Ellen Dressler Moryl
“We just need to keep doing everything we can to help support the leadership in the arts community so that …the arts community is always robust and their work is accessible to everybody in the city.”1 – Ellen Dressler Moryl, Executive Director of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs 1979-2012
Ellen Dresser Moryl moved to Charleston, South Carolina from Montgomery, Alabama, leaving her job as the Art Director to become the rounding director of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs. For over 30 years Moryl has enhanced the character of the Charleston community by her intrinsic relationship with the artistic community across this city and the subsequent partnerships across the country and world. Moryl founded, what is now known as MOJA Arts Festival and the localized Piccolo Spoleto, of Spoleto Festival USA. Both festivals have made tremendous impacts on the Charleston community.
MOJA Arts Festival, celebrating its 30th year this 2013, explores the contributions the African-American and Caribbean community has given to Western cultures, as well as the evolution of these combined cultures through variations of art forms, including theater, jazz, dance, R&B, visual arts, food, and more. MOJA is also involved throughout the community, by way of educational and outreach programs from children to elders. By Moryl having founded MOJA 30 years ago, the opportunity to celebrate African-American and Caribbean heritage has not only improved and diversified the city’s artistic community, but also set the stage for Charleston’s audience to appreciate the rich culture of Charleston’s African-American and Caribbean community.
Piccolo Spoleto has been said to be one of Moryl’s most invaluable contributions to Charleston. Again Moryl expanded the breadth of Charleston’s artistic community by founding Piccolo Spoleto, which showcases approximately 800 regional and local artists of varying mediums. With the many tourists coming to celebrate Spoleto Festival USA, local and regional artists were allowed an opportunity to share their art with an international audience. Additionally, both Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto bring in millions of dollars in earnings and over a thousand full-time jobs. Moryl has enhanced the creative spirit of Charleston, heightening the color of the city, as well as attracting new businesses opportunities, families, and artists across the country.