BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Somerset County Freeholder Deputy Director Patricia L. Walsh recently presented ceremonial checks to organizations receiving grant money through the county's Local Arts Program (LAP) Grant fund. Two of the grants went to private arts and historic organizations in the Basking Ridge area, and a third went to help support the Bernards Township Parks and Recreation Department's annual summer "Plays in the Park" series held outdoors in the township's Pleasant Valley Park. 

The total amount of grants awarded throughout Somerset County was $54,262, according to information from the Somerset County Freeholders. 

The Friends of the Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead, a group of citizens who have collectively developed Bernards Township's Farmstead Arts property, was awarded $8,500.

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The funds will contribute toward the general operating costs for the continuation and expansion of arts programming by expanding the use of the historic English Barn for theater, music and community events, the county announcement said. Monies will also help fund marketing, staff support and other operating expenses at the Farmstead Arts off King George Road.

The Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra, which provides enriching musical programs to Somerset County residents and beyond county borders, also received $5,000 for general operating support, according to the county freeholders' announcement.

Bernards Township Parks and Recreation receives $2,000

Special project funding will assist with the production of the award-winning Plays in the Park program for its 32nd season. Each summer, Trilogy Theater Company, based in Basking Ridge, presents Shakespeare, musicals, and other theatrical presentations outdoors at the amphitheater at Pleasant Valley Park in Basking Ridge. The performances are free, and are attended by large crowds of theater lovers from throughout Somerset County and nearby.

Trilogy already has announced this summer's planned productions of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" and the musical "Brigadoon."

The State/County Partnership Local Arts Program Grant enables the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) to support local arts development within each of New Jersey’s 21 counties through a competitive grant application process by awarding funds to the designated county arts agencies (CAAs).  

A total of 13 grants will be distributed to Bernards Township and six other communities in Somerset County. Some of the projects operate on a countywide basis. 

For example, ARC of Somerset County in Manville receive $2,500 for special project funding to help support a variety of music programs for participants who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Four public events will be held to raise public awareness about nontraditional ways for individuals with disabilities to enjoy and create music, according to the county.

Funding was awarded to organizations for general operating support, special projects and creative placemaking _ an evolving field that promotes arts, culture and creativity to serve a community's interest while also promoting its growth. Grants were approved by the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Photographs of the ceremony are online.

The Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission (SCC&HC) is the official agency designated in the county to apply for, receive and administer the Local Arts Program Grant program. The grant applications are approved through an independent panel of peers who evaluate submitted applications and provide recommendations for the allocation of funding.