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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the September 3,
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Newtown First: A Gallery of Fine Art
An independent career in the arts can be a daunting
prospect. But Barbara Swanda, director of the newly launched Gallery
of Fine Art in Newtown, has found a way to make it work for her.
The Gallery of Fine Art was launched in July with a soft opening that
featured a well-attended community open house and an exhibition of
its stable of 12 area artists. The gallery is housed in the Bond
on South State Street, one of Newtown’s only two art deco buildings,
completed in 1921.
"Folks are excited that this gallery is here," says Swanda,
in a phone interview from the gallery. "They’re pleased that there
is finally a strictly fine art gallery in town. Their comments in
our guest book are extraordinary."
This week the gallery will celebrate the opening of its first fall
season with the exhibition "Home and Away, Photographs of
by David Graham. Graham is a Newtown resident and published
with a significant national reputation. The opening reception for
Graham’s show is Saturday, September 6, from 5 to 8 p.m., with an
artist’s gallery talk set for the following weekend, on Sunday,
14, at 2 p.m.
Graham’s work was featured in 2001 at the James A. Michener Museum
in Doylestown. His Newtown show features 24 color images from his
latest book, "Alone Together," a series of photographs about
Nan and Arthur Kellam, a couple who lived on a remote island off the
coast of Maine for 40 years. Now abandoned, the remnants of their
simple home and belongings are used to tell the story of their lives
"I am a photographer of the American cultural landscape in all
its nooks and crannies," writes Graham, who currently teaches
at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. "Whether it is a
a picture of a backyard, or a great sign someone has made, it all
fits together. The only thing, besides still lifes, that is barren
is the homogenized America that has been swept clean by corporate
America. I look for the spice and the difference."
The Gallery of Fine Art has about 2,000 square feet of gallery space
on two floors. The gallery is owned by James Steen, president of Acme
Design Group, a marketing and graphic design firm that has its offices
upstairs on the second floor. "The company has been in business
in Newtown for at least decade," Swanda explains. "As a
design entity, they’ve always wanted to complement their work with
fine art." The company recently purchased the building, renovated
the interior, and adapted it to professional and office space.
gallery is a great fit for street level retail," says Swanda.
Gallery director Swanda has been working with Acme since
January developing the gallery design, graphics, and website
Featuring primarily two-dimensional works, she has a stable of a dozen
artists at present. They are Robert Beck, Tom Chesar, Anne Cooper
Dobbins, David Graham, Gordon Haas, Don Jordan, Pat Martin, Harry
Orlyk, Katharine Steele Renninger, Bob Richey, and Mavis Smith. She
also carries work by woodworking collaborators Susan Clark and William
Hoehne and ceramics by Don Jordan.
"I tried to get a broad range of styles and media, from realistic
to impressionistic to abstract," says Swanda. "I very much
want to show the wealth of talent that is in this region. Many of
our Bucks County and Hunterdon County artists are nationally and
Swanda grew up in northern New Jersey and graduated from Penn State
in 1979 with a degree in art history. She did some graduate work in
archaeology at Drew University before being recruited, through her
involvement in historic preservation, to work in downtown
She started her first company, Swanda Creative Services, three years
ago when she first took the plunge and became self-employed.
"I worked in the field of downtown revitalization for about 15
years, enjoyed it tremendously, and learned about economic development
and promotion," she says. "After 15 years, I was ready to
get back into the arts."
In the mid-1980s, she began a three-year stint working for the Main
Street program in Arkansas during the Clinton governorship. "It
was a great time to be working there," she says, adding that she
found the future president "very charismatic and also very
In 1989 she returned to her home state to become state coordinator
for Main Street New Jersey. She settled in Newtown, an easy commute
to Trenton, and worked for the Trenton-based program for over 11
In an unusual and helpful twist to her entrepreneurial
instincts, Swanda opened a picture framing studio in her home in the
early 1990. "It was just as a part time activity — I needed
a non-cerebral creative outlet," she says. When she became
in 2000, she launched her creative services business and also
her framing business.
"It was definitely scary — especially when you’re dependent
on a sole income," says Swanda, who is divorced. "But if I
were to think about this and plan it out rationally, I probably would
have been terrified. But it was a time in my life, in terms of my
career and my personal life and my desire to get back to the things
that mattered to me — this was the time to try it."
"Was I awake night worrying about paying the mortgage? —
says Swanda with a flourish. Other services she had always taken for
granted — dental appointments and medical insurance — were
With its large corner location, she hopes the Gallery of Fine Art
will serve as a retail anchor for south end of State Street.
is a very pedestrian town. It still has a very strong sense of
Having an economically viable downtown has remained very important
to me," she says. "People here walk constantly and we still
have a downtown hardware store. There’s a bookstore and natural foods
market and now Starbucks has become a gathering point downtown."
"I’ve always had a gut feeling that this was a niche in Newtown
that was not being tapped, or not being tapped fully. There are a
wealth of art buyers in the area and some wonderful art
"There’s a lot of expense and worry, and it’s a 24/7 job,"
says Swanda. "And if someone had told me that 20 years ago, I
wouldn’t have believed the. But when it’s something your heart is
in, it’s a different perspective. Your job becomes more part of your
life. It feels more natural. It blends. And I’m much happier."
