SobelCo is proud to shine the spotlight this month on all our friends at Morris Arts, a nonprofit organization originally founded in 1973 as the Arts Council of the Morris Area. From its inception, Morris Arts has been true to its mission of “building community through the arts.” A passionate champion and advocate of the arts, they are dedicated to achieving their vision for creating more livable, vibrant and sustainable communities.

For more than 46 years, the organization has been able to accomplish its objectives by embracing a wide range of amazing initiatives. Led by a team comprised of Board President, Tara Skirzenski, and Executive Director, Tom Werder, and with the support of a seasoned staff and a highly committed Board of Directors, Morris Arts has fully engaged with the entire area well beyond Morris County.

Core Values Matter

For almost a half-century, this organization has held fast to these three key guiding principles:

  • The arts are vital to the social fabric and economic prosperity of the area
  • The arts act as a catalyst for social change
  • The arts enrich the lives of everyone in the community 

To fully live these principles, Morris Arts has developed a variety of programs and services that are designed to inspire, connect, and engage. As such they offer 250+ activities, events and programs of their own, along with another 340+ programs they support through local grants, which enables them to reach an audience of 360,000 residents across northern New Jersey each year. Their broad appeal attracts children, at-risk youth, educators, seniors, families and artists, thousands of which are low and moderate-income constituents from across eight counties. They include:

  • Arts education programs for children in grades pre-K to 12
  • Innovative community-building arts events, including concerts, dance and theatre performances, and public art exhibits
  • Support of area artists and arts organizations through funding, advocacy, and professional development

As a result of their successful efforts, they have earned a stellar reputation for excellence, based on their unique position as a trusted resource in connecting educators, artists and community members in distinctive collaborative partnerships.

Building Vibrant Communities through the Arts

Morris Arts is more than just talk. They have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to deliver the high quality events and programs that bring communities together with a common focus on the arts. In addition, they provide the grass roots financial support that plays such a valuable role in ensuring the future of local arts!  

Did you know that?:

  • Morris Arts regranted $55,700 in State Arts Council funds to 30 arts organizations/arts programs throughout Morris County for general operating support or special arts projects.  Morris Arts and its regrantees provided more than 480 cultural events that benefited approximately 155,000 individuals in Morris County.
  • Morris Arts’ Arts In Education program connected over 192,000 students in 82 schools in 43 communities throughout 7 counties to more than 200 assemblies, workshops, and in-depth Artist Residences?

Arts in Education

A significant focus of Morris Arts' work is enriching the learning experiences of schoolchildren through arts education programs designed for curricular integration and sustained impact. The varied programs offer students hands-on experiences in such disciplines as visual arts, dance, music, poetry, theatre, creative writing, storytelling, and filmmaking.

“Morris Arts’ Arts in Education Program represents the finest in creative, expressive and progressive work one can find. I have personally experienced the wonderful engagements as both a participant and observer and can attest to the quality of their inspiration. It is education at its highest form.”
Dr. Michael A. Rossi, Jr., Superintendent, Sparta, NJ

Beyond the classroom, Morris Arts provides creative opportunities for Morris County’s most vulnerable children and their families, through partnerships with social service agencies and community organizations.

Community Events

One of the ways that Morris Arts engages fully with its neighbors, friends and colleagues is by offering annual events, each with distinctive goals and audiences, such as:

Giralda Music & Arts Festival

A family-friendly event featuring the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, celebrates the start of summer with music for all, an art show, children’s activities, a picnic contest, and 50/50 raffle, all on the beautiful lawns of Giralda Farms. 

 

 

Pumpkin Illumination

An annual October celebration for children of all ages to display their creatively carved pumpkins, partake in arts activities, and come together to enjoy the season.

 

 

 

 Meet Me in Morristown

Combination of street fair and sidewalk sale, visual artists, musicians and performing artists showcase their talents on the streets of Morristown for four Thursday summer evenings, as people shop and dine.

 

 

First Night® Morris County

Morris Arts programs New Jersey’s biggest and brightest New Year’s Eve family-friendly celebration – with more than 100 outstanding artists/performers in 80+ events in 23 venues in downtown Morristown, attracting 12,500+ people. Offering a cultural feast for all ages, attendees can choose from dance, theatre, music, world cultures, visual arts and children’s events to ring in the New Year.

 

Powerful Programs are on the Menu

The diversity of their programs is what has made Morris Arts so outstanding over the years. Here are just a few examples of the breadth of their footprint: 

 The Storytelling Arts Program: Working with the Head Start Organization of Morris County, Storytelling Arts is designed for preschool children who face substantial socio-economic obstacles that impede their ability to achieve “school readiness.” By building vocabulary and developing literacy skills, Storytelling Arts helps children succeed in reading, writing, communicating, and socializing.

 

 

 Girls Surviving: Girls Surviving is an ongoing program in writing and performance that helps Morris School District high school girls develop the skills they need to combat challenging negative influences that may put them in danger of substance abuse, delinquency, early pregnancy, and dropping out. Led by professional teaching artists, girls 14 -17 years old examine issues facing them, share insights in a safe forum, and collectively write and perform a play as the culminating event.

 

Young Artist Mentoring Program: Founded in 2004, The Young Artist Mentoring Program is one of Morris Arts’ longest running and most successful programs. A weekly after school program, it involves some of Morristown High School’s most artistically talented students who need additional support refining their artistic skills, developing their own personal style, and assembling a strong art portfolio, thereby enhancing their ability to compete for admission into quality arts schools, college, a career in visual arts and/or scholarship aid.

Working Together is a Smart Business Practice

Since it opened its doors, Morris Arts has understood the importance of collaborating and working cooperatively with partners in their space.  These are just a few strategic alliances that have resulted in a positive impact:

Gallery at 14 Maple

Morris Arts, in partnership with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, hosts the Gallery at 14 Maple, a professional gallery showcasing the work of New Jersey artists with two invitational exhibits a year. 

 

 

 

Music Beyond Borders

Initiated in the spring of 2010, this series of free outdoor world music concerts, reflects a collaboration between Morris Arts and Mayo Performing Arts Center.

 

 

 

Arts & Culture Collaborative

Conceived in 2017, twenty-six arts organizations, including Morris Arts, have partnered to bring creative and arts-related projects to Morris County, with the goal of encouraging and promoting mutual understanding and inclusion for the benefit of all. 

The first project of the Arts & Culture Collaborative, LatinX ConeXiones, a county-wide celebration of LatinX Arts & Culture, launched in the fall of 2019.  Morris Arts contributed to this project by presenting Expresiones Latinx 1, an exhibit highlighting works of art from the LatinX Morris County community, at its Gallery at 14 Maple. Additionally, two of the four Music Beyond Borders performances featured LatinX bands. 

 

 

Morris Arts has deep roots in the community and over the last five decades has built a lasting legacy as it has endeavored to reach its goals and achieve its mission of “building community through the arts.” Please visit their website and select an event to attend or choose an exciting program to participate in as you nurture your own passion for the arts! www.morrisarts.org