Since there is an impersonal and alienating aspect to the Internet (which, by the way, celebrates its 20th birthday this month), it is a pleasure to hear about a group of artists and artisans who came together in a positive way through one of the better aspects of social media. The Creative Collective is a group of more than 100 local and regional artists who have been brought together through www.meetup.com. It’s a way for the members to connect with fellow artists in a variety of media, to bounce ideas around with like-minded souls, and to be motivated to create and share works of art.

“Many of our artists have regular (non-artistic) jobs, so they can be distracted from creating art,” says the Creative Collective’s co-founder Michelle Rosenthal. “This way, we all know that we’ll be getting together, so you think, ‘we’re meeting on Thursday, and I really should have something to share.’ It keeps you motivated.”

The power of the group is also helpful in creating a body of work worthy of exhibition. In fact, the Creative Collective currently has two group shows going in the Princeton area. Works by some 30 members are on view at the Plainsboro Library’s gallery, through Wednesday, May 29, with an artist’s reception open to the public on Sunday, May 19.

In addition to Rosenthal’s watercolors, visitors to the library’s gallery can see digital photography by Latha John, collage by Linda Pickering, acrylics by Sylvia Keusch and Phoenix Du Monde, mixed-media assemblage by Joy Kreves, oils by Chris Cooper and Paul Tamuzza, fused glass works by Carine Fram, hand-blown glass with copper, bronze, and natural elements by Chris Roghan, fabric art by Janneke Van Der Ree, and ceramics by Cindy Dixon, just to name a handful.

Meanwhile, Terhune Orchards in Lawrence will host the artists of the Creative Collective, with an exhibit of their works in the barn adjacent to the Orchard’s wine-tasting venue. On view through the fall, with a monthly change of artwork, the exhibit also features works by artists from HomeFront’s ArtSpace, a special program housed in HomeFront’s Family Preservation Center for homeless women and children to encourage self-expression and creativity through making art.

The Creative Collective was founded by Rosenthal and Rick Baker and rose from the ashes of the Lawrenceville Main Street Artist’s Network (LMSAN), which was founded in 2009 but had to abruptly disband last October, due to a disagreement with the Lawrenceville Main Street organization.

Though the issues with the organization are still simmering, Rosenthal wishes to speak on a more positive note about the current Creative Collective.

“Some of LMSAN’s members went their own way, and some joined the Creative Collective,” she says. “This Meetup.com-based organization has allowed us to be inclusive, since we don’t have to pay rent. We’re not supporting a building and every (exhibit) space is free like the barn at Terhune or the Plainsboro Library’s gallery. This has also allowed us to give back a bit to the community. For example, we now have this connection with HomeFront’s ArtSpace and have invited some of those artists to display with us at Terhune, and will invite them again in the future.”

“We can meet at HomeFront’s (ArtSpace) room if we want, but we can also meet at the Lawrenceville Community Center,” Rosenthal says, adding that the Creative Collective is so new, they’ve only had a couple of official meetings, and the first was a knockout success, with some 60 people in attendance.

“To be honest, Rick and I were a bit overwhelmed with the fantastic response,” Rosenthal says. “But it’s been a delight so see and meet so many people who are serious about their art, interested in making connections, and wanting to share ideas. We’re here to get to know each other and exchange ideas and information about exhibits. Now that the weather is nicer, we’re going to schedule some outings so people can paint (en plein air) or photograph.”

What is also refreshing about the Creative Collective is the inspired break it gives for artists who are not making art full-time. In other words, it’s a way and place for artistic personalities to express themselves, even if they are employed full-time in non-creative professions.

“Our members come from all walks of life,” Rosenthal says. “The Creative Collective is a way for you to get free of the corporate environment and go a little wild with your art and self-expression. When you come together with other creative people, if someone else is doing the same things that you do, it’s a confirmation of your ability, and sends you off in a new direction.”

Painting only came to Rosenthal, a Lawrenceville resident, about a dozen years ago, about the time she retired from Educational Testing Services in Princeton as a product manager of a computer-based college entry educational assessment tool. Born in Brooklyn and raised in the town of Great Neck on Long Island, Rosenthal’s father owned a jewelry store in the lower east side of Manhattan, where her mother was also employed. She majored in elementary education, graduating from SUNY Stony Brook in 1968, then earned a master’s degree in education from Adelphi University in Garden City, on Long Island, in 1970.

For years she taught elementary education in various schools in Long Island, and had an assortment of education-industry jobs before coming to ETS. Her husband, Joe, was a data center manager at ETS, who is now also retired. They have two grown children, Deborah and Eric, and three grandchildren.

Essentially self-taught as an artist, Rosenthal says she “loves impressionism and is intrigued by modern art as well. Color is very important to me, and if you were to look at my palette, you would see that I use up the purples and blues more quickly than anything else.”

Though most of the members are from the Princeton/central New Jersey area, interested folks have come to the Creative Collective from as far away as Philadelphia and Haddonfield, in Camden County. The group welcomes its far-flung members, who are also invited to the Creative Collective’s activities, planned for the Mercer County area.

“If they want to drive up and participate, they’re welcome,” Rosenthal says.

The age range for the group is wide, from college-age students to octogenarians. “There are all age ranges and an incredible variety of talent, from those creating with watercolors, to iron work, to stone carving, to glass fusion,” Rosenthal says. “In fact, if the group gets larger, we may meet in sub-sets, although the collaboration with artists in different media is always inspiring.”

The main idea of the Creative Collective is for artists to connect with other artists, because in many ways — like writing — making art is a solo activity, even a little lonely.

“When I paint with other watercolorists, even if we’re painting different things, we can chat about ideas, brush styles, colors, and whatnot,” Rosenthal says. “I’ve painted with groups, and even if we paint the same arrangement, the differences are so interesting. That’s one of the things we hope to do with our plein air and photography outings. People have different approaches to looking and seeing, and then recording their ideas. It’s amazing to see the differences in style and perspective.”

Creative Collective, Plainsboro Library Gallery, 9 Van Doren Street, Plainsboro. Artists’ reception on Sunday, May 19, 2 to 4 p.m. On view through Wednesday, May 29. Free. 609-275-2897 or www.lmxac.org/plainsboro.

Group show with HomeFront’s ArtSpace, Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road, Lawrence. Through fall, 2013. 609-924-2310 or www.terhuneorchards.com.

Visit www.meetup.com/Crea­tive-Collective-of-Mercer-County.

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