— Nicole Plett
Street, Newtown, 215-579-0050. www.gfanewtown.com Opening reception
for "Home and Away, Photographs of Maine" by David Graham.
Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday to
9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. A gallery talk and book signing
will take place Sunday, September 14, at 2 p.m. Show continues to
October 12. Free. Saturday, September 6, 5 to 8 p.m.
"Alternate Dimensions" featuring recent two and
works by Bob Baum and B.A. Keogh. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To September 7.
"Paintbox Summer," a solo show of oil paintings by Lisa Mahan.
Open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To September 28.
Using sensuous colors and a painterly style, Mahan prefers to work
directly from life in natural life. She enjoys the challenge of
the fleeting light that plays on a subject and the effect of light
on color. A graduate of Boston University’s School of Fine Arts, she
has worked as a graphic designer and an art director for House
and Colonial Homes magazines.
Annual summer group show of watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels,
and prints. Featured artists include Joanne Augustine, Albert Bross,
Marge Chavooshian, Tom Chesar, Mike Filipiak, Charles and Lucy
Robert Sackson, with pottery by Katherine Hackl and Ann Tsubota. Open
Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To September 28.
609-397-2300. "Salvador Dali: Illustrations for Dante’s Divine
Comedy," 100 woodblocks created in the 1960s. Wednesday through
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
908-996-1470. "Summer Scapes," a summer show of landscapes,
seascapes, and urban scapes by artists from New Jersey and
Photographs by Nancy Ori and Laura Zito are included in the roster
of invited artists. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday
and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To September
609-397-9022. Artist and favorite son John McDowell Williams returns
to Lambertville to take over the front gallery at Papier Sun Fine
Art with a show of watercolors and oils. Regular gallery hours are
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Street, 609-397-0275. "Seasons of Trees," a watercolor show
by Kim Moulder. A graphic designer and potter, Moulder is a member
of Artsbridge of Delaware Valley. Gallery hours are Monday to
1 to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To
Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-3396. Sculpture exhibition features
the outdoor installation of seven large-scale works at sites around
town. Host sites include Union Square, New Hope Solebury Library,
the Wedgwood Inn, New Hope Historical Society, Golden Door Gallery,
and New Hope Mule Barge. On view to spring, 2004.
609-397-3349. Solo show by photographer Frank (Rip) Atanasio, "The
Illustrated Photograph: Constructing Pictures Both in and Out of the
Camera." His color prints are images are either captured or
by the lens, sometimes with multiple transparencies. Daily, 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday. To September 8.
Born in Brooklyn in 1952, Atanasio was trained in graphics and
and worked for many years in the graphics industry. "I love to
observe life," he says, "and these photos illustrate the
moments I have witnessed. The images are about seeing, composition,
and painting with the camera. They are about looking past the
609-586-0616. Seasonal outdoor sculpture exhibition features the
Sculpture Center’s first juried exhibition selected by artist Helen
Escobedo, curator Stephen Nash, and critic Carter Radcliffe. New
outdoors by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Benbow Bullock, Ron Mehlman, and
Pat Musick. Shows continue to September 28.
Grounds for Sculpture is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9
p.m., year round. Adult admission is $4 Tuesday to Thursday; $7 Friday
and Saturday; and $10 on Sunday.
Avenue, Mercerville, 609-689-1089. Barbara Schaff, paintings of
To September 14.
Shared show features "Patterns of Resistance," oil and
paintings by David Ambrose, and "Drawn by Egypt," works in
oil stick and pastel by Susan Osgood. Gallery is open Tuesday through
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Artists’ reception is Friday, September
12, for the show that runs to September 30.
Utilities Office, Route 130, just south of Route 33, 609-259-3502.
Fifth annual art exhibit, juried by artist Marge Chavooshian,
to October 25. Exhibit is on display Mondays to Fridays from 8:30
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
TAWA Open 2003, a group show of members’ work selected by E. Carmen
Ramos, assistant fine arts curator at the Newark Museum. Eric
work "Light Source," an iris giclee print of an original
wins Best in Show. Juror’s Choice Awards go to works by Connie Gray,
Bill Hogan, Don Jordan, Michelle Soslau, and Maggie Zullinger. Open
Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To
Regional artists, paintings, photography, and sculpture.
609-292-6464. "The Needle’s Eye: Needlework from the Museum
featuring quilts, samplers, clothing, and needlework made in New
from the mid-18th to the early 20th century; on view to September
Also "The Ones That Didn’t Get Away! Fossil Fish from the New
Jersey State Museum," featuring the skull of a massive ancient
predatory fish, Dunkleosteus, known as the "Bulldog Fish"
of the Chalk Seas. Show is organized by David Parris, curator of
History. On extended view. "Cultures in Competition: Indians and
Europeans in Colonial New Jersey," a show that traces the impact
of European settlement on the native Indians’ way of life after 1600.
Also "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the
"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"
"Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler Collection
of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;"
Architects;" "The Modernists;" "New Jersey Ceramics,
Silver, Glass and Iron;" "Historical Archaeology of Colonial
New Jersey;" "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
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