The Mount Vernon Arts & Culture Society aka The Mount Vernon Arts Council was created out of the many years dedicated to preserving, enhancing, and celebrating the Arts in the city of Mount Vernon. In the 1990’s Mayor Ernest D. Davis, set out to preserve the arts in Mount Vernon by creating the Third Street Task Force. A consultant Ann Tucker was hired to work from the outside, while Judy Williams-Davis worked from inside City Hall. The Mt. Vernon Arts Council replaced the Mayor’s Third Street Task Force to Encompass the entire City and not be under the politics of the City. A separate entity that helped the City use the Arts as a catalyst for change. As a seperate and independent 501c3, when the politics and government changed the Arts remained intact.
The Taskforce gave opportunities for unknown artists to work with the veteran arts world. Art exhibits were held all over the City. People would visit City Hall just to see the artwork. The arts were alive and doing well. Businessmen were putting millions into Third Street Renovation. Harlem’s event organizers began to coordinate activities with the Task Force, ideas began to culminate and the celebratory festival, Arts on third Festival was born. It became an annual celebration of culture, arts and entertainment, every year since 1999.
The free outdoor event spanning over six city blocks featuring various family-friendly arts and entertainment quickly grew in attendance. Starting with a crowd of 3,500, the last festival held a walking crowd of 100,000. The festival sponsored by the Taskforce had over 200 vendors and grew to three stages of entertainment. After an injury of Ann Tucker, the festival was run by organizers Judy Williams-Davis and Shari Harris. Later, Cathy Webb would come aboard to handle all stage entertainment. Dough E. Fresh flew in every year to close the festival out, no matter where he was.
Gerrie Post is Grant procurement, Ann Post is our curator and an artist. She owns her own art studio “The Riley Studio,“ Maureen E. Wilson is a musician and the Director of Mt Vernon School of Music. Collectively these women provide cultural arts that embody creative thinking and critique, which encompasses the analyses of contemporary visual culture alongside other art forms i.e. visual art, literature, music, theatre, film, dance, etc.
The Arts Council began an after-school music program in the Doles Center for children that would otherwise not be able to afford music lessons. Maureen Wilson the executive director opened the program with 140 children, many with special needs, and were able to thrive. Currently, the arts Council continues to help young people to maximize their lives.
The Mount Vernon Public Library has become a key sponsor to housing art exhibits and arts education. The next exhibitions and concerts will be done virtually due to COVID restrictions. Also, the Mt Vernon Arts Council is currently soliciting the Mount Vernon City Council to allow them to design a Black Lives Matter (BLM ) Plaza in the front of City Hall on the pedestrian walkway. Not only is the message important but so is the location as well. Although the work is symbolic, it sends a strong message starting with the city leaders, that all lives will not matter, if Black Lives Don’t Matter. It will also support the hundreds of Cities that have BLM plazas speaking out against the racial injustices and denied democracy for all. All artists should register online to be a part of it. Visit the Mt. Vernon Arts & Culture Society’s website MVACS.com.
The arts have a long-standing place in the City of Mount Vernon, producing prolific artists such as EV White, Art Carney, Dick Clark, Heavy D, Al B. Sure, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen whose Mother Vivian Ayers works of poetry was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award Winning Actor Denzel Washington (who just had the School of the Arts named after him), JB Smooth, Douglas Baldeo, Children Author EB White, just to name a few and of course, we claim Doug E. Fresh. If there ever was a city that is influence by the arts it is Mount Vernon.
Black Westchester salutes Judy Williams-Davis, Maureen E. Wilson, Ann Post, Gerri Post, Nora Tyndall, Tammie Phifer, Carol Merchant, Cathy Webb, Cheryl Dennis, Lorna Kirwan, the women behind the Mount Vernon Arts Society for continuing preserving and providing a place for the arts for the youth and future generations to be influenced. The arts are a known catalyst for change in a community organically. Through Mount Vernon Arts Society, these women are driven because they understand that art has the power to change the lives of our young people.