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Incredible Shrinking Art World

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Incredible Shrinking Art World

This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

January 14, 1998. All rights reserved.

@INITIAL CAP+ = It has become a truism over recent decades that

communications and commerce have made the globe a much smaller place.

Yet

the arts, too, have played a singular role in shrinking our world.

Throughout this century’s hot wars, cold wars, and propaganda wars,

artists

have been continuously attracted to each other. With the fall of the

Iron

Curtain, this perennial art world internationalism has been allowed

to blossom. At Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts Galleries in

New Brunswick, two companion exhibitions open this Thursday, January

15, each focused on the seismic political and social changes in

Central

and Eastern Europe.

"3 Penny Exhibition: 3 Installations from Yugoslavia, Ukraine

and Russia" features works by Milica Tomic of Belgrade;

Savadov/Senchenko, a Kiev arts duo comprising Arsen Savadov and Yuri

Senchenko; and Group AES, a Moscow collaborative team comprising

Tatyana

Arzamassova, Lev Evzovitch, and Evgeny Suyatsky. The exhibit is

curated by

Konstantin Akinsha, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Washington, D.C., who

is

considered a leading critic on contemporary Russian and Central

European

art. Akinsha is also a key figure in the research and distribution of

art

seized by the Nazis and Soviets during World War II.

"Not Only for Art’s Sake" is the companion show, the annual

fellowship exhibition of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and

Paper. The show features leading artists from Latin America, Russia,

South Africa, the United States. These include Puerto Rican artists

Pepon Osorio and Carmen Inez Blondet; six Latin American women

artists;

two South Africans; and six New Jersey women artists.

The Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper (RCIPP) was founded

in 1986 by Judith K. Brodsky, a noted artist in her own right, and

professor of visual arts at Mason Gross School. Since its inception

more than 200 artists have been awarded residencies at the center,

with project-based fellowships that ranged from two weeks to two

months.

The center’s master printer is Eileen Foti, and its papermaker is

Gail Deery. RCIPP was originally known as the Center for Innovative

Printmaking but changed its name to reflect its interest in using

paper in creative ways rather than as just a support for the image.

The center now has a full handmade papermaking studio at Rutgers.

Under both names, and from the outset, internationalism

has been RCIPP’s focus. "Our longevity is quite an achievement

for a self-supporting art organization," says Brodsky. She modeled

the art center on the more familiar model of a science center that

works within a university. RCIPP raises $150,000 a year from grants

and sales to support its projects.

"Right from the start, we set up a program with the Union of

Artists

in what was then the Soviet Union," says Brodsky, "and after

the collapse of the USSR we expanded the program to include artists

from various East European countries." Since then the center has

built connections to artists of Latin America and Asia. Its most

recent

outreach has been to work with artists in South Africa.

Brodsky says the title of the RCIPP Fellowship show, "Not Only

for Art’s Sake!", is a specific reaction to the new focus of the

international art community.

"Unlike radical artists at the end of the 19th century who

responded

to outmoded forms and created the `Art for Art’s Sake’ movement,

today’s

artists are responding to the world with art that addresses the

emergence

of new national, racial, cultural, and personal identities" says

Brodsky. "Their art looks outward rather than inward, and draws

inspiration from real life, not only art itself."

"Art for Art’s Sake" have been watchwords of the Western art

world ever since the 19th century when artists from the

Post-Impressionists

in France to the Non-objective painters in Russia responded to the

crisis in traditional art by turning to the elements of art itself.

"Now the opposite is taking place," Brodsky explains.

"Artists

are reacting to `art for art’s sake’ modernism and saying — `It’s

not enough. We want to comment on the world. We want to do things

that will be interventions in the world as well as interventions in

art.’ This is an absolute contrast in fin-de-siecle attitudes of the

19th and 20th centuries.

"There’s no question that art is recognized internationally as

an important means of political expression," says Brodsky.

"Further,

it’s a way of expressing things that a person would possibly be

imprisoned

for. There’s a code of reading artworks in terms of comment on

political

and social issues.

"Artists of color in this country see art as a powerful tool also,

and we’ve made it our mission to work with artists contributing new

narratives to the cultural mainstream. There’s such tremendous energy,

and so many American artists of color focused on commenting on the

social and political structure of the country."

Six Latin American women artists who were in residence were Catalina

Parra, Annalee Davis, Anaida Hernandez, Yolanda Lopez, Amalia Mesa

Baines, and Magdalena Campos Pons. Parra of Chile literally sews

mouths

and eyes shut, or stitches the pieces of a landscape together to

create

a metaphor for repressive censorship and the damaged environment.

Also in residence were Russian artist Valery Orlov, and South African

artists Charles Nkosi and Nhlanhla Xaba.

Six New Jersey artists were 1997 fellows at RCIPP where they worked

in collaboration with Deery and Foti. They are Miriam Beerman,

Anuhadra

Das, Kate Dodd, Roberta Harley, Dot Paolo, and Debra Sachs.

