Morristown Hosts First 'Art Around the Park' Event
Self-guided after-hours tour of galleries showcases Morristown’s emerging art scene.
On a dark, drizzly night when many Morristown businesses were locking up, four venues were opening their doors–for art.
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, these businesses took the first step toward starting a new tradition, hosting an inaugural art event designed to celebrate and promote Morristown's arts community.
"Art Around the Park" took place when Simon Gallery, Gallery Egan, the Gallery at 14 Maple and the Hyatt Morristown's Eclectic Grill stayed open late and allowed for evening viewings of each space's exhibitions.
At Simon Gallery, co-owner Mary Ellen Simon greeted guests, who started arriving promptly at 6 p.m. Simon said the event was inspired by a similar event in Philadelphia called "First Friday," which features after-hours access to area art galleries, and she said she hopes that Morristown's first self-guided art gallery tour will be the first of many.
"We're planning to have four of these events per year, and we're hoping to add a couple more venues," she said. "The goal is to make Morristown a destination for people who want to see and collect art."
During Tuesday's event, Simon Gallery featured the paintings of Asbury Park-based David French, who spoke with visitors throughout the evening.
"This is my first show here," he said. "I love this space."
Just a short walk from Simon Gallery's Bank Street location, The Gallery at 14 Maple's Whimsy exhibit drew a large crowd. Anne Aronovitch, executive director of the Arts Council of the Morris Area, whose offices are located there, said she was pleased with the turnout.
"It's been steady," she said. "I think a lot of people are going to all of the galleries."
For Donna Korkes, of Morris Township, who was planning to stop by the Eclectic Grill after already having visited Simon Gallery, Egan Gallery and the Whimsy exhibit, the event was a success.
"I've been hoping that Morristown would do something like this for years," she said. "It's a good way to promote the arts scene in Morristown."
"I hope they continue this," said Tom Jordan at the Gallery at 14 Maple. "They could do a lot. They've just got to have sticktoitiveness."
Alexis Egan, owner of one-year-old Gallery Egan, said she was optimistic about the possibility of more "Art Around the Park" events and said that the event's organizers hope to collaborate on similar art-related events in the future.
Gallery Egan, which currently features colorful abstract landscapes by Long Valley artist Andrea Kelly, reflects the new growth and development in the Morristown art scene.
"It's getting more cosmopolitan," said Roger Egan, who assisted at his daughter's gallery during the event.
Roger Egan said that guests appreciated the event, a group effort between gallery owners and the Arts Council of the Morris Area.
"It was very busy tonight," he said. "People like this idea."
Many chose to end their night at the Hyatt Morristown's Eclectic Grill, where Harry Simon, co-owner of Simon Gallery, has been installing exhibits every three months since June. The current exhibition features paintings by Reese Inman and will be on display until Dec. 11.
After the hotel's rooms underwent a $7 million restoration, General Manager Tom Blundell teamed up with Simon to ensure that the décor of the hotel's restaurant was equally impressive.
Simon said that after installing art from Simon Gallery at the Hyatt, he thought that a nighttime art event in Morristown seemed like the next step toward establishing Morristown's "art destination" status.
"I realized that we had hit critical mass to hold Morristown's first art walk," he said. "This event has the potential to make Morristown New Jersey's premier art destination."
As the event's organizers gathered at the Eclectic Grill at the end of the evening, relaxing and celebrating with a drink was not the only thing on their to-do list.
"We're going to review tonight's event," Harry Simon said. "We're going to evaluate and decide how to move forward."
"It was a great, family-oriented event," said Frank Failla of Morristown. "Definitely a great way to spend an evening."