RAHWAY, NJ – Freeholder Chair Mohamed Jalloh looked out from the podium on Rahway’s Hamilton Stage and stated the obvious, “The arts are alive and well in Union County.”
The occasion, which took place October 21, was a celebration of National Arts & Humanities Month. It featured live performances by 2015 UCACT grant program recipients and acknowledged grants recipients, Teen Arts participants, and Art Outside the Box winners.
Union County freeholders shared the podium with leaders in the state's arts community.
“The social benefits of investing in the arts are enormous,” said Freeholder Betty Jane Kowalski, who has been a long-time supporter of the arts in Union County. “It significantly improves the quality of life in our communities, it enhances our identity, and it encourages tourism.”
As Freeholder Chair, Jalloh has made the arts one of his initiatives. “The power of the arts is that it brings people together. It is a conduit for growth. Our residents are immensely talented, and the Freeholder Board is committed to making the arts sustainable in Union County.”
Also addressing the crowd of several hundred was Nick Paleologos, executive director of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He related a story about Steve Jobs who saw himself, not as a computer scientist, but as an artist. Jobs saw a relationship between art and science. He saw the computer he created as a means for artists to create. “Creative people want to experience something in the only way they know how,” said Paleologos. “They want to use their talent to add something to the flow.”
Paleologos continued, “The arts infuse something in our daily lives. Arts and culture are central to community life.”
Ann Marie Miller of ArtPride New Jersey called for a sustained commitment to the arts from municipal and county leaders. “It takes sheer will, focus, and patience,” she said. “You have all those ingredients for success here.”
The evening recognized the programs sponsored by the Freeholder Board that include Heart Grants, Local Arts Grants, and History Grants. Events such as the Teen Arts Festival, Four Centuries in a Weekend, and Music in the Mills at Jersey Gardens were also recognized. Production numbers from three Union County Advancing Community Theatre shows, Dreamgirls, Legally Blonde, and Hairspray, entertained the audience.
Finally, winners of the latest Freeholder arts project, Art Outside the Box were presented with a cash award. The artwork will beautify traffic boxes in Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway, and Plainfield.
What’s next? Look for artistically painted public benches in Union, as art continues to become a part of everyday lives. As Ann Marie Miller of ArtPride New Jersey remarked, “The arts are as important to life as food, water, and air.”