In terms of internationalism, RCIPP’s exhibit reflects various global

disruptions that have brought many new groups of immigrants to New

Jersey in recent years; so much so that the state is now an

international

microcosm.

Anuhadra Das of Somerset has created a handmade-paper installation

about the lives and status of Indian women in her native country.

Her paper sculptures show angelic figures of Indian women whose

spirits

manage to rise above the repressive conditions in which they still

live.

Pepon Osorio, a New York artist of Puerto Rican

heritage,

whose work emanates from direct experience with community situations.

For his RCIPP residency, he worked with a family that is on welfare

in New Brunswick. "His print project is a lifesize print of a

baby’s crib, and onto it is projected a videotape of the live baby.

The mother of the baby is 15 years old. There was a moment, I think

it even startled the artist, when the baby started crying and she

climbed into the crib to comfort the baby," says Brodsky.

"Artists who were dealing with social and political issues were

not allowed to show their work in the USSR, and they became the

underground

or non-conformist artists," says Brodsky. It happens that Rutgers’

Zimmerli Museum has become home to the world’s largest repository

of such art, the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist

Art from the Soviet Union. This, she notes, was the result of pure

coincidence.

"There’s a famous story of one show in which tanks were sent in

to bulldoze an exhibition — to cover it with earth, literally.

Art was very much feared for what it could do in the Soviet

Union."

Moscow’s Group AES is tremendously influential in Europe right now,

Brodsky reports. Their exhibition installation is a commentary on

how ideologies demand enemies, and thus how countries have to hate

each other. "They suggest there’s a neo-Cold War going on now

between the Western and Moslem worlds, a propaganda war that’s being

promoted by both sides."

The AES installation consists of futuristic digitized images of cities

of the world into which have been inserted mosque domes and other

Moslem realities. One image represents a group of Moslems resident

in historic Red Square. Another shows the exterior of the Guggenheim

Museum embellished with Arabic lettering.

RCIPP is also in its third year of a unique

collaborative

development project in the cloud forest area of Ecuador. Here all

the adults from four village are employed in a papermill that makes

a variety of art papers and art paper products from locally grown

sisal fiber.

Sisal is a plant that yields a strong durable white fiber, once used

extensively for cordage and twine. Since the advent of plastics, the

market for sisal cord has all but vanished, endangering the livelihood

of these farmers.

"Gail Deere did all the research on sisal and how it could provide

a wonderful substitute for wood pulp," explains Brodsky with

pride.

"She also developed ways it could be processed without bleaches

and other pollutants. It’s an environmentally sound development

project

that is funded by CA.R.E. So often you hear of development agencies

supporting the arts, but this is a case of arts supporting

development."

Graduate students from Rutgers traveled to Ecuador to train the

residents

to make the papers. Brodsky says that although the center had been

prepared to purchase all the output from the papermill, there is a

big enough market in Quito for the paper products to support it. Now

the center buys art papers for its own needs, with the rest going

to market in Quito. Art remains the place where these far flung

cultures

can meet.

— Nicole Plett

International Art, Mason Gross School of the Arts,

Civic Square Building, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick,

732-932-7511.

"3 Penny Exhibition: 3 Installations from Yugoslavia, Ukraine and

Russia" and "Not Only for Art’s Sake!", the annual

fellowship

exhibition of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Both

shows

open January 15 and continue to March 1. Gallery hours are Monday to

Friday,

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; weekends 1 to 4 p.m.

Related events (free and open to the public):

Public programs for the exhibitions are Tuesday, January

27, with artists talks and receptions for both shows. At 2 p.m.,

New Jersey artists who were 1997 RCIPP fellows speak about their work

in the galleries. At 4:30 p.m., Russian-born art historian Boris Groys

gives a talk, "What is Total About Totalitarian Art?"

Russian-born art historian and critic Boris Groys gives a slide

talk on the late Soviet and recent Russian conceptualism featuring

the work of Ilya Kabakov on Wednesday, January 28, 6:30 p.m.

"3 Penny Panel: Visual Arts Today in Russia, Central and

Eastern Europe," features curator Konstantin Akinsha, with artists

Milica Tomic of Belgrade; Arsen Savadov and Yuri Senchenko of Kiev;

Tatyana Arzamassova, Lev Evzovitch, and Evgeny Suyatsky of Moscow’s

Group AES; critic Marek Bartelik; and photographer Viktoria Buivid,

Tuesday, February 17, 7 p.m.

Previous Story

Corrections or additions?

This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Survival Guide

A Formula for Online Fame & Fortune

Regional Planning Summit

Good Question/ Bad Question

New Year’s Classes

Retail: is Bigger Better?

Ditch Those Disks

Partnerships and More

Asian Hubris

Corrections or additions?

Survival Guide

These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 14, 1998. All rights reserved.

Top Of PageA Formula for Online Fame & Fortune

Here’s a Web business model that works: give a bunch

of well-paid Internet naifs the opportunity to talk to each

other and search databases at a free, members-only site. Then get

advertisers interested in selling them everything from drugs,

financial

services, and expensive cars to buy exorbitantly-priced banners. Then,

give it a name that will make it sound like a close cousin to AOL.

