By Wendell P. Simpson
For Florcy Morriset, the elimination of art education in the public schools presages a disturbing educational trend.
“The dearth of formalized art education sets the stages for diminishing cultural returns,” says Morriset, ruefully.
In response, Morriset, the founder/owner of Vivant Art Gallery, in partnership with the ArtJaz Gallery, has initiated the Seasons of the Arts Summer Community Arts Program. The lofty ambition of the program is to expand art awareness among Philadelphia citizens of all ages, and nurture partnerships between galleries, art institutions, local artists and other arts entities around town all toward the goal of filling the public arts education gap.
Morriset’s hope is that the program will inspire a generation of young artists.
“We are committed to the continuation of art education in our communities,” says Morriset. “Our ultimate goal is to expose the people of Philadelphia to the majesty and vibrancy of art through a series of educational seminars and events. Our program will feature not just just the visual arts but the performing arts as well. We want to teach youth to recognize art and to learn to become artists in the truest sense of the word.”
On last Friday, Vivant began the program with an exhibition of fifty eclectic pieces by a diverse array of artists, ten of whom originate locally. The colorful pieces featured ethno-cultural themes, slice of life narratives; musical themes and abstract notions.
Vivant Art Gallery is the inevitable manifestation of Morriset’s desire to celebrate the art of the African, Caribbean and Latin American diaspora. The former drug and alcohol counselor relocated from her native New York City three years ago with the express purpose of creating a gallery in an ethnic, urban environment with a vibrant arts community.
“I’m not an artist,” says Morriset with a twinkle in her eye. ” I am a muse. I appreciate the artist and the process of art. In Philadelphia’s open, artistic atmosphere, I was able to get my gallery off the ground, work with great artists and enjoy tremendous support among the community.”
Morriset possesses a sweeping critique of the importance of art on the cultural health of a society. She is a zealous proponent of it’s power to edify and believes it’s pursuit is essential.
“Art feeds the imagination,” Morriset says. “In art, we see the creative process spill onto the canvas or onto the dance floor. It transcends race, politics, demographics.
“Aside from its aesthetic value, art is essential in problem solving. Education has been pared down to the lowest common denominator—the schools aren’t creating inventors and innovators. That’s because the lack of art education means the absence of a philosophy that enables one to resides intellectually outside of the box.
“We do not thrive in a one dimensional cultural,” Morriset continues. “For children of color, whose sense of the world is very visual, very hands on and who do not always learn according to the prescriptions of the Eurocentric model, the elimination of art programs removes that learning tool.”
Beverly Dawson and Pamela Brown, co-owners of the ArtJaz Gallery share Morriset’s enthusiasm about art and the importance of it’s educational value. The ArtJaz Gallery has been an Olde City institution for more than ten years.
“What we want to foster is a perpetual arts education,” says Dawson. “There is an undeniable and direct correlation between art and academics. Galleries in the City of Chicago have been doing this kind of important community-oriented work for years. We’re picking up the mantle.”
Brown concurs. “This partnership between ArtJaz and Vivant is not a competitive environment’ she says. “This is a commitment to the arts and the community and to exposing children to the opportunity to create.”
Morriset plans to travel abroad—to what she calls ‘around town’–in order to promote the value of art.
“I want to spread art, art education and art awareness,” Morriset says. “I want to celebrate the art of the global village.”
For more information about the Season of the Arts Summer Community Arts Program, call Vivant Art Gallery at 215.922.6584 and /or ArtJaz Gallery at 215.922.4800.