey won a $1,500 Eugenie Coladarci Arts Scholarship for her nuanced ballet dancing. Hey said she practices for 30 hours a week. “I’ve missed countless parties,” she said, “but it’s all been worth it.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC garnered Outstanding Corporation honors for supporting Great Conversations and the Giralda Farms concerts, two big fundraisers for Morris Arts. The New Jersey Choral Consortium was named Outstanding Arts Advocate.
‘TRY IT. YOU’LL LIKE IT.’
Last but not least, the Folk Project took a bow as Outstanding Arts Organization. Actually, several bows, following performances by Folk Project members Mike Agranoff, Jean Farnworth, Kris Lamb, Hen3ry Nerenberg, Diane Perry and Frank Sole.
They are regulars at The Minstrel, the Folk Project’s Friday night music series at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, just around the corner from the Bickford. The Folk Project presents some 140 concerts, dances and festivals every year; this nonprofit has been radiating warm vibes for four decades.
Which is where the long-term friendships come in.
Barrett Wilson, president of the Folk Project board, sought musical relief from his stressful job at a utility company.
“This is such a perfect foil for corporate culture,” said Wilson, who plays the hammered dulcimer for fun. “You can’t boss people around. You have to be creative. You don’t have a big stick. It’s really challenging, and really refreshing.”
Mike Agranoff put it another way, in between verses of his performance of Before They Close the Minstrel Show.
“I see some people looking a little uncomfortable because the person next to them is singing,” he said with a smart-alecky grin. “It’s okay. It’s folk music. It’s supposed to happen!”
Then, on a more serious note:
“We have forgotten as Americans the joy of singing together. We try and remember it at the Folk Project. Try it. You’ll like it.”
Video: Folk Project quartet performs: Kris Lamb, Diane Perry, Frank Sole and Hen3ry Nerenberg. Video by Andrew Hines.