Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 49
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton

COMING TOGETHER; “The Arts Council is a perfect example of how it takes a community to raise a child. Parents, teachers, and kids all come together at the Arts Council. Princeton encourages that. It’s a community that is small enough to know a lot of individuals, but large enough to incorporate such a wide, wonderful variety of people.” Anne Reeves, Founding Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, continues to be enthusiastic about the contribution of this unique organization.

Anne Reeves, Founding Director of Arts Council of Princeton, Looks Forward to Many More Artistic Endeavors and Activities

Anne Reeves has been called the “Talented Town Muse.”

She has certainly been a source of inspiration. During her 24 years as Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, she guided the development of this organization into a thriving community center for a myriad of artistic endeavors.

Deborah Agnew, Ms. Reeves’ former colleague at the Arts Council, has been impressed by Ms. Reeves’ abilities and capacity to inspire. “It is hard for me to think of a more dedicated and inspiring person. Anne is a visionary — she saw the importance of art in everyone’s lives long before it became fashionable, and she was tireless in trying to bring it to everyone, whatever their situation in life. She is relentless in helping those less fortunate in our community.

“She has a great sense of community and a real ability to bring people together. She has a young, outgoing spirit, where anything is possible, and she’s full of ideas.”

Genuine Enthusiast

Adds Caren Sturges, Ms. Reeves’ friend and former Arts Council board member: “Anne is a genuine enthusiast. She loves to talk about her latest discovery of something or someone new. She has so much knowledge about the town and cares deeply about it providing the best opportunities for everyone.

“I think one of her greatest gifts to the town has been to push for access to the Arts Council’s programs for every child, especially children from the neighborhood. For instance, if she saw a need for scholarship help so that children could go to camp at the Arts Council in the summer when there were no scholarships for that, she would pick up the phone and call her friends until she had raised whatever money was required. I always found it impossible to say no to Anne when she made her case for the children in the neighborhood.”

Another friend and former colleague and Arts Council board member is Micaela de Lignerolles. “Anne’s first impression on me was that of a ‘free spirit’, and one of the few people with a wonderful sense of humor. It’s very important to me to be able to laugh together.

“Anne has a very unusual gift for beauty. I know almost nobody who is as creative and artistic. It is seen in everything about her life-style. She has the special ‘touch’. One of her most often used words is ‘fresh’ — standing for new ideas and creative design.”

“I was always interested in the arts,” reports Ms. Reeves, a long-time Princeton resident. “I loved art and music in school, and I sang in the choir. I also took piano, ballet, and voice lessons, and studied pantomime at the Cleveland Playhouse when I was eight or nine.”

Born in Maine, Anne spent nearly all her life in Cleveland before going east to college. She was the eldest child of D’Orsey and Anne Hurst. Her siblings include four sisters and one brother.

Ringing the Bell

It was a happy and active childhood, she recalls. “My parents exposed us to a lot of activities, especially in the arts, and I definitely encouraged them! I loved school right from the beginning. It was so special. It was an adventure.”

She attended Hathaway Brown, a private girls’ high school, where she also played field hockey, and she thoroughly enjoyed studying. “One of my favorite teachers was Miss Reeve, my science teacher, and I also remember that the principal gave me the assignment of ringing the bell to announce lunch and when classes were over. I thought it was an honor, but my mother didn’t really want me to do it. She didn’t think it was a good use of my time!”

On weekends, Anne and her friends enjoyed going to the music store to listen to records, as well as to the movies. I thought the actress Gene Tierney was beautiful, and I loved the movie ‘Laura’. My all-time favorite film, however, is ‘The Leopard’ by Visconti, which I saw later. It is a masterpiece — breathtaking and quite beautiful.”

Anne did not know her grandparents, who were deceased, but she had an especially close relationship with an aunt and great-aunt. “I loved my great-aunt Anne. We’d go to Pennsylvania to visit her. And, my father’s sister, Aunt Nondas was a real favorite. She lived in Pacific Palisades in California, and she took me on a cruise.”

Anne and her friends rode their bikes, and went to Girl Scout camp, “which I loved. I acted in plays at camp and in their summer stock program.”

