By Sally Deering
On Thurs, Nov. 21, Saint Dominic Academy (SDA) will honor Jersey City Cultural Affairs Director Maryanne Kelleher, Class of â€™90, with the Dominican Pillar Award, the highest honor given to â€œoutstanding individuals whose personal and professional lives reflect the values of Saint Dominic.â€ The 15th Annual SDA Leadership Awards Gala will be held at Naninaâ€™s in the Park in Belleville and the money raised will to go to SDAs scholarship fund.
â€œIt is a special thing to be honored by the community that I serve,â€ Kelleher says, â€œbut to have SDA reach out to me to say, â€˜Youâ€™ve done well, kid,â€™ twenty-three years after graduation is a whole other experience all-together.Â This is very touching and a personal honor which I will cherish for years to come.â€
Jersey Cityâ€™s Director of Cultural Affairs since 1996, Kelleher has worked for several administrations including Mayors Bret Schundler, Glenn Cunningham, L. Harvey Smith, Jerramiah T. Healy, and the newly-elected Mayor Steven M. Fulop. Her primary mission as a public servant, she says, is to remain keenly aware of the needs within the creative, ethnic and preservation communities and advocate on their behalf to realize their goals.Â She encourages Jersey City artists — dancers, actors, writers â€“ to contact her office if they need help with their projects.
â€œWe help byÂ marketing the events, providing support staff and event guidance,â€ Kelleher says. Â â€œIâ€™m hopeful that the new administrationÂ will identify some new funding sources for the arts to not only reinvest in our traditional programs, but to invest in newÂ initiatives with our creative community.â€
Since Kelleherâ€™s leadership as Cultural Affairs Director, she initiated the Ethnic Festival Series which earned an award from the National Black Caucus of the National League of Cities.
â€œWe were awarded first prize, among many other major cities,Â for our innovative approachÂ to promote tolerance in our city,â€ Kelleher says.
The Jersey City Artists Studio Tour has also been a successful program Kelleher and her staff along with the group ProArts worked together to promote and expand.
â€œWhen I started working for Jersey City Cultural Affairs, the Art Tour had about 150 artists participating, mostly in downtown,â€ Kelleher says.Â â€œInch-by-inch, weâ€™ve worked together with ProArts to expand the participation and tour map exponentially.Â In the past few years, anywhere between 400 and 600Â artists participate in locations city-wide.â€
She also has a long-term goal with her staff for a program called Arts Saturdays for kids where local artists teach mini-courses in different art forms.
â€œThere would be a small fee and registration requirement, but this is something I hope to bring to fruition with support,â€ Kelleher says. â€œMuch of our programming appeals to adults, so I think this additional programming for children is needed.â€
The youngest of four children, Kelleher was born and raised in the McGinley Square section of Jersey City where she attended Saint Aiden grammar school; Saint Dominic Academy high school and earned a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Marketing Communications from Saint Peterâ€™s College in 1994. Â Kelleher participated in sports and the arts early in her childhood and advocates for both.
â€œI was surrounded by song, both my father and my sister are singers,â€ Kelleher says. â€œBeing Irish, we also spent many a weekend at Irish dance competitions.Â As a result of my own childhood experiences, I believe both athletics and the arts are equally important.â€
Advocating for the arts and artists continues to be a priority and there are still many goals Kelleher would like to accomplish as she begins working with Mayor Fulopâ€™s administration.
â€œIt is my hope that the administration helps Cultural Affairs create a Cultural Affairs Foundation, a non-profit arm which would makeÂ giving more attractive to corporate donors,â€ Kelleher says. â€œIâ€™d love to see the City dedicate a grants writer to Cultural Affairs to identify funding sources to support and sustain local arts organizations and programs.â€
Also being honored with the Dominican Pillar Award is Matthew Laracy of Jersey City who along with his wife Mary Lynn sent five daughters to Saint Dominic Academy. This yearâ€™s Young Alumna on the Move award goes to Jessica Iorio, of Bayonne, Class of â€™02 who works as Business Director of Wealth Management for Hightower Advisors in New York.
Founded in 1878 and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey, Saint Dominic Academy provides young women a strong intellectual and moral foundation in its mission to create a community of academic excellence and empowerment. Rooted in Christian values, SDA embraces the diversity of its students by promoting unity through understanding and education.Â The school seeks to develop in each young woman academic excellence and a love for truth, justice and Christian values. Â Dominic Academy strives to prepare each student for her vital role in the world community.
If you go:
Thurs, Nov 21, 6-10 pm
Saint Dominic Academyâ€™s 15th Annual Gala
Naninaâ€™s in the Park
Tickets for Alum from 2000 to 2013: $100