‘Meet Me In Morristown’ shows off for visitors

Young dancer bops to the Atlanta Café Band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Young dancer bops to the Atlanta Café Band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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They came from as far as Monmouth County and Brooklyn, to see first-hand what “Creative Placemaking” looks like.

Turns out it looks like …  Meet Me in Morristown, Thursday’s downtown arts and business fair.  And like… the twin totems that proclaim the town’s immigrant history, at the Community Garden on Early Street.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Nancy Ciabattari, after taking a tour led by nonprofit Morris Arts on Thursday.

Leo Vasquez, executive director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, speaks prior to 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Leo Vasquez, executive director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, speaks prior to ‘Meet Me in Morristown,’ June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Fifteen artists, educators, community organizers and urban planners were invited by Leonardo Vasquez, executive director of the Union-based National Consortium For Creative Placemaking.

A “creative placemaker,” Vasquez explained, “is anyone who works to make communities better through arts and culture.”

Morristown has seen several such efforts in recent years, spearheaded by Kadie Dempsey, director of creative placemaking for Morris Arts, in collaborations with the business community, town hall, developers and foundations.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Anna Heinrich, 10, of Flanders performs with the Lakeland Youth Symphony at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sisters Nancy and Kisha Ciabattari at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The City Limit band from Rockaway, at 'Meet Me in  at Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
South Street at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Warren County photographer Cortney Torres at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
BALANCING ACT at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Chris and Laurily Merzatta. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
George Towns, left, sings along with the MarsDen band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Former Councilman Tim Jackson, with artworks at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. He pledged to donate some proceeds to MerlinsKids.org. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Leo Vasquez, executive director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, speaks prior to 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Leo Vasquez welcomes Creative Placemaking group at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Wehring addresses Creative Placemaking group before 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Family enjoys 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
DANCE FEVER  at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bow tie choices at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Atlanta Café Band rocks 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Soccer timeout at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Councilman Bob Iannaccone, right, chats with friends at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
FRAMED, at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Relaxing on the Green at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Atlanta Café Band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowd on the Green for 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Young dancer bops to the Atlanta Café Band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Phil and Travis Fielding, Ilene Manahan, and another fan, listen to the Atlanta Café Band at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gina Moran and Tom Werder of Morris Arts with Jody Marcus at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The band 'Anything Goes,' from the Original Music School, at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Theresa Kemp conducts the Lakeland Youth Symphony at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1540607 - Anna Heinrich, 10, of Flanders performs with the Lakeland Youth Symphony at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Meet Me in Morristown, a series of summer fairs started on a shoestring four years ago, emphasizes the walkability of the downtown business district — a feature that has drawn successful millennials and empty-nesters to luxury condos and apartments sprouting up near the historic Morristown Green.

Sisters Nancy and Kisha Ciabattari at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sisters Nancy and Kisha Ciabattari at ‘Meet Me in Morristown,’ June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

These newcomers are looking to spend their money on “experiences,” said Jennifer Wehring, executive director of the Morristown Partnership.

Meet Me in Morristown got them thinking about what’s here in Morristown,” she said.

Smart redevelopment of the former Epstein’s department store was a key driver of the downtown renaissance, Wehring told the visitors. Now, appreciation is growing for the value of a thriving cultural scene.

“We can do more visible things in the community because the community is ready for it, and expects it,” Dempsey said.

Events have included pop-up parklets, Halloween pumpkin illuminations, and Music Beyond Borders lunchtime concerts on the Green.

South Street at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
South Street at ‘Meet Me in Morristown,’ June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The town government introduced a “Percent for Art” program that requires re-developers to spend up to $100,000 creating public art projects.

That program helped underwrite the $120,000 totem project completed last November.

But can any of this be replicated in a suburban state with few downtowns?

“I think it could happen in a lot of places that have wide sidewalks with a lot of stores,” said Vasquez.

Sam Smouha, a young urban planner and consultant from Brooklyn, said he was impressed by what he saw on the tour.

Anna Heinrich, 10, of Flanders performs with the Lakeland Youth Symphony at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Heinrich, 10, of Flanders performs with the Lakeland Youth Symphony at ‘Meet Me in Morristown,’ June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“There’s generally good urban design with walkable spaces, nice storefronts, plazas, and a centralized park. I love the new totems in front of the big community garden,” Smouha said.

At the same time, he cautions that without more affordable housing, “the newer, more expensive apartments will likely change the socioeconomic compositions of the neighborhoods” around them.

And it might take a another tour to sway Kisha Ciabbatari, a former sportswriter who came from Basking Ridge with her sister Nancy on Thursday.

“I have to see more evidence that there’s an organic arts community here,”  Kisha Ciabbatari said. But the totems were a hit.

“I thought they were beautiful,” she said.

The band 'Anything Goes,' from the Original Music School, at 'Meet Me in Morristown,' June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The band ‘Anything Goes,’ from the Original Music School, at ‘Meet Me in Morristown,’ June 29, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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4 COMMENTS

  1. To say Morristown is just a “rowdy bar town” is a dis-service to our hospitality sector. Morristown offers a variety of entertainment and hospitality venues that include, bars, restaurants, and BYOBs. There a diverse offering of cuisine that includes the very casual to “high end” dining. There is a multitude of menus that include, American, Italian, Indian, Latin and Asian to name just a few. There are venues that cater to a specific demographic and there are those that are attractive to all. There are sports venues, craft beer venues, music venues and so much more.
    Retail is not coming back. Therefore, it would be in the Town’s best interests to embrace the hospitality sector and work with existing venues while enticing new to make Morristown their home.

  2. Meet Me In Morristown is a wonderful way to remind locals and visitors that Morristown is not just a rowdy bar town and has something for everyone to enjoy.

  3. I was pleased, impressed and very moved by the cooperation of J.C. Reiss–a favorite of mine for its choices and services and constant support of the town, not to mention the competence and kindness of its staff–and The Seeing Eye, a cherished charity with a compelling purpose and a storied local history. Reiss offered a range of gifts to be had by the lucky holders of tickets bought to provide support for The Seeing Eye. How perfect is that combination? Putting together the value of sight and the opportunity to improve it and contributing to those unable to see and helping them to function better.

    To promote support for The Seeing Eye, J.C. Reiss, offered prizes of eyeglasses, and sunglasses, and even a basket of chocolate from Enjou Chocolate, around the corner on DeHart Street, several lovely treats from Maui Jim, one of the makers of fine eyeware featured at Reiss, and more. I hope these good acts generate a lot of support for The Seeing Eye.

    It’s good to take note of meaningful connections between local businesses and local not-for-profits. This one, though, is very special indeed.

  4. The article speaks to millenials empty nestors coming to downtown, yet the mayor and council continue to attack the newest most creative and busiest new addition, Revolution, they continue to spend taxpayers money in an attempt to hurt our investment. People come because this is what they want. How can 10 people who have moved to a busy downtown cause such a reaction, or is there a hidden agenda.

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