The family took summer vacations together, and also went to the beach on Lake Erie. “I was active as a child,” she recalls, “and everything was an adventure for me.”

Another Adventure

In the late 1950s, Anne looked forward to another adventure, when she traveled east to Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. She was enthusiastic about seeing another part of the country, and says that both her father and the headmistress of the high school had encouraged her and other high school classmates to go east to college. She majored in English, met new friends, and enjoyed new experiences.

Anne had become interested in social justice issues when she was in high school, and she wanted to learn more about other people and what they were experiencing.

“I knew African-Americans were not treated as well as they should be, and there were quite a few Hispanic students in college,” she says. “My parents had instilled a strong sense of social justice in us, and I wanted to learn more about this. The college encouraged it.”

Anne and her friends also loved to go to New York and see the sights. In fact, she liked New York so much, she decided to stay after graduation. “I got a job in the promotion department of Time-Life, and I loved it. Five of us lived on East 92nd Street, and we went to plays, to the opera at the old Met, and to museums. I was in Seventh Heaven!”

Anne met Princeton graduate David Reeves, who was in publishing in New York, and after a year, they were married. They lived in Manhattan, where daughter Emily was born.

Then, in the mid1960s, it was on to Princeton, which has been home to Ms. Reeves ever since. Three more children, Sam, Charles, and Neil were born, and all the kids happily attended Princeton public schools.

On the Board

In addition to being a full-time mother of four, Ms. Reeves audited art and music classes at Princeton University, and then in 1970, an event took place which would influence the next three decades of her life.

“Jerry Ford (Princeton architect) asked me to come on the Arts Council board. I agreed, and I liked being on the board. I could see that there was a need to put all the arts together — theater, music, ballet, the Symphony Orchestra, the singing groups, etc.. — so they all share information and do not duplicate dates.”

The Arts Council, a non-profit community arts organization, had been founded in 1967, with a mission to nurture and support the arts in the greater Princeton area. Its focus was “to build community through the arts, serve the greater Princeton area, nurture the artist within each individual, and open up its doors to anyone interested in the arts, and to reach out to those who would not otherwise have access to the arts.

“The Arts Council’s programs encompass a wide array of art forms and levels of expertise. The backbone of its programming is its arts enrichment classes for adults, teens, and children, with programs ranging from pottery and sculpture to poetry and prose, from drama and dance to classical drawing and painting. Professionals in their respective fields teach all classes: authors, painters, photographers, and choreographers.”

At the time of its founding, there was no full-time director, and eventually, in 1983, Ms. Reeves was named founding director, a post she held until 2004.

“There were really a couple of people who made the Arts Council sing,” points out Ms. Reeves. “’Bud Vivian was a jewel. He was such a help in getting Princeton University involvement. We had meetings at McLean House on the campus, and we’d meet with members of the ballet, the library, McCarter, and all the arts groups.

Subhead Wonderful Cohort

“Suzanne Goldenson, who was Arts Council president of the board, was so important. She was the most wonderful cohort. Very efficient, very effective, and very dedicated. We worked on everything together, and we had fun. Her laughter was infectious.”

In the 1980s, Princeton Borough Mayor Bob Cawley called Ms. Reeves regarding the availability of a community building located on the corner of Witherspoon and Green Streets.

“It was a WPA building, constructed by workers who got jobs through the WPA during the Depression in the 1930s,” explains Ms. Reeves. “Once we had the building, we made real progress. We could have programs held there. Things fell into place. The Arts Council is really a series of stories told in a loving way. You walk in the building and find warmth and laughter. And the Arts Council is very democratic.

“It offers quality arts education classes and programs to all members of its community without barrier of race, class, economic status, or education. Neither proof of residence or membership is required to participate. Annually, over 20,000 people attend classes and programs sponsored by the Arts Council.”

There were and are a variety of programs directed toward community members who have been underserved, reports Ms. Reeves. “One of the programs we had with Princeton University students was ‘Hats For the Homeless’. Students would meet every Wednesday night on the campus, and everyone knit and de-stressed. Then, we’d take the hats they made to those in need.