This is the strategy of Physicians OnLine — POL. "It is an

online service for doctors," says Steven Zatz, president

and CEO of this Tarrytown, New York-based firm. "It provides

Web-based

content that ranges from private discussions to access to databases

of medical information and drugs and things like medical newsfeeds,

to help the doctor stay current with colleagues. We also provide ISP

and Web site access."

In a usual day, says Zatz, more than 14,000 different physicians will

access the service. Every month, the website attracts an average of

50,000 doctors who spend between seven and eight hours there. And,

Zatz adds, the company has grown 20-fold in the last 30 months.

Zatz, a 41-year-old internist with an MD from Cornell University

(Class

of ’85) and an undergraduate degree from Yale University (Class of

’79), speaks at the Venture Association of New Jersey’s program,

"Electronic

Commerce: Real Profits through Virtual Communities," on Tuesday,

January 20, at 11:30 a.m. at the Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown.

Cost: $55. Call 201-267-4200. Also speaking: Arthur G.

Armstrong,

manager of the New York office of McKinsey & Company; and John

E. Burget, senior advisor of investment banking with Bentley

Associates.

Physicians OnLine actually has two locations; www.po.com is

the commercial website; while members visit www.pol.net for

the bulk of its resources.

It is one of the few Web ventures that are flourishing at a time when

many are failing to justify their livelihood. Zatz describes the

strategy:

"There is a view that one of the real opportunities on the Web

is to identify very well-defined communities and to serve those

communities.

I think that is a very sensible strategy — to try to understand

the business needs of business professionals, particularly to serve

the needs of those who want to come in contact with them.

At POL, advertisers like Pfizer, Mercedes, or Fidelity spend upwards

of $20,000 a month to post banners in a medium that’s open only to

doctors or medical students. "On a CPM (cost per thousand) basis,

it’s going to be higher than most, but the effective CPM is more,"

Zatz says. "It’s a highly targeted medium."

Like AOL, POL targets an audience of Internet novices, and Zatz

reports,

most of its 95 employees work in customer service. "A lot of our

members have never been online," he says. "You’d be surprised

by the amount of hand-holding it can take; particularly for a

community

that traditionally hasn’t been very technical. Physicians for the

most part are not heavy computer users. It’s pretty rare for the

doctor

to use a computer in the course of the day. We think one of the great

advantages we’ve had is a customer service unit that can help them

get online and answer their questions like, `What is Yahoo?’"

Another AOL similarity is that POL’s marketing strategy combines

banner

advertising with other paid services. While POL doesn’t charge

membership

fees, it makes money as an ISP, and it also offers intranet services.

This year it plans to start developing a prescription fulfillment

system as well. "Our view of the business of POL is to try to

take advantage of a number of opportunities to generate revenue based

on the community we’ve put together."

Its numbers show that POL succeeds in attracting this body of users.

"Most professionals want contact with some of their colleagues

and they don’t get it either face to face or on the phone" he

says. "It’s changed the way doctors get advice. It’s very hard

to contact other physicians to share advice and experience. We really

think it has revolutionized how physicians communicate."

For instance, POL’s E-mail capabilities have been a big hit with

doctors

— the company did not expect this. "You need to really to

understand what your audience wants and not imagine," says Zatz.

"You can be surprised thinking `I’m sure the audience wants this’

and it turns out that it’s not something that gets much traffic. What

you’re trying to do is understand the community, understand its

technical

limitations, and understand how to make money having assembled that

community."

Zatz adds that the POL business model — getting wealthy

professionals

to attract wealthy advertisers and take it from there — could

easily be applied to other professions. "Whether they’re

communities

of engineers, communities of architects, communities of lawyers, I

think there are other opportunities to look at the profession, to

look at how dollars in that profession that could be spent more

broadly,

and I think you’ll see more professional business communities in the

next year or two."

In 1998 Zatz hopes to continue hosting dinner meetings or symposia

and other "live" online events, as well as developing the

online prescription service, which could tap into a market that

currently

sees 2.5 million transactions a year. "There are number of

opportunities

to move those prescriptions electronically," says Zatz. "I

don’t think the adoption curve there is going to be very rapid but

I think the long-term opportunity is a very large one."

He also hopes to expand the service to patients. "At a single

time on our service we can have as many as 1,300 or 1,400 physicians

online at the same moment," he says. "I think it’s going to

be very popular among patients."

But although some of its advertisers are non-medical in nature, don’t

expect Physician’s OnLine to stray from cybermedicine. "We’re

in the healthcare field and it think it’s highly unlikely, that we’ll

branch out, at least for the near future," says Zatz.

"Medicine

is unusual because of what a large chunk of our economy it takes

up."

l1H &l4H &l6H &l2H &l1H ลก @head 14 = Web for Patients

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is now not only

giving patients a directory of physicians, but it gives them

directions

to their offices. The New Jersey health insurer’s corporate site,

http://www.bcbsnj.com, has street maps and detailed

directions to physician offices, among several new features.

