Hot on the heels of the news that local philanthropist Tom Kerns has, comes word that Kerns' nonprofit organization — The HK Community Fund — is teaming with the group Studio B to expand arts productions in Maplewood and South Orange.
Combined with the creation of the new Maplewood Arts Council (and dissolution of Arts Maplewood) by act of the Township Committee on March 1, Maplewood seems poised to take a more aggressive approach to producing, organizing and promoting the arts.
was founded in 2009 with a mission of "enhancing the feeling of belonging to community." Since then, the fund has supported a wide range of local theatre, arts and cultural events — from to — in addition to its many charitable and youth-oriented activities such as which provides after-school training in media for local middle and high school students.
is the brainchild of Marcy Thompson and Jenny Turner Hall. Starting in 2011, Studio B started offering new creative events in town such as the popular movies and events for kids (who could forget the screening in Memorial Park last summer that featured an actual tornado warning?), (a re-imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) as well as the inaugural competition at the Burgdorff in January.
“This is an exciting time for the local arts community,” says Tom Kerns, co-founder of The HK Community Fund. “Studio B has been working to showcase and celebrate the work of local artists. Now, HK will give Studio B the foundational support to increase their productions as part of our organization. We will work together to sustain – and advance – our stated mission.”
“It’s a great fit,” said Hall. “Both organizations have been working toward the same goals – creating community through the arts. Now we’re pooling our creative energy and resources.”
Plans for 2011 include continuing Studio B’s Celluloid Candy, as well as the very popular writing competition Story Slam.
Studio B will also continue to produce its performance-based events, and HK Community Fund will continue to support local projects such as and .
Says Thompson, “We are thrilled with the possibilities in store for HK Community Fund, and the communities of South Orange and Maplewood. There is such a tremendous resource of artists here, it’s about time they had a place to strut their stuff. And we think it makes the people who live here darn proud.”
Although Thompson and Hall have been managing Studio B completely as a volunteer effort, Thompson has been on the Township payroll for 5 hours a week to help coordinate cultural affairs events for the Department of Recreation — a separate role from Studio B. With the creation of the Maplewood Arts Council on March 1, Thompson became manager of that organization — which will work to further organize and promote Maplewood arts events both within town and to the outside world — and got a bump up to 20 hours per week (part-time, no benefits).
Kerns is one of the names being considered for the Board of the Maplewood Arts Council, which will consist of a group of seven residents from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods in town. The Council will receive no funding from the town, but will be supported through grant writing and other fundraising efforts.
Patch will publish a complete story on the newly formed Maplewood Arts Council, its goals and mission, in a follow-up article. Stay tuned!