BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The recipients of the 2020 Mayor's Arts Awards were honored with official resolutions at last week's Township Committee meeting, although the reception at which the honorees were to be presented with the awards is now canceled during to COVID-19 concerns.

A Ridge HS junior, a filmmaker and a local dance studio honored

The Township Committee approved the resolutions honoring this year's choices: Ridge High School junior Brandon Kyu Lee; Michael Reynolds, a filmmaker who produced a film about the town's beloved centuries-old white oak that was taken down in 2017; and Gotta Dance, a local dance studio where thousands of local residents learned to dance, and has participated in many community activities.

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Awards in three categories are awarded annually by the township mayor, with all nominees and recipients nominated by area residents. This year's mayor is James Baldassare, Jr.

In the student category, the mayor's arts award is given to a current high school junior or senior who has demonstrated excellence in and a commitment to the fine or performing arts. This year's student Mayor's Art Award is presented to Brandon Kyu Lee, a Ridge High School junior, who was nominated and selected for his personal dedication to the arts and volunteerism in his community, according to the resolution approved by the Township Committee.

"Brandon is a talented cellist and his love of music has led his to participation in several programs including the Ridge Symphony Orchestra, the Bernards Ensemble, the New Jersey All-State Orchestra and the prestigious New York Youth Symphony." the resolution noted.

The Ridge musician was also cited for being "a wonderful role model for his fellow musicians [who] leads with purpose, patience, creativity and sensitivity, as he serves as the principal cellist and co-section leader of the Ridge Symphony Orchestra and the President of the Bernards Ensemble." 

Student musician recognized for both talent and volunteerism

Additionally, the resolution noted, "Brandon strives to create a positive change in his community through music which is evident in his volunteer work" including volunteering with the Bernards Ensemble and performing in concerts for children and adults with disabilities through community groups such as the Bernards PEC [Parents of Exceptional Children] and the Arc of Somerset County disability services.

Filmmaker honored for his "Under the Great Oak"

In the individual category, the Mayor’s Art Award is also presented to an outstanding individual artist, professional, educator or community volunteer dedicated to supporting the arts in Bernards Township. This year's award went to Michael Reynolds, "a talented film producer, director, screenwriter, editor and educator who created the documentary film 'Under the Great Oak,' which explores the legacy of the Great Oak tree of Basking Ridge.

"Michael’s film captures the beauty of the Great Oak that would otherwise be lost to future generations and showcases a community which united to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of a prominent town symbol," the resolution states.

“Under the Great Oak” has been screened for high school students and the local community and screenings have been accompanied by panel discussions featuring historians, environmentalists and artists which have encouraged community engagement and volunteerism, the resolution noted.

Gotta Dance recognized

In the third category, the organization category, the Mayor’s Arts Award is presented to an outstanding organization, corporation, business or school dedicated to supporting the arts in Bernards Township. This year's organization award went to local dance instruction studio Gotta Dance, located at 69 S. Maple Ave. in Basking Ridge.

"Gotta Dance has been fostering the love and art of dance in Bernards Township for over 30 years, starting their journey in the Spring Ridge clubhouse in 1989, before moving to their current home in downtown Basking Ridge in 1995," the resolution noted.

Gotta Dance instructors have taught thousands of township residents "the joy of all styles of dance including jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, contemporary and modern, and many of their talented dancers have shined on stage in local school productions, on the Ridge High Dance Team, and in Plays in the Park performances," the resolution stated.

The award that went to Gotta Dance also pointed out the studio's community involvement, which has included participation in the township's Charter Day, Downtown Trick-or-Treating, the Winter Market and Tree Lighting and other communitywide events and volunteer opportunities.

"Gotta Dance has had a positive lifetime impact on the health and wellness of the entire community as it continues to be a great place to grow, learn, and create forever friendships," the resolution stated.

Although the awards are traditionally presented by the year's mayor in a reception opening the Community Arts Show, held each spring at the Somerset County Environmental Education Center. However, both the reception and the exhibit at the county facility have been canceled in efforts to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the population.