Canvassing Somers Point’s alleys for artistic inspiration

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Carol Zerbe of Somers Point is painting at Penny Lane.
SOMERS POINT – Tapping into the connections of local alleys, the artists and poets of Great Bay Gallery seemed to find inspiration around every bend while creating their art on location.

For the annual project at the Bay Avenue art gallery, “Alley Art: Discovering Wabi Sabi,” artists and poets were painting and writing en plein aire or in the open air at several alleys, terraces and lanes throughout town Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3.
The project was sparked by two artists who walked down an alley they had never known before while on their way to a reception at the gallery last year, said owner Kathleen Arleth.
“They never knew that the alley existed; they discovered it and so they planted the seed of the project. That’s the way the project progressed – even pairing the concept of wabi-sabi with the alleys was a wait-and-see process and because alleys are alleys and have objects in the them (some of them, anyway) that shows the impermanence of things and the imperfections of things, even while seeing the beauty of these things, the two ideas I felt worked together. Artists and poets are able to find the beauty in objects and in their surroundings,” said Arleth in an email June 5.
The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi is acceptance of humanity, often characterized visually with asymmetrical aesthetics, simplicity and natural integrity.
Arleth said alleys, terraces and lanes are part of the community fabric in Somers Point dating back to the city’s development when people could approach their homes from the back, and later offering space for garages and small cottages to be built. The variety of the use of alleys, from residential to utilitarian, allows artists to draw from a broad well of history to approach their pieces.
“The one structure that is the most unusual is known as ‘the Carriage House’ and was part of the Willard Wright Estate at Fifth and New York Avenue. It is seen in the 1914 Booklet ‘Somers Point, Paradise of South Jersey,’” noted Arleth. “Another reason that I think alleys are a good subject is because people in Somers Point can relate to them – they live on the alleyways or next to them; they use them; and if they don’t they can discover them through this project.
“I always like to choose a project that people can relate to – to have a personal relationship with the project and are excited when they see the artists’ renderings and the poets’ expressions of familiar places.”
The plein aire art session each year allows artists to be out in the community where people can engage them about their work and generate interest in local art.
“I think that plein aire adds depth to everyone’s experience,” Arleth said.
Participating artists are Kathy Arleth, Sally Devinney, Suzanne Forrest, Linda Gazsi, Shirley Hawthorn, Frances Hughes, Rae Jaffe, Mary Ann Kline, Chuck Law, Mollie O’Mara, Nora O’Mara, Terry Marx, Rita Michalenko, Nancy Palermo, Susan Hanna Rau, Thelma Snyder, Deb Spinella, Jen Tracy, and Carole Zerbe.
Participating poets are Gerri Black, Bud Cole, Daphne Eberhard, Eva Feeley, Maria Provenzano and Richard Russell.
The completed works will be on exhibit July 1-Sept. 1 at Great Bay Gallery, 829 Bay Ave. The public is invited to a meet the artists reception 5-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 featuring a poetry reading at 6:30. The event is free and open to the public.
Great Bay Gallery hours beginning June 27 are 3-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays. Special hours are available by calling (609) 653-4991.

Submitted by Kathy Arleth
Chuck Law of Linwood paints at Anchorage Lane.   Linda Gazsi of Somers Point is painting at Shuman's Alley.   Nancy Palermo of Linwood paints “the Carriage House” on Fox Terrace.   Suzanne Forrest of Ocean City is on location at Stretch's Alley in Somers Point.  

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