Reeves-Reed Arboretum's New Executive Director Juliano is Planting Art, Dreams and Beauty
Saturday, August 4, 2012 • 6:00am
SUMMIT, NJ – When Frank Juliano was approached about possibly taking over as executive director of Reeves-Reed Arboretum, he knew there was one thing he had to do first, before he met with the search committee, before he interviewed for the position, before he did anything else.
He drove to Summit from his home in New York, and visited the arboretum to see how it felt to be there. He walked the grounds, he looked at the trees, he absorbed the atmosphere. And he knew he was in the right place.
Now, sitting in his sunny office overlooking the arboretum’s lush, green grounds, Juliano calls himself “the luckiest guy on the planet.”
“I walked onto the grounds and looked around and said, ‘I need to be here,’” he said, recalling the day he visited. The search committee was surprised he’d driven so far before even interviewing for the position, but to Juliano, it made perfect sense.
“I wanted to make sure this is what I wanted to put my energy into,” he explained.
Not that he has any shortage of energy. Since stepping into the executive director position a few weeks ago, Juliano has made plans for various programs on the arboretum grounds, pored over blueprints for a new pedestrian walkway, and has been busily jotting notes into his “Dream Journal,” where he keeps a log of ideas for the future of the arboretum.
“You have to think beyond right now,” he explained, adding that he encourages his staff to tell him their dreams for it as well. It’s all part of the relationship he’s been building with the other employees of the arboretum since the day he let them interview him for the position. They have weekly staff meetings, the first of which was a lively, getting-to-know-you pizza party.
“An important part of my job is building cohesion,” Juliano said. “I want to know what motivates them, what they dream about. I want them to feel safe and nurtured, and I want them to love coming to work.”
Although the arboretum will be closed to the public from October through early 2013, plans are already blossoming for the new year. New displays are being planned for the Education Center, a pedestrian parkway will be going in to make it safer for visitors to walk around, the historic entrance will be renovated, and plans are underway for a native plant garden. The Garden Club of America recently awarded the arboretum its Freeman Medal, which includes money that will be used to build a bed of native plants.
“Everything we have planned is going to be really spectacular,” Juliano said. “I’m excited. We all are.”
Plans being made for the arboretum include a special science program for girls, hikes and other programs for kids, even dance programs on the arboretum grounds. As always, everything is focused on the arboretum’s mission: to engage, educate and enrich its visitors so they may become better stewards of nature and the environment.
If Juliano’s dreams for the arboretum seem a bit theatrical, there’s a pretty good reason. Prior to seven years with Wave Hill Public Garden in the Bronx, he worked as an actor, singer, and the resident Upper West Side coffee expert you may have seen periodically on Regis and Kathie Lee. He ran a coffee store called The Sensuous Bean, and was part of the team that brought Starbucks to the city.
He also worked for a time at the Jacob Burns Film Center in New York, and was the executive director of the Greenwich Arts Council for seven years.
For Juliano, the difference between the glitz of New York show business and the quiet, lush elegance of Reeves-Reed isn’t that big.
“There’s art in everything,” he said. “Beauty and art is all around us. I’m looking at the arts as a way of increasing our visitors’ experience here.”
For more information on supporting Reeves-Reed Arboretum, volunteering, or any of the upcoming programs between now and the October closing – including the final Jazz on the Terrace on Aug. 10 – visit the website, or call (908) 273-8787.