Charleston’s arts director to step down

Ellen Dressler Moryl Buy this photo

Ellen Dressler Moryl, who has been a part of Charleston’s arts and festival scene for almost three decades, is stepping down from the post as director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

What the office does

Areas handled by Office of Cultural Affairs include:

Charleston Farmers Market

City Gallery at Waterfront Park

Film, photo shoot permits

Happy New Year, Charleston

Holiday Magic in Historic Charleston

Holiday Parade of Boats

MOJA Arts Festival

New Perspectives Gallery

Piccolo Spoleto Festival

Her official retirement takes effect after the new year, but she will stay on as a consultant and artistic director for the 2013 Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

A salary was not available because the contract is being negotiated, a spokesperson said.

Her successor at cultural affairs will be Scott Andrew Watson, marketing director of New York-based Gluckman Mayner Architects.

His previous work experience includes serving as the executive producer of the Dublin (Ireland) Fringe Festival and special project director at the New York Theater Workshop. He will be paid $70,000.

Just about every performing arts celebration or outdoor event the city runs has Moryl’s fingerprints on it, including the Charleston Farmers Market, art shows, holiday specials and the MOJA Arts Festival.

Collectively, these events pump millions of dollars into the state’s and Charleston’s economy. The Spoleto and Piccolo festivals, for instance, mean at least an $85 million impact.

Moryl, 69, came to Charleston from Alabama in 1978. Early on she helped develop the Piccolo part of the Spoleto celebration, seeing it as an opportunity to showcase local, state and regional performers.

These artists wanted to take part but be more than “ushers” for Spoleto, she said.

Her Charleston experience showed “it was the best you could ever have if you wanted to be an arts director in any city in America,” she said.

Moryl wanted to stay on working during Spoleto 2013 because it was a short window of time between Watson’s starting date and the next Spoleto installment that begins in May. There are more than 700 events in play.

“It’s a very complicated festival,” Moryl said.

One reason for her departure now is to spend more time with her ailing husband.

Mayor Joe Riley called Moryl part of the creative and artistic heart of the city.

“Everything that the Office of Cultural Affairs is, is Ellen,” he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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