The site was started in 1996 and initially listed names and addresses

of doctors who participated in either HMO Blue or Blue Choice managed

care plans. It was expanded in the fall of 1997 to include physicians

who participated in the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s traditional plans,

as well as HMO Blue Prime, Blue Choice Prime, and Medicare Blue.

The site has also been updated to allow users to seek out

participating

doctors close to their home or workplace, and provides a good online

mapping system developed by Etak. Other new features include job

listings,

a calendar of events and promotions sponsored by BCBSNJ, and a nifty

suggestion box that allows users to rate the site and offer general

comments.

Top Of PageRegional Planning Summit

Regardless of who first said "united we stand,

divided

we fall," in the Princeton area this aphorism is becoming a mantra

for regional planning proponents like Alan DiSciullo, former

chairman of the West Windsor Township Planning Board.

The current chair of the central section of the New Jersey Planning

Officials, a group that seeks to unite planning organizations,

DiSciullo

is trying to organize planning roundtable for mayors, municipal

planning

board chairs, and statewide officials. A regional transportation forum

cosponsored by the NJPO and the Princeton Regional Planning Board

begins Friday, January 16, at 8 p.m. at the Princeton Township

municipal

offices at 369 Witherspoon Street. Call 609-924-5366.

The group’s ultimate aim is to provide an information exchange on

issues affecting various municipalities such as traffic conditions

and growth management. The rationale for the group should be

well-understood

by residents of the greater Princeton area, which has had to deal

with a slew of new commercial and residential developments as well

as new road construction proposals.

Issues likely to be raised at the NJPO meeting could include the

proposed

Millstone Bypass linking Route 571 to Route 1 at an overpass near

Harrison Street; Route 92, the Hightstown Bypass, and, as DiSciullo

urges, the rapid growth of underdeveloped communities in central New

Jersey like West Windsor, Plainsboro, South Brunswick, and Montgomery,

that are currently unable to handle the influx of new school children

and more traffic congestion.

When confronted with regional transportation issues especially,

municipalities

are often forced to act on their own because there’s no collaborative

effort beforehand. "Developers can very easily go into one

municipality

or several and wantonly build developments without any

responsibilities

to the municipalities unless the municipalities have ordinances or

growth management in place," he says. "We found in our

experience

in West Windsor that it really requires a regional effort. You’re

going to get economies of scale, it’s really strength in unity, and

the ability to draw on the experience and resources of each of these

municipalities. In short, you really have to get support."

The list of invitees to the transportation forum includes planning

representatives from Princeton, Ewing, Middlesex County, Franklin

Township, Washington Township, Hunterdon County, Montgomery, West

Windsor, Hopewell, Rocky Hill, Hamilton, East Amwell, New Brunswick,

Pennington, Somerset County, North Brunswick, Lambertville, East

Windsor,

Plainsboro, Cranbury, South Brunswick, Hillsborough, Trenton,

Hightstown,

Mercer County, the MSM Regional Council, the DOT, and the New Jersey

State Planning Board.

DiSciullo explains that it’s the fourth such meeting of its kind (the

first was in June, 1996), but emphasizes that this meeting should

an expansion of the group’s agenda. "We’re hoping to formalize

this into a working group," he says.

Top Of PageGood Question/ Bad Question

Okay, so you’ve written your employee manual, you’ve

made the personnel file, you’ve drawn up the policy on sexual

harassment,

you’ve given the feedback, you’ve even bought the employment practice

liability insurance to protect you should you accidentally fire

somebody

for the wrong reasons. What else should you do?

Standardize the interview process, says Frederic Schragger,

an attorney, who reports that one of the easiest ways to avoid a

discrimination

suit is to make sure that you ask the same questions to all

prospective

employees. "You want to be consistent with each interviewee that

you interview for the same position," he says. "Ask the

question

that you’re permitted to ask and don’t ask the question that becomes

a problem: age, family, married, physical condition."

Schragger and Cara Verba, manager of employment at Princeton

Financial Systems, address the Princeton Chamber on "The Right

Way to Manage Your Employee Relations: The Techniques and Legalities

of Hiring, Evaluating, and Firing Employees" on Wednesday, January

21, at 7:45 a.m. at the Holiday Inn on Route 1. Cost: $17. Call

609-520-1776.

Schragger, who practices employment law at 3131 Princeton Pike along

with his son Andrew Schragger, frequently is asked which

questions

can be asked job prospects during interviews. As a rule of thumb,

he says, employers are allowed to inquire about prior work history,

availability, and work experience; they are also allowed to ask for

references. Outside of that is the ever-expansive gray area, full

of legal uncertainty and a lot of work for attorneys like Schragger.

Here are some sample questions from that gray area:

Do you work out? This question may be germane to someone

who’s applying to work at health club but not for someone who wants

to work as a secretary or as a retail clerk. Instead, phrase it this

way: "Tell me about yourself, tell me about your work

experience,"

says Schragger.