“An on-going program is the Arts Exchange,” she continues. “It is a weekly arts workshop for homeless youth, provided in partnership with HomeFront of Trenton. twenty kids are brought to the Arts Council each week, and they draw, paint, make jewelry, and sing. For Thanksgiving, a basket with clementines, playing cards, games, and candy is assembled for them.”

Love of Learning

The former Juvenile Justice Program included adult artists visiting young people in detention centers. They ran art programs and taught classes. This program was started through Ms. Reeves’ efforts, and funded by the state, foundations, and Princeton University.

“We also have a Minority Education Committee of the Princeton Regional schools,” says Ms. Reeves. “How can we affect children? I think you can instill the love of learning in children by acknowledging, recognizing, and encouraging them; letting each child know that they are important and celebrating their achievements.

“The Committee is active in encouraging the community at large to become a part of assisting every student regardless of their background to receive a first class education. It continues year-round, and reports to the Board of Education. It celebrates student achievement wherever it can.

“We also have a summer program, ‘The Red Umbrella’, which is part of the minority Education Committee. It is a reading program that meets in the Mary Moss Park on John and Lytle Streets. One of the programs this August was a visit from The Princeton Stone Soup Circus. The neighborhood children went wild with joy!

“The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund is another of our priorities,” continues Ms. Reeves.

“It works as a Town/Gown non-profit organization to mobilize the Mercer County area to assist the Latin American families and individuals to become a welcomed and active part of our community, and to celebrate their culture. It does this in many ways: a health fair, language assistance, ‘Ask A Lawyer’ night at the Princeton Public Library; and research projects are completed each semester by Princeton University students. In addition, volunteers and University students visit classes at a detention center in Elizabeth.”

Ms. Reeves is equally proud of Arts Council programs, such as Curtain Calls; the super-successful Communiversity street festival for the arts; UnderAge, the annual anthology featuring writings and illustrations of area students; the annual Hometown Halloween Parade, and the Christmas Eve Caroling on Palmer Square.

Street Festival

“Curtain Calls was a wonderful New Year’s Eve event, which we held for 15 years. People could buy a low-cost ticket and participate in many activities, including a treasure hunt, performances at Theatre Intime, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra at Richardson Hall, and a variety of different stops during the evening. There were areas for refreshments, and children could also sleep over at the Y and watch fireworks from the swimming pool. It was joyful, and people looked forward to it.”

Certainly, one of the most successful Arts Council projects — jointly sponsored by Princeton University students — is the annual “Welcome to Spring” Communiversity street festival of the arts. Held in downtown Princeton, it features artists, musicians, performers, crafters, merchants, food vendors, non-profit and student organizations, and many activities for children.

“It’s been more than 20 years now,” reports Ms. Reeves. “It came about when Princeton students contacted us with some ideas. They said, ‘We think we could do something with the community.’ It’s one more way to celebrate the town/gown relationship and bring us together. It has become a really special day.”

Another special event in the history of the Arts Council was the opening of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in 2008. Architect and Princeton resident Michael Graves designed the renovation for the building, and hundreds of people, including Paul Robeson, Jr., came to the opening.

The Arts Council’s expanded new center provides studio space for painting, ceramics, photography, dance and performing arts, state-of-the-art gallery and theater space, as well as meeting and gathering space for the community.

Ms. Reeves was directly involved with the renovation and expansion of the building and is delighted with the result. “I am so happy with the building. It’s a little jewel and doesn’t look like anything else in town. We worked closely with Michael Graves — it is his only public building in his home town. We also worked with the neighbors who had a lot of suggestions and input.”

“Neighborhood Quilt”

In fact, the Paul Robeson Center is located within the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, an historically African-American community. At the opening, a special hand-crafted quilt, “Neighborhood Quilt”, was dedicated and is permanently displayed in the public reception area of the building. The quilt contains approximately 90 photographs related to the neighborhood, which were specially transferred onto the quilt.

The location of the Arts Council in the Paul Robeson Center highlights a very important aspect of Princeton, believes Ms. Reeves. “The beauty of this community is the different cultures, the incredible diversity of the people here. The town is so much more alive now than it was many years ago when I first came here. I love this about Princeton and all the people I’ve met and worked with — the friends, parents, merchants, neighbors. It’s a wonderful blend.”

