Tuesday, February 19, 2019

East and West finally meet in Ocean Grove

As the above poster proclaims, this show was 57 years in the making. Luckily my part was only the past few years.  In a way it first started when Mary Lane first took my woodcut class in Belmar several years ago.  First woodcut was ok, but nothing special, yet she decided to take the class again.  The next time her woodcuts were a little better- she had figured out the medium a little better.  And she took more print classes, with me and others.  She met up with an old college friend at a reunion, now a print artist out west, and they had much to discuss.  They hatched the idea of an East/West printmaking show and sought my advice as to where they could have such a thing.  It turned out that the Belmar Arts Council, where I had been teaching woodcut, was seeking a printmaking show, so I had them create a proposal.  It was submitted, approved, and added to the schedule.  And then there was a major turnover in people running things there and many disagreements followed, to the point where the two organizers were looking for alternatives.  Mary had been to my Studio in the basement of that building many times, a regular at the critique group, but never had been to the first floor or above.  Meanwhile that location was looking to have more art shows.  Mary took a tour and was very impressed with what was going on in this restored building, and eventually the two print artists decided to move their show, and its dozens of artists from around the country, to the location in Ocean Grove.   There was still much to be worked out, but they got it on the schedule and began the long process of organizing a group show.  Today began the process of actual hanging the show on the walls.

Above we see part of the first floor, a main space for art shows in the building.  Below we see what it looked like earlier this afternoon, with part of the show installed.  The Jersey Shore Arts Center started out as Neptune High School, built in what is now Ocean Grove, in the 1890's.  Operated as such until the 1970's, by which time the needs of the school had outgrown the building (despite a few additions over the decades), and the building was abandoned in favor of a modern complex nearer the center of town.  The derelict building gradually became just a shell, but they built things to last back then, so it was still standing.  As it was on the verge of being demolished in the early 90's, a group of local people decided to reclaim it and restore it.  It turned out that grants were available for an arts related project, and between those and a whole lot of volunteer effort, we got the place we see today.  Theater, music, dance, visual arts (Molly and I have had our studio there for about a decade) all moved in as the building was gradually rehabilitated.   The top floor was only restored and repurposed a few years ago.

While the show was still scheduled for Belmar, the idea of hanging the works in plastic sleeves was developed, a system they had done there a few times.  Seemed like it would be good for those west coast artists, who wouldn't have the expense of framing and shipping all the work to New Jersey.  And then when the show moved to the new location, where we had hand plastered walls (no wall board in this historical building) and driving nails is not allowed, we were ahead of the game.  Over the time between the proposal and the hanging, the organizers developed a new version of what was originally planned to be a line hanging system, with those sleeves now attached to foam core boards, and hung with wire to hooks mounted in the molding above. The boards were prepared at home, so all that had to be done was install them today.

The large rolling ladder that the building had made the process easier.  Each board arrived today with prints attached and a long wire fixed to one upper corner.  First Nichole (building supervisor) put in hooks mounted to the molding (the one place nails and screws can be put) at the spacing that Mary had devised, then as Mary and her daughter Katie bought each panel over, Nichole draped the wire over the hook, and then Katie attached it taut to the other corner and cut the excess wire.  A good plan and executed efficiently, and soon most of the show was installed. Above we see the first panel from the east coast side going up, and below we see how he first few looked.

A few more of these panels need to be made, and a few framed works from the organizers (brought one of those in myself today) will go up in the next few days, around the latest expected winter storm.    But it looks like it will all get done on time and look good, a nice outcome for Mary's first organized art show, some 57 years in the making.


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