For the past nine years, our Union County, NJ show has been coordinated by Libby Reid, the Arts Coordinator for the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs. However, Libby is not only a coordinator, but a practicing artist who understands the importance of showcasing the artistic talent that is inside all of us.
Each year, Libby continues to grow the programs participation by encouraging new artists and featuring special guest speakers at the awards reception. With this year marking their 10th Anniversary with the program, we are sure that it will be no exception. The passion Libby has for our program is truly contagious and we are please to feature her as our NAP Spotlight for the month of January.
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit displayed in Union County?
A. We have many different art exhibits throughout the year in Union County including the Senior Art Show, the Teen Arts Festival, many exhibits of individual artists and exhibits of local arts groups. The National Arts Program® provides the unique opportunity for artists of all ages, skill level and media to exhibit together and win recognition and prizes. It’s a rare chance for families to get together creatively and prepare their entries and then enjoy seeing the artwork exhibited together. At the awards reception it is always fun to see the families enjoying being part of a big and varied exhibit.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. Most of the adult non-professional artists would not have the opportunity to be a participating artist in a public exhibit. The children would not have the chance to have their work shown along with professional artists. The employees usually don’t think of themselves and their coworkers as artists until they see the evidence displayed before their eyes. It is important to know that people have much more to offer than their job descriptions and have talents beyond their daily duties. It’s a great opportunity to see another side of co-workers. Very inspiring stuff!
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. It has been so much fun to watch the children grow in height and expression year after year. They gain confidence through putting their artwork out before the public. That goes for the adults too. I know the employees and their families put a lot of care and thought into what they will present. Each year there are returning artists and new artists. Children grow up. I know a gifted artist who has been in the under 12 category, Teen, Intermediate and now enters as a Professional.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. Art has always been in my life. I enjoy making art, looking at the work of others and supporting artistic expression. Creating art is a great way to reconnect with what makes me…me.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. Our office supports artists and art groups through various art exhibits, two re-grant programs and providing technical assistance workshops and other supportive services. I work with art from both directions, as a supporter of the arts and as an artist myself. Before coming to work for Union County in 2001 as a Program Development Specialist in the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs (OCHA), I worked as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. I lived in NYC for 15 years and supported myself by writing and drawing cartoons and creating illustrations for magazines, newspapers, book publishers and corporations. I also had a line of cartoon postcards that were sold in bookstores and card shops around the U.S., England and Australia. Viking/Penguin published two books of my cartoons, “Do You Hate Your Hips More Than Nuclear War?” and “You Don’t Have to Pet to Be Popular”. An archive of my work can be seen at www.libbyreid.com . There is a lot of variety in my job at OCHA. We produce many programs that support the arts and history communities. I have lots of fun opportunities to illustrate brochures and other publications for our office and other departments.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in a county/government setting is so important?
A. Art brings a fresh perspective. The halls of government benefit from the life-affirming effects of an art exhibit. A display of art in a public space gives employees and visitors something to enjoy and think about beyond their reason for being in the building. It gives the artist pleasure to know their work is being appreciated. Even when controversial, art starts conversations. Art reflects what is going on in the community.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. Art is an important component in a full life and anyone who wants to make art should feel free to. I love that the National Arts Program® supports and gives artists a chance to show their work and feel the excitement of possibly winning a very nice cash prize or other recognition. I really, really appreciate the friendly support from NAP that guarantees a smooth registration process, beautiful exhibit, elegant reception and simple reporting procedure. No other grant program I know can match the National Arts Program Foundation for efficiency and ease.
Q. Do visitors to the building respond to the exhibit?
A. The full original exhibit is at the Elizabethtown Gas Company in Union Township, who generously provides the venue. When we are setting up the show people from the building stop by to tell us how much they enjoy the artwork and look forward to the show every year. We also have a second exhibit of the winning pieces after the show ends in the Union County Administration Building. People who didn’t get to the original show have another chance to see the work.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. 2011 is the 10th year of our happy partnership with the National Arts Program®. Every year we have return artists and new artists in about equal numbers so the enthusiasm of the participants stays high. I am profoundly appreciative of this unique adventure we share.