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Cleveland Morris, cultural pioneer

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I met Cleveland in 1984 when I came from New York City to serve as director of the Delaware Division of the Arts. Cleveland was serving as the artistic director of the Delaware Theatre Company. Cleveland was urbane and witty, with a dynamic combination of genuine dedication to the company and a wry, worldly understanding of what it took to sustain such an institution. He was well spoken and polished, a hint of his experience in England returning with him to downtown Wilmington. It was his vision that created the artistic reputation of the theater and his drive and persuasive power that convinced the board, the city and the state to invest in its move to the Riverfront from the firehouse on French Street. The theater led the way as an anchor of cultural activity in an area targeted to revive the city. He was quoted as saying, “Here lies every wonderful opportunity to relish our own city’s colorful past and participate in its even finer future.” When he retired from the DTC in 1998, Cleveland moved to Staunton, Va., yet he remains a presence in Delaware through the representation of his fine paintings, often shown at Carspecken Scott Gallery. The work reflects his earlier love of visual art from his undergraduate study at Yale University and subsequent study at West of England College of Art. What is thrilling to see is how much he loves to paint, and how it shows in his work. The still lifes reflect a tranquility unknown in the theater. A true Renaissance man, Cleveland is at home in both creative worlds, whether the stage or the studio. His contribution to the cultural fabric of Delaware remains, substantiating him as one of the most important Delawareans. 

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