Are you a Redskins fan? This inquiry doesn’t necessarily

violate the law and could be useful in deciphering an applicant’s

personality. But a better route around the "that’s not

germane"

objection is to let the applicant somehow lead into their football

preferences without being prompted. Again, start with "tell me

about yourself" and let them tell you they’re a football fan —

or a biker or a hip-hop head or whatever — first.

What did your parents do for a living? This query is

grayer

than gray. While there’s nothing blatantly wrong with it, Schragger

says that its tone leans against the spirit of the law. "I’m not

sure it’s objectionable but I don’t think I would ask it," he

says. "I ask the question, `Tell me about your family.’ `Tell

me about yourself’ is a better question."

Do you have any disabilities that would hamper your work?

This is obvious suit bait, but interestingly enough, a simple

rephrasing

of the question would get the job done without attracting lawyers.

Schragger’s suggested alternative: "Is there anything in your

family relating to you or your health that would not make you

available

to do this job 52 weeks a year, subject to the fact that we all get

the flu? I think it’s a proper question. It goes to their availability

to do that job."

Most of the time, a well-phrased question will elicit the

information

you are looking for anyway. "It’s the method of how you handle

the interview and how the person you interviewing handles the

questions,"

says Schragger.

Top Of PageNew Year’s Classes

How to get your company to send you to a continuing

education class:

Ask.

Show the brochure.

Stress the benefits.

Emphasize the convenience.

Compare the competitive pricing.

Direct from the brochure of Mercer County College’s corporate

and community programs division, these tips serve to buttress your

determination to "improve yourself" this spring. Instead of

taking just a sprinkling of courses here and there, think about a

series of sessions that will lead to a certificate, and perhaps a

new job title.

MCCC certificate programs are available in business communication,

child care career development, construction project management,

entrepreneurial

management, leadership, management and supervisory skills, and

training. New this semester at Mercer are certificates that can lead

to jobs as a travel agent or a fiber optic technician.

In collaboration with AAA Central-West Jersey, Mercer offers seven

courses from February 3 to June 30. All but three of the courses are

scheduled on Tuesdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and cost $45 for two

sessions.

(The computer reservation system workshops are held all-day on

Saturdays

in June.) Topics: air travel; hotels, motels & resorts; land and sea

travel; customer service and selling, and travel geography. If you

complete all seven courses you receive a certificate. Call Yvonne

Chang at 609-586-9446, extension 3278.

Even if you don’t aim to install or repair fiber optic cable yourself

— you merely want to sell it — you can benefit from learning

how light transfers through optical fiber and all about bandwidth,

gain and loss, types of connectors and splices, laser and led sources,

diode detectors, and calculation relative to power budget. Three

courses

in the fiber optic technicians series meet on Thursdays from 6 to

10 p.m. starting May 14, and each costs $205. To get a certificate

for this series you will have to pass a test. Call Dominick

DeFino

at 609-586-4800, extension 3456.

Another hot job for 1998 is webmaster. MCCC has contracted its

webmaster

certification program to Princeton Internet Group (PInG). The 21-hour

course meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6 to 9:30 p.m., costs

$2,250, and includes Web page design, HTML programming, content

management,

Web application programming, and Web server administration. Though

it is fully enrolled for the session starting February 3,

cancellations

may be available.

Less intense courses on the Internet are also available. Mercer offers

Monday night introduction to the World Wide Web, two three-hour

sessions

for $78 including lab fees. Princeton Adult School has five-week

courses

on Tuesday evenings, 6 to 7:30 p.m., for $45. The class is taught

by Peter Mazzei, information technology coordinator for the

New Jersey State Legislature, Office of Legislative Services. Both

classes go so far as to teach you how to create a Web page.

Also at Princeton Adult School, choose from two introductions to

Windows

95. Alan Goldberg (senior software support specialist for

Princeton

University) teaches a six-week course starting Thursday, February

5, $50; and James C. Roberson (president of JCR Associates in

Barnegat Light) teaches an eight-week course on Tuesday, February

3, $60.

To learn at your own speed, sign up for courses developed by Ziff

Davis Education, channeled through Mercer County College. Check out

http://corp.learnitonline.com but register by February 9. For

$49 you can take as many courses as you want from February 13 to May

13. All the software and materials are on-line — you do not need

to own the software package that you are learning. If you get stuck,

you can visit the Mercer campus to ask questions in person.

Can’t stand sitting at the computer for one more moment? Take a course

in effective speaking and presentation, "Stand Up and Speak

Out."

The Princeton Adult School instructor, George Scherer, has his

own firm (Scherer Educational Services), and is past president of

Princeton Toastmasters and a member of the International Platform

Association. He offers to videotape your presentations to focus on

specific areas of self improvement. The eight-week course starts

Tuesday,

February 3, 7:30 p.m., and costs $45. Scherer follows that up with

two sessions on "how to be funny" starting Tuesday, March

31, at 7 p.m., $35. "Plenty of opportunities to participate,"

he promises, "or you can just sit back and enjoy yourself."

For information on Princeton Adult School call 609-683-1101. For

Mercer

County College’s noncredit courses, call 609-586-9446.

Top Of PageRetail: is Bigger Better?

In MTV’s cult cartoon "Beavis & Butthead," the

dull-witted redneck Anderson leaves Beavis and Butthead alone in his

yard to build his pool while he goes off to a Home Depot-like

megastore

(Home Labyrinth) to look for Spanish tiles. Anderson has no luck at

finding them and haplessly scours the aisles until long after the

store closes. Meanwhile the two miscreants are left with the

opportunity

to trash his property with the help of a backhoe, a hose, and mondo

bags of concrete.

In its inimitable fashion, the cartoon is critiquing the retail

world’s

tendency towards aggressive expansion plans. Experts aren’t far behind

in this belief. Amid the news that Target, the country’s third largest

discount retailer after Wal-Mart is planning to open a new megastore

in the as-yet-unbuilt Nassau Park Pavilion as well as five other

stores

in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, a report by Barry M.

Barovick,

a national director of Ernst & Young’s New York City office, and

Timothy

Shipley, a senior manager of an Ernst & Young real estate group

in Orange County, California, questions the need to expand so large

so fast.

It notes that several large grocery retailers and chains like Toys

`R’ Us and K-mart are reducing the size of new stores and suggests

that other retailers should heed their example. Why? "The risks

of shifting to larger formats are enormous in the current environment:

costs can rise with no guarantee that sales will follow. Leases too,

can become burdensome. In general, the larger the format, the longer

the required lease term."

The report also notes a few disproportions that could conspire to

undermine the mega-store boom. While the number of square

feet-per-consumer

of retail real estate has increased in the last 10 years, it says,

sales per square foot in nearly all retail categories has dropped

over the same time period. Another irony: the Babyboomer generation,

America’s largest demographic group, has reached its prime spending

years but is beginning to divert its income from the retail sector

to health care and retirement preparation, because of its advancing

age (33 to 52).

The report advises retailers considering the move to the mega-location

to make sure they have ample justification. Ernst & Young highlights

several factors why stores shouldn’t make the move to an outlet of

the labyrinthian sort:

Customers have not requested a bigger store. The report

suggests using surveys or focus groups to get the customers’

perspective.

The store’s supply chain is inefficient. Problems in

insufficient

stocks could have little to do with the size of the store, says the

report. The products customers are requesting might be sitting in

the back rooms unpriced.

Existing stores aren’t laid out properly. Forty percent

of the retailers in an Ernst & Young survey said that sales would

increase if the layouts of the stores were changed. This is a lot

cheaper than garnering new real estate, the report adds.

Long checkout lines are not really hurting the business.

If long waits are really turning customers away, then an expansion

may be in order. But in many cases, long lines aren’t oppressive

enough

to hurt sales.

The parking lot is not always full. Even if it is, this

by itself should not necessarily justify a move. "If it’s a

successful

location," says the report, "the worst that can happen is

the parking lot gets a little crowded."

The bottom line is, for retailers, a move to another location

is always a risk. "Rapid format changes and continued mergers

have increased the number of dark stores," says the report.

"As

a consequence, opportunities may exist for retailers to partner with

property owners to upgrade old or underperforming sites."

Not every store has the potential to become the next Wal-Mart or Home

Depot, the report adds. "These retailers have flourished were

others have in failed in part because of their unique situations.

Wal-Mart, for instance, is one of the few retailers with true market

flexibility."

Top Of PageDitch Those Disks

Here’s a way to stanch the flood of 3 1/2-inch AOL

diskettes

into your office. An innovative program called "Floppies for

Kiddies"

accepts used diskettes from around the country and donates them to

schools that request them. Started by Carol Blake of CityLink,

a Louisiana-based Internet company, this project has already resulted

in the donations of more than 25,000 disks to hundreds of schools

in the United States and other countries.

To donate, enclose any spare diskettes (they don’t have to be AOL),

formatted or unformatted, in a box addressed to USA CityLink Project,

Attention Floppies for Kiddies, 20349 Highway 36, Covington, LA 70433.

For more information, see the project’s website,

http://www.usacitylink.com/citylink/disks.

Top Of PagePartnerships and More

How would a partnership affect your business? How and

when should you plan to make your exit? If you are the top person

in a two-person firm — or a senior manager at a company that

employs

thousands — you’ll pick up useful information at a conference

staged by the New Jersey Technology Council on Thursday, February

19, at the Marriott.

Dubbed the "New Jersey Capital Conference" it features a

luncheon

speaker, PNC executive vice president Mike Nelson, who will

discuss "What Kind of Financing is Best for Your Company?"

The conference opens with continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and

continues

through lunch with a CFO roundtable from 2 to 4 p.m.