She is extremely proud of the Arts Council, and points to the “hundreds and hundreds of people who have been closely involved with it. Mark Germond did a wonderful job, and Ann Kahn was so involved with Curtain Calls. She really made it happen. So many people contributed in so many ways.”

When she stepped down as director in 2004, Ms. Reeves was honored to have the new Artist-in-Residence Studio named for her. The multi-purpose studio provides working space for artists who have demonstrated unique talent and promise.

“A party is held once a year, the night before Communiversity, to raise money for the studio,” explains Ms. Reeves. “It began as a ‘Fans of Anne’ party and segued into a ‘Pinot to Picasso’ art and wine tasting fund-raiser. Works of art are donated by artists, and people buy a ticket to enter a lottery for the artwork.”

In addition to being honored with the Artist-in-Residence Studio, Ms. Reeves also received the prestigious Leslie “Bud” Vivian Award for community service in 2005.

Community Action

“Bud Vivian brought people together in a compassionate manner for positive community action, and he did so with a twinkle in his eye,” says Ms. Reeves. “He was a joyful and thoughtful mentor to me. Receiving the award was a dazzling honor. Working in our community and especially in the arts is a true joy.”

Another honor came to her within the past five years when she received the YWCA’s “Woman of Distinction” Award, and also a “Service Above Self” Award from Rotary International.

She continues to be involved with the Arts Council, attending board meetings, and takes special interest in the scholarship program. In 2008, the Arts Council awarded scholarships for classes and camp to 63 students. Funding is by the George Dale and Waxwood Scholarship Funds and by a grant from the Shepherd Foundation.

In the midst of her active schedule, Ms. Reeves also hosts a cable TV interview show on Channel 30, which is shown four times a week. “I was asked if I would create an interview program for Princeton Cable TV by the director,” she says. “I have interviews primarily with Princeton residents, including a variety of people, such as artists, writers, and other people of interest in the community. There have been about 200 persons in the past few years.”

Ms. Reeves is also a member of two reading groups that meet once a month, an enthusiastic photographer (“when I have time”), and a traveler. “I love to travel, and have been fortunate to travel throughout the world, including to the International Women’s Conference Beijing. Other wonderful places have included England, France, Italy, (total heaven for me), Japan, and so many others.

She has also been active in politics, especially last year, when she strenuously supported Barack Obama. “I am a big admirer of President Obama and the First Lady. He is my idea of a fine leader and together, they stimulate pride in our country and encourage us to care about each other.”

Incredible Journey

In many ways, Ms. Reeves looks at opportunities and challenges as the adventure she saw when she was a young girl in school. She admires people who are willing to persevere and overcome barriers. “To be successful, both professionally and personally, you must follow your dream despite obstacles. Just jump up and do it, with perseverance and determination.”

“Life is a wonderful, incredible journey,” she says. “My children and my five granddaughters are my pride and joy, and I see them as often as possible. I look forward to having good health and to have more time with my friends.”

Her pleasure in her friends is reciprocated, and as Micaela de Lignerolles says, “What can you say about a friend like Anne? That we all love her!”

Adds Deborah Agnew: “Anne is truly a beautiful person in every way inside and out — in everything she touches and does. It’s always amazing to walk in town with her. She knows so many people and has a kind word for everyone. She has an amazing ability to talk with anyone — young or old. She is a wonderful loyal friend, and I always feel happier, more optimistic and inspired after spending time with her.”

Caren Sturges met Ms. Reeves through tennis, and they both continue to enjoy that sport. They also share another bond. “We discovered that we were both from Cleveland,” says Ms. Sturges. “I was happy to find someone from ‘home’, and we have been friends ever since. Through Anne, I met or learned about so many of Princeton’s interesting people and history. I remember being absolutely astounded at the number of people she knew and how she could recall so much about their family or how she could quote something a person had said, even years afterward. I believe she has been a force for good in many ways.”

Reflecting on her own “incredible journey”, Ms. Reeves is extraordinarily grateful to have been able to follow her dream for the Arts Council. “Expressing themselves through art is what people have always done. Art is just out there. It’s everywhere. And it enriches our humanity.”

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