(ENGLEWOOD, NJ) — Imagine a public high school for the arts serving all of Bergen County. The Advisors & Supporters, a community group based in Englewood, New Jersey, is exploring the possibility of developing a public high school for the arts in the 115-year-old Russell C. Major Liberty School, an architecturally distinguished building located on the historic Five Corners site in the downtown district of the city. The band launched a website, LibertySchoolfortheArts.org, to imagine that vision with videos featuring exclusive interviews with top performers and artists, such as Grammy-winning jazz musician Russell Malone, actor and teaching artist Andrea L. Patterson, Broadway actor Rebecca Eichenberger and others discuss how the arts have shaped their lives and can nurture another generation.
Englewood: A Community of Educators and Artists
The town of Englewood is well placed to host a public art secondary school. The school’s namesake, Russell Cameron Major, was a revered community leader in Englewood. He was a teacher and coach, whose legacy will continue with a public high school for the arts. Additionally, the city has long been a cultural center for arts and artists. Several artists have been part of the community, such as The Sugar Hill Gang, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Eddie Murphy, Alicia Keys, John Travolta, George Benson, The Isley Brothers, Sarah Jessica Parker and others. Leading arts and cultural institutions are based in the community, including the Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Lillian Booth Actors’ Home of The Actors Fund of America, and Arts Horizon.
The proposed school would be a collaborative effort between Bergen County Technical Schools and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, two nationally ranked organizations near the top of their respective fields. Proponents claim that this perfect marriage would provide Englewood and Bergen County with the best art school in the country.
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The group emphasizes that this concept is only at the proposal stage. Broad public participation will be sought. Although interest was expressed, no commitment from Bergen County or the Town of Englewood has been made. The proposal includes a plan and funding for a much needed community center in Englewood. It is therefore not a question of either/or, but both/and. The proposed development will provide Englewood with both a nationally listed secondary school and a dedicated building designed from the ground up to function effectively as a community centre.
Advisors & Supporters, fiscally sponsored by the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF)plan to demonstrate to the residents of Englewood and Bergen County the importance of having this extraordinary institution in their midst, as an investment that will pay off many times its cost in the long run.
This group of volunteers sees the establishment of this school, with its connection to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, forging a working bond with New York’s arts and cultural networks, like a unique generation. opportunity for Bergen County. The school would be a major step in making Bergen County an arts and cultural destination attracting tourists, new residents and businesses from across the tri-state area to the Hackensack River region.
What can the public do?
This unique opportunity can only be realized through the interest, commitment and participation of the entire community. Advisors and supporters provide these key things the public can do to get involved in this effort.
First, visit the band’s website, LibertySchoolfortheArts.org. Watch interviews with top performers and artists and share the website address with others. Second, leave your comments and suggestions on the website’s contact form at the end of its homepage. Third, write to your representatives to express their support for the proposed public art secondary school.
PHOTOS: (TOP) Russell C. Major Arts High School Photo credit: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BOTTOM) Artistic collage with the Russell C. Major Liberty High School building Photo credit: Francesca Pulgarin