Announcing its 40th Anniversary kickoff on January 24, 2013, the Arts Council of the Morris Area heralded its new name, new strategic plan, new logo and new mission at a gathering of nearly 100 at its 14 Maple Avenue headquarters. Board President Alan Levitan and Executive Director Tom Werder shared some of the history of the organization which was formally incorporated on May 10, 1973. Established by the Junior League of Morristown’s Arts Steering Committee in response to a scarcity of arts organizations and cultural activities in the area, the Arts Council received seed money from the Junior League of Morristown and from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts – to establish a new organization “which plans to promote all art forms through service to cultural and artistic groups and individuals in the community. The area to be served by the Council includes Morris County and parts of Somerset, Union and Sussex Counties.” Its “Charter Members” featured leading corporations, foundations and large number of cultural organizations (from schools to museums, theaters to symphonies, arts organizations, choral and dance organizations and even the Morris County Park Commission!). These, along with many committed individuals, supported the fledgling efforts of the Arts Council.
Over the years, the Arts Council expanded and solidified its role as an arts leader, providing programs and services to the community, arts organizations, schools and individual artists.
Here are just a few examples of the impact the Arts Council has had on the quality of life in this area:
· Local Arts Grants which, over the years, supported over 1,000 arts organizations each of which, in turn, serve thousands of people annually
· Arts in Education programs enhancing learning for nearly 100,000 K-12 students in public, private and parochial schools each year
· Free exhibits at two galleries which showcase over 1,000 artworks by nearly 300 artists annually
· 21 years of artistic programming for First Night Morris County, bringing over 6,000 topflight artists to perform for nearly 200,000 people, making New Year’s Eve a culturally rich, family-friendly and memorable arts experience
· Music Without Borders – which attracts over 1,000 people each summer to free lunchtime concerts that feature world cultures, broadens tastes and connect diverse segments of our community
· 3rd Saturdays at Morris View – bringing monthly performances to the elderly and infirm – to enrich their lives and promote healing
· Scholarships for talented young people to pursue their artistic dreams
· Mentoring program – to shepherd high school visual arts students to the next phase of training, fostering talents of the future.
Now, in its 40th year, the Arts Council approaches the next step in its evolution as an organization, with a recently completed strategic plan, a newly refined mission statement of “engaging and building community through the arts” and an updated identity – complete with new logo and the streamlined name of “Morris Arts.”
Its new strategic plan, carefully formulated with input from a wide variety of stakeholders, puts forth five main Goals:
· Inspire artistic expression and creativity in schools, the workplace, public spaces, and communities.
· Connect artists, residents, businesses, and community organizations interested in making Morris County a more culturally rich, accessible and diverse community.
· Engage the community in meaningful opportunities to make and appreciate the arts.
· Advocate for the value and positive social and economic impact of the arts in Morris County.
· Steward mission-driven public and private investments to ensure long-term financial viability.
These Goals are achieved following these Guiding Principles:
- The arts enrich the lives of everyone in our community
- The arts are vital to the social fabric and economic prosperity of Morris County
- The arts are a catalyst for positive social change
- Artists, arts organizations and creative professionals need community support to thrive.
- All residents of Morris County should have equitable access to meaningful artistic experiences regardless of age, means, or background
- High quality arts educational opportunities help children and youth learn and succeed in school and life
- A culture of integrity and respect
Its new name, Morris Arts, highlights its focus on the arts and the geographic area served, while streamlining it and making it more manageable and contemporary.
And so, with a sense of renewed mission and purpose, Morris Arts begins its journey towards the next 40 years!