Nearly 200 people attended the official unveiling of Morris Arts’ Gateway Totem Project: November 17, 2016 at the Grow It Green’s Early Street Community Garden, 17 Early Street, Morristown, NJ. It was a deeply meaningful and moving event since the Gateway Totem represents a strong, positive symbol of a unified community celebrating diversity despite the divisiveness of modern times.
Here are some photos from the event:
It IS “carved in stone.” With the goal of honoring past, present and future immigrant communities and promoting cross-cultural understanding and acceptance, the Gateway Totem Project will feature two ten foot tall pillars of Indiana limestone, with 16 panels of iconic symbols evoking the multiple immigrant communities who have called the Speedwell area home over generations (Italian, Irish, Jewish, African-American, South and Central American, etc.). The panel designs are the result of multiple “community engagement” sessions designed “to ensure that the cultures of residents are properly represented in their public space,” according to master stone carver Gabrielle Hiltl-Cohen. “The important thing is that they have a voice,” she added, saying that she wants the park to be a place where residents can “connect to their cultural identity.”
The sculpture will be installed at the entry to Grow It Green’s Early Street Community Garden, connecting the garden entry with Morristown High School and with existing low income senior housing, new high-end condominiums and local ethnic businesses. It not only celebrates local cultures but also bridges historically disenfranchised communities with the permanence of carved stone. Renowned master stone carver, Gabrielle Hiltl-Cohen, was chosen to create this work. The project is managed by Kadie Dempsey, Director of Creative Placemaking at Morristown-based Morris Arts.
Supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for the project titled “Our Heritage is Our Future,” the Gateway Totem Project is also supported by Mill Creek Residential Trust LLC (as one of the first of Morristown’s “Percent for Art” projects) and by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Artist studio space has been generously donated by Drew University.
Morris Arts was among only 18 “Local Arts Agencies” nationwide receiving this NEA grant. “Morris Arts is thrilled to be in such select company,” Morris Arts Executive Director Tom Werder said in a statement. “This grant constitutes national recognition for our public art initiatives to build community through the arts. We are extremely grateful to have NEA support for this project.” Abby Gallo, executive director of Grow It Green, described the Gateway project as “a wonderful way to incorporate beautiful art into the garden and honor Morristown’s history.”
Here are some additional images of recently carved panels that have been fully or partially completed by Hiltl-Cohen: