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Actually, that was supposed to be A Concert ON, not IN, the Lake — but when ArtsCAP throws its annual summer fundraiser party on Saturday, August 13, local fave rocker Josh Zuckerman is expected to make his usual big splash.
Meetings! We’ve all had to sit through our share — and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you at least agreed on the date of the meeting before moving on to whatever obfuscatory flapdoodle passed for “business” in your neck of the office plaza. Still, strange as it may seem, there are those who occasionally get something accomplished at the conf table — and weirder still, they’re people who represent nonprofit entities of low- (or even NO) budget, meaning they don’t even get paid for the privilege of kissing off those not inconsiderable slabs of Life.
Following is a roundup of what some of our fightin’ arts and/or historical orgs have been up to lately; a list that begs to be highlighted by the Black Box of Asbury Park. The long-running (but lately largely dormant) “incubator of ideas” is coming off a successful poetry slam-poon entitled “The Great American Beat-Off,” in which the black ‘n boxy Saint was transformed for the afternoon of August 6 into an Interzone of wannaBeats and savvy inheritors of the spirit. On Sunday afternoon, August 14, the Box gets a Re-Boot in a public-invited preview party at Chico’s House, with details here as posted previously on Upper WET Side.
Before that, the folks at the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park — a nonprofit that’s invested a lot of sweat equity and thinkpower in its ongoing mission of creating a genuine destination for the arts in AP — is making final preps on their third annual summertime benefit party. Going on Saturday evening, August 13 at an “undisclosed location” (not really; it’s a lovely private residence on Deal Lake), this “major fundraising event of the year” carries on an August tradition that’s worked out well for the ArtsCAP volunteers (check out our archived piece on the 2009 event and its featured star Rachel Garlin) — a cocktail-hour concert that, in the words of ArtsCAP prexy Dennis Carroll, “will enable us to fund an expanded arts agenda announced as part of our recently announced Strategic Plan.”
Under said Strategy (viewable here in short form), the ArtsCAP board is currently focusing their energies on three new established committees dedicated to Advocacy (chaired by The Showroom’s Mike Sodano), Enterprise (chaired by John Vigg of Collective Art Tank) and Public/ Private Partnerships. Add to this the group’s role in an afterschool program at Asbury Park High School (where a full time dance and drama teacher has recently been hired) and, well, you’d still only have a part of the overall picture.
“We’re also involved in a plan to develop artist workspace around town,” explains Carroll. “Particularly in undeveloped areas like Memorial Drive and the West Side.” In addition to all that, the Coalition crew has forged an alliance with Interfaith Neighbors, whose new work-in-progress Springwood Center project is set to include office space for ArtsCAP.
Kicking off Saturday’s soiree with an hour of complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, the concert component kicks in at 7 with fave local rocker Josh Zuckerman (whose latest release Got Love? is triangulated as “an infectious mixture of pop rock and soothing ballads, all of them electrified with a powerful message of love and self-acceptance”) AND the Asbury acousticana of Carl Chesna. Tickets ($25) for the event at 2115 Sunset Drive in Asbury Park are available via PayPal right here, or reserve by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Ginny Otley at 732.874.3884.
But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more…
Owner “Sica” buyer, for way-out House of Ideas: Doug Ferrari’s Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in Long Branch edges ever closer to a planned Asbury relo, with a mini-golf gala lined up for August.
For a fella named Ferrari, his marque is anything but status-symbol. In fact, his personal style simply flies in the face of any Hermes-scarved stereotype associated with a cutting-edge art gallery owner. Time was, he even sported a ‘stache that would not have been out of place on Wilford Brimley.
Given his obvious strengths in the economy and mileage departments, we’d pin him as, say, a sensible Kia Rondo over some stallion-stud Continental driving machine.
We kid Douglas Ferrari, of course. The true fact of the matter is that few among us have ever possessed the moxie, the mojo, the fine madness to have mortgaged our home in a quest to transform a drab old olive oil cannery into an uncanny ideas factory. And that’s precisely what the art teacher and sculpture connoisseur did, as founder and curator of the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts in the way-off-Broadway realm of downtown Long Branch — a genuine cultural oasis that’s hosted a slew of forward-thinking visual art exhibits, in addition to dance troupes, open mics, spoken word slams, conferences, classes and sonic entertainments that would likely find a sympathetic stage nowhere else in Shore creation.
It was SICA that brought the annual SculpToure display of outsized, outdoors, out-of-limits 3D artworks to the boardwalks, boulevards and building-tops of the Friendly City. SICA that furnished a first forum for several musical acts that have since staked their place on the local scene and the music biz at large. SICA that offered ultra-convenient, second-floor studio space to artists, filmmakers and media people. SICA that sponsored competitions and exhibit opportunities for high school and college age creatives from all over NJ; SICA that opened its doors (and its cozy cafe space) to dance troupes, video artists, performance poets — as if any of it represented a license to print money.
Still, if that concrete cavern of quirky crannies and stairways-to-nowhere remains something of a Best Kept Secret to the general pube-lick some seven years after its 2004 opening, it’s also no secret that Ferrari has long had one foot out the door of Long Branch — with the aim of relocating lock, stock and barrel to Asbury Park. While not quite there yet, Signor Ferrari has found his cause championed early and often by AP Mayor Ed Johnson, whose efforts have included lending his name and his tournament-grade hook to last winter’s Mayor’s Bowl fundraiser at Asbury Lanes. This August, Hizzoner tees off in support of SICA once more, via a planned event tentatively titled The Mayor’s Golf Outing.
The late James Avati, pictured in the early 1990s at his Broad Street studio, employed friends, family members and Red Bank neighbors as models for his sought-after paperback cover paintings of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. (Avati photo by Piet Schreuders)
He was the King of the Paperback Book Cover Artists — even the Rembrandt of the Paperbacks, according to some. An innovator who set the pace during what’s widely considered a golden age of American illustration — and he did it all from his walk-up studio above Broad Street in Red Bank.
During the years dating from the end of the Second World War to the era of the WIN Button, the late James Avati created hundreds of vivid, powerful cover paintings for novels by Faulkner, Dreiser, O’Hara and many other leading literary lions of the day — as well as for upstarts like J. D. Salinger and Mickey Spillane, whose hardboiled epics were reportedly no favorites of the artist.
Famous for reading every word of every book he was hired to do, Avati was commissioned for dozens of high-profile titles from New American Library and other top publishing houses, and found his smoldering, moody style quickly imitated by his peers. It would have been easy for him to work exclusively with the best available models, but what truly set Avati’s work apart — what gave it that edge of authenticity and heart — was his preference for “real people” subjects; many of them drawn from his circle of friends, relatives and neighbors in and around Red Bank.
Beginning this Friday evening, July 15, those faces that once called out to readers from drugstore bookracks and bus station spinners will be on full-size display, as the Monmouth Museum on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale College hosts an opening reception for The Painting World of James Avati. A sampling from the world’s largest collection of the artist’s sought-after work, it’s a priceless portrait of American realism in words and pictures; a painted diorama of a bygone Red Bank, and a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of a man whose signature work has been described as “the darker side of Norman Rockwell.”
When the husband/wife tagteam of Robert and Elisabeth McKay reworked their second-floor studio space at 12 Monmouth Street to include a gallery exhibition room, the mission statement couldn’t have been clearer: advance local interest in the captured image as fine art. Elevate photographers to the sort of status enjoyed by painters, sculptors and illustrators. Apply their own passionate advocacy and love of craft to the creation of a forum that would inspire the shutterbugs of New Jersey to new and greater heights.
Then in walked John Kochansky, and things immediately went from fine-tuned to fuzzy.
A high school classmate (and on again/ off again friend) of Bob McKay’s, Kochansky had spent the interim decades pretty much picking up from what he already did throughout his teens — busying himself with the creation and exhibition of a staggering body of original art works. Vivid paintings and cartoony drawings; wearable oddities and grandly graphomaniac statements; sculptures in wood and metal and “repurposed” esoterica. All of them infused with an all-seeing, all-knowing sense of humor that reflected their author’s outsize personality and infectious joie de vivre.
When McKay explained that the new room was to be all about the photo, Kochansky returned with a set of vintage photographic portraits that he had rescued from thrift shops and antique stores, treated with bleaches, dyes and organic materials — and transformed from orphan castoffs to provocative works of art. And when McKay Imaging Gallery opened its doors on July 14, 2005, it was with an inaugural exhibition by the name of Found, Not Lost: Works by John Kochansky.
This Friday night, June 17, the McKays will host an opening reception for another display of Kochansky creations — this one a collection of “Drawings and Such” presented under the name Afterthoughts. Like their previous Kochansky solo shows in 2005 and 2006, it’s an event that promises to draw a sizable crowd and generate a positive buzz — but conspicuous in his absence will be John Kochansky himself.
Ace portraitist Danny Sanchez — pictured at work and in a self-snap — helps the Monmouth County Arts Council celebrate a milestone anniversary with FORTY FACES, a display of studio studies that marks his first-ever solo gallery exhibit.
The way Danny Sanchez tells it, “I’m basically a working stiff…I don’t think of anything I do in terms of artistic value; I’m just fortunate to be shooting stuff that people like.”
Regardless of how he spins it, however, the veteran portrait paparazzo — a fixture of Red Bank life for decades — has long been a sought-after snapster for scores of headshot hopefuls, CEOs, celebs, senior partners and cherished toddlers.
It stands to reason then that when the Monmouth County Arts Council went looking to assemble a little gallery exhibit in honor of the nonprofit org’s 40th anniversary, they called on the man who’s quietly amassed a groaning file cabinet full of faces — the faces of the people who make the arts happen here in Monmouth County. The visionaries and the volunteers; the educators and the entertainers. The manipulators of paint and pen and pixels, or the sculptors in sound and stone. The character players and choreographers; the philanthropists, and the occasional phreeloader.
The exhibit called Forty Faces — with a tip of the hat to the concurrent 20th birthday of the Two River Times — goes up on the evening of Friday, June 10 with a 6pm reception inside the Pollak Gallery on the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University. It’s a display of images culled from nearly a quarter century’s worth of Sanchez favorites — and, incredible as it may seem, it’s the first-ever gallery exhibit that the veteran lensman has ever consented to.
Colorful, digitally generated prints by Shrewsbury artist Robyn Ellenbogen are among the new works featured in this year’s ART IN THE PARK event in Long Branch.
Looking for one single, compelling reason to check out Art in the Park, when the outdoor art fair event makes its 13th annual stand in Long Branch on Sunday, May 29?
For one thing, you won’t find a more pleasant signifier of the summertime season than Art in the Park, the traditional Memorial Day Weekend event that’s hosted by the Long Branch Arts Council, in partnership with the Long Branch Historical Association and the City of Long Branch. It’s totally free and open to the public, it gathers dozens of the region’s most creative people in the sea-kissed setting of West End Park — and few would argue that it certainly beats being stuck in traffic.
Thanks to Mike Black for use of the wonderfully moody image — have a look at the Professor’s Flickrfest of Asbury aspects right here.
Its polished ponies haunt the washed-out Super 8 dreams of a Jersey generation or two, and its silently screaming siren faces stood symbolic of a city’s quiet desperation — anti-Tillies on the cover of an old Weird NJ, or a green-patina’d Liberty driven mad by huddled masses and wretched refuse.
When the actual Casino carousel was dismantled and sold off in 1990, the rococo roundhouse structure that housed it stood there off the south end of the Asbury boards like Miss Havisham‘s petrified wedding cake — the doors occasionally creaking open to host oddly post-apocalyptic flea markets and other death-rattle diversions. Around the turn of the millennium, it found a new identity as an indoor skate park and punk rock hall — and this July, it will do duty for the fourth consecutive year as the marvelously makeshift mainstage of ReVision Theatre Company.
In the seasons since the old place received a long-overdue facelift by boardwalk developer Madison Marquette in 2008 — an overhaul that saw a new metal roof radiate from the domed skylight, some eight inches of pigeon poop scraped from the floor, and someone going through the trouble of replacing the light bulbs that adorn the cherry-on-top crown — the Carousel House has spun into the future as a one-of-a-kind host venue for musical opening nights, filmfest receptions, art parties, wine tastings and staging areas for zombie walks. Beginning this weekend and for five days in the merry month of May, this other-dimensional time portal chases its own history, with an “interactive video art installation” called The Living Carousel.
The aluminum-and-steel piece FLYING CLOTH DOME by Michiko Rupnow is one of the works featured rain-or-shine in this year’s SculpToure display, sponsored by SICA and ArtsCAP.