Register soon — at least by February 13 — to be included on

the attendees’ list. Those who are not NJTC members pay $125 in

advance,

$150 at the door, including breakfast, lunch, conference materials,

and a 25 percent discount on the just-released New Jersey Financing

Manual. Students with a valid ID may attend free. Call 609-452-1010.

A slew of workshops will address a wide range of needs. At 8:30 a.m.

choose from "Private Equity Sources for Intermediate Stage

Companies"

with Jim Gunton of Edison Venture Fund, Richard Robbins of

Arthur Andersen, and Gerard DiFiore of Reed Smith Shaw McClay;

or "State and Federal Backed Financing," with Jay

Brandinger

of New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology, Caren Franzini

of New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and Jim Millar

of Early Stage Enterprises.

At 9:30 a.m. learn how to grow your company through mergers,

acquisitions,

and recapitalizations, taught by Tim Scott of Price Waterhouse

and James Roberts of PNC Bank; or investigate "debt capital

sources & solutions," with Nat Prentice of BT/Alex Brown,

Dan Conley of Funds for Business + Leasing, and Arthur

Birenbaum

of Jefferson Bank.

"How to Finance Roll-Ups" is the 10:30 a.m. topic for Brian

Hughes of Arthur Andersen and Jim Hunter of Janney Montgomery

Scott with "Joint Ventures/Strategic Partnering" with

William

Thomas of Buchanan Ingersoll as the alternative. At 11:45 a.m.

"Outlook for IPOs" will be discussed by David Sorin of

Buchanan Ingersoll, Mike Mufson of Janney Montgomery Scott,

and Joe Nardini of Freedman Billings Ramsey Co. At 2 p.m.

"The

IPO Experience" is the roundtable for CFOs and financial

executives.

Though most of the conference sponsors are represented on the program,

Jefferson Bank, Packard Press, and Princeton Venture Research are

also among the sponsors who will have exhibits in the main room.

Top Of PageAsian Hubris

Every excess is predicated on hubris, and hubris may

indeed be a root cause of the Asian financial crisis. So says Brian

A. Murdock, who will discuss the crisis and its potential effect

on the United States market at a meeting of the International Trade

Network (housed in the law offices of Miller and Mitchell at Research

Park). This ITN meeting will be at the Nassau Club on Tuesday, January

20, at 8:30 a.m. Call 609-921-3322 for $25 reservations.

Murdock — Cornell, Class of 1978 — grew up in Scarsdale, where

his career choice was influenced by his father, an international

consultant

who helped emerging multinational firms design benefit plans. In Hong

Kong and on Scudders Mill Road Murdock established and co-managed

Merrill Lynch’s International Portfolio Group. Until 1996 Murdock

had been working on setting up mutual fund companies in the emerging

capital markets in Asia, where MLAM has several joint venture mutual

fund companies. For the past two years he was responsible for

investment

activities, business development, and client relations in the Asia

Pacific region.

After 10 years in Asia — and, as it happened, well before the

crisis — Murdock brought his wife and four children "back

home." He is now first vice president of Merrill Lynch Asset

Management

LP. As director of the trust portfolio group he is in charge of all

portfolio management activity based in MLAM’s 16 regional offices

and all managed trust business for Merrill Lynch Trust Company. For

this interview, and for his January 20 remarks he offers his personal

views, not those of Merrill Lynch.

Murdock declares himself "persistently optimistic" in his

analysis of where the Asian financial dilemma is now, where it will

go, and how it will impact the American economy. "The good news

is that sometimes crisis management facilitates change that otherwise

wouldn’t be achievable," says Murdock. "If this succeeds in

forcing the development of a regulatory infrastructure that would

better support indigenous capital markets to open up their economies

to broader participation — and to enhance Asian standards of

transparency

and disclosure — all of that may be worth the price," says

Murdock.

From Murdock’s perspective as a boss — while building mutual fund

companies he employed workers of all nationalities — he saw

firsthand

this clash between Anglo Saxon and Asian values: "It’s difficult

when you find something objectionable and they don’t even see it as

something wrong."

Some of these values are useful to the economy: "A thrifty,

hardworking

society that is dedicated to family and education and self improvement

with traditionally high rates of savings and work ethic." But

chief among the troublesome issues is a lack of arm’s length dealing

in business affairs. Banks lent money based on personal associations

rather than on asset value. In almost every Asian country except

Japan,

says Murdock, "everything is an insider deal."

Of course, says Murdock, inappropriate borrowing and cronyism also

exists in the United States, but in Asia the crisis was magnified

by loans in United States dollars against assets in Asia.

Official response compounded the problems. "Local leaders said

either `we have done nothing wrong’ or `this is a foreign capital

conspiracy to wreck our economy.’ A constructive response rather than

a facesaving response might have mitigated the crisis," says

Murdock.

He foresees these domestic problems:

Share values could decline for multinational companies

whose

earnings will be adversely impacted. "The high multiples were

predicated in part on the expectations that they would have

fast-growing

earnings because of their exposure to a fast growing market."

