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Farewell, Friends

by Marianne Lods, Executive Director, Millville Development Corporation

This will be my last article as the executive director of the Millville Development Corporation—better known as the Glasstown Arts District. I will be retiring on December 31, 2023.

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed writing these biweekly articles about the happenings in Cumberland County. There are so many events going on in our three cities and the townships throughout the year. I encourage you to stay connected by visiting on a weekly basis. Community and tourist events are posted to the calendar of events there. Also, please “like” the social media sites for them.

I began working for Millville Development in February 2000 as the arts district coordinator. It was a new concept, and I enjoyed being a part of the development with some very talented people—Kim Warker Ayres and Donal Ayres. In 2004 I was hired as the executive director to lead the organization to create arts programs and economic development along with business assistance.

Before the Great Recession of 2008–09, there was 95 percent occupancy on the six blocks of High Street. The economic downturn caused several small businesses to close. Some buildings were abandoned and started to deteriorate. However, many investors with the help of City leadership and Millville Development went on to create the fully restored Levoy Theatre, build the College’s Arts & Innovation Center (Clay College), and restore several other storefronts. More recently CompleteCare added a multimillion-dollar health facility in the 500 block of High Street, and Millville Public Library is nearing completion of a new library building on Buck Street.

I have had the pleasure of working with many enthusiastic entrepreneurs who established businesses, survived the COVID pandemic, and the many artists who add beauty and light to the lives of everyone who lives, works, and visits our downtown area.

Over the decades we have been able to create 15 murals. Just a few are gone due to building renovations or wear and tear. Public art projects employ artists and give pleasure to everyone who frequents the Arts District.

Since the summer of 2000, we have held our summer youth art camp, Art Creates Excellence (ACE). More than 2,000 kids, ages 7 to 18, have participated in the four-week program during July. About half of them were awarded full scholarships to attend because of the generosity of the grantors that have contributed large donations. This program will continue to flourish under the auspices of the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts and the Clay College. The program is a true legacy for our organization to leave.

Another strong collaborator of ours is Holly City Development Corporation. They will continue to do the economic development and business assistance programs that both our organizations have been doing for the last several years. Since 2020’s pandemic, together we brought the Double Value Gift Card sales project to fruition. In these last four years, this program has put $254,000 into the downtown Arts District businesses in December.

I want to thank all of the board of directors members over these last 23 years for their support of the Arts District and of me. You made my job a joy to have. I am privileged to have worked for you.

Thank you all and I wish everyone the best New Year 2024 filled with good health and happiness!

Millville Matters