Even if you haven’t heard the name SculpToure bandied about the boardwalks and boulevards of Asbury Park and Long Branch, it’s almost certainly made you look (if not make you do a Linda Blair 360) — each time you’ve paused to ponder that concrete cephalopod tentacle rising from the ground at Pier Village; that pair of headless ballroom dancers on a highway median; that dapper daredevil doing a handstand on the roof of a downtown bank.
The “urban sculpture park” display (this is the fifth annual edition, and the second to sprawl across sites in the two salty old cities) is the brainstorm of Doug Ferrari, who despite his luxury-marque name is something of an economically minded genius at bringing genuinely forward-thinking Art to the People — especially when the People don’t always show any particular ambition to go to the Art.
As founder and curator of the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts, Ferrari established a real cultural beachhead amid the general dinginess of downtown Long Branch, turning a former olive oil canning plant into an uncanny ideas factory that’s hosted visual media exhibits, dance troupes, open mics, spoken word slams, studio classes and some truly offbeat music projects. And, just as the natural elements have been known to leak into the SICA space from time to time, so has Ferrari taken that SICA vibe into the great outdoors — joining forces here in 2011 with the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park to bring a wild gamut of 3-D art to The Park and The Branch.
Evelyn Leavens with a work-in-progress landscape in her Red Bank studio. (Click to enlarge)
By TOM CHESEK (First published on RedBankGreen July 30, 2010)
Parked on an easel in the sunlit second-floor studio on the east end of Red Bank, a painting is taking shape, almost in turn-of-the-seasons real time; brashly delineated trees sprouting like declarative statements from the thrill-ride curves of a crazy quilt countryscape.
What might have been the makings of some plein-air jigsaw puzzle in less imaginative hands is becoming, under the artist’s patient eye and brush, a ruckus of bold shapes and colors — a scene in which Nature’s delightfully messy-thorny-scratchy surprises lurk beneath those curvaceous comforts.
Just don’t ask about a title for the canvas, at least not yet. To Evelyn Leavens, the name “Work in Progress” will suit it just fine. In fact, to hear the 85-year-old painter, photographer and instructor tell it, her 60-year career is still just that — a work in progress.
With a major solo exhibit of her paintings on display now at theMonmouth Museum in Lincroft — as well as a contribution to a much-anticipated group show opening this weekend at Shrewsbury’s Guild of Creative Art — the work of the locally legendary Leavens has never been more visible and accessible. Still, the artist herself would prefer not to call it a “retrospective.” Think of it as a chance for Leavens to pause for one moment — a moment in which the rest of us can struggle to catch up — before sprinting ahead to the next challenge.
George Segal photographing Donald Lokuta (who, seen reflected in mirror, is in turn photographing Segal) at the Golden Bell Diner in Freehold, 1989 — included in a major exhibit of work by both Segal and Lokuta at the Monmouth Museum. (all photos courtesy of Donald Lokuta)
(First published on Red Bank oRBit February 18, 2010)
“I made up my mind that daily life is extraordinary.”
A handful of well-chosen words from a man who famously let a series of stony, silent figures become his most eloquent mouthpiece. At the time of his passing almost ten years ago, George Segal was regarded as America’s premier sculptor, an experimenter who emerged from the Pop Art school of Warhol and Lichtenstein to become a rumpled eminence whose work adorned university campuses, permanent collections, national memorials.
Even if you’ve never visited an art museum, you’ve seen his somber, monochromatic life-size figures in places like the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the National Mall in DC. Cast from live models using plaster-soaked bandages — a technique he first tried out on himself in the 1950s and perfected over the next decade — his people go about their business like ghosts; averting their faces from each other and waiting for things that never seem to arrive.
Underlying the melancholy of the mundane in Segal’s best known work is a subtle celebration — a celebration of the “everyman” and the queued-up world he/she inhabits. The artist, who lived most of his days on a Middlesex County farm, was infinitely more likely to be found occupying a booth at a Route 9 diner than a roped-off VIP area at Studio 54; walking a then-desolate Asbury Park boardwalk instead of summering in the Hamptons.
Beginning next weekend and continuing into the middle of April, the Monmouth Museum is the setting for George Segal Everyman: Sculpture, Paintings & Drawings — a major milestone for the nonprofit facility (located on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College) and an event that’s scheduled to include the participation of some special guests.