Competition could stiffen for companies competing in the

U.S. marketplace with foreign suppliers operating with devalued

currencies.

Consumer confidence could drop when the public sees

tearnings

dropping for multinational firms and factories laying off workers.

"The good point for the U. S. is that not in memory have we been

a stronger financial position to weather this kind of problem,"

Murdock suggests.

"Countries that didn’t have fully developed business practices

and standards need to make their capital markets and their economies

more user friendly. They had confidence — bordering on hubris

— that Asian values would allow them to do things

differently,"

says Murdock. "But if they prove the rules are fair, then the

liquidity will come back."

— Barbara Fox

Corrections or additions?

This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

How’m I Doing?

How 360 Works

Pioneers of the Process

Alignment is Key

Bracing for 360

Is Your Company Ready?

Tips for Offering 360 Feedback

Resources

Corrections or additions?

How'm I Doing?

This article by Kate Butler was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

For more articles in this section see http://www.princetoninfo.com/80107F01.html.

What you think of me is none of my business. Unless, of course, I work for you, in which case your opinions of my performance are central to my business. As my boss it is your responsibility to help me perform well. To do that you've got to talk with me and answer the question made famous by Mayor Ed Koch: How'm I doin'?

Lately, however, a radical new method for answering that question has been creeping into corporate America. It wants to know what everybody who works closely with me thinks of my performance -- my boss, my peers, and even those who report directly to me.

Who cares what they think? is my first line of defense in response to this method. Then I realize that if only I'd had some advanced notice of the switch to this system I might have behaved a bit differently along the way. Aha! And then I slowly begin to realize the value of asking the opinions of so many.

As executive director of a Trenton-based consulting company, American Humanagement Associates (aha!), I have been exploring this practice, known as "360-degree" feedback. The Princeton offices of such Fortune 50 companies as Xerox, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Bell Atlantic are using 360-degree plans now, and the concept of assessing your supervisor's performance is spreading to smaller firms. Many firms schedule performance reviews for January, so it's timely to consider what it would be like to be appraised both by subordinates and coworkers as well as by the boss.

What do I do if faced with this? Any feedback I get from colleagues does, indeed, matter. And that's what makes it so scary. How can I prepare myself if my company decides to implement this process? How do I humanely deliver feedback to my boss? And, just as important, how do I receive my feedback without rancor for the bad news, or depending too much on the good news? In other words: What do I do with this information when I get it?

To start with, remember that feedback is a relatively new focus. Performance reviews were simple in the old days: you went to work (if you were a man), and every Friday received an envelope with your pay right after watching with horror as a coworker was summarily and seemingly randomly fired. Yep, that was the method -- of late referred to as Theory X -- of management which prevailed in this country at the start of this century. The random firings were believed to motivate employees to perform better.

Since they were random, however, they served no purpose, we now know, other than to make the workforce paranoid and a bit crazy.

Current theories of management have progressed mightily beyond Theory X and now center on Performance Appraisal (PA) systems. They answer the question: how well do you perform each of the tasks assigned you?

We used to ask the boss to be sole judge of performance. The process of 360-degree feedback was designed to increase the accuracy of that assessment and make it more relevant to the development of each employee. The term "360-degree feedback" refers to a delicate process in which employees get feedback from "relevant others." Rather than take the word of one person -- who, for any number of reasons may not be able to see our skills clearly nor evaluate them objectively -- this process includes the voices of all relevant parties.

The very idea of multi-direction feedback can chill the hearts of even the most adept managers, yet we routinely receive an abundance of feedback in our daily lives. Every event from the baby's smile this morning to the hand gesture offered by the fellow motorist I inadvertently cut off on my way home last night is technically feedback: a comment in response to an action of mine.

Some comments impact us more deeply than others. When I receive feedback from a stranger ("Nice coat!"), or applause for a speech I've just delivered I am pleased. But when the people with whom I am intimate and about whom I care deeply extend similar reactions to me, the value increases.

Top Of Page
How 360 Works

Though formal 360-degree feedback programs have been in use for nearly 30 years, only recently have they become popular. Ideally they involve a structured process in which a valid survey instrument is distributed -- often by certified feedback coaches -- to the subject (hereafter referred to as Terry) as well as to Terry's boss, direct reports, and peers.

The data is gathered and sent back to the company that developed the survey for analysis, and the resulting report is sent to the counselor/coach, who makes an appointment with Terry to discuss its findings. It is an effective development tool for Terry when the discussion centers around the gaps found between Terry's self-perception and those of the relevant others.

Together with the coach, Terry develops an action plan for improvement. It is this plan -- and none of the other documentation -- that Terry shares with her boss.

The process can be administered as part of either a performance review system -- complete with implications for bonuses, rewards, and/or demerits -- or as a component of career development. The difference between the two is in how those filling out the forms (called raters) perceive their role.

I support the concept of asking all employees for input. The more often we do this, the greater the likelihood that we'll survive these times of turbulent change and thrive into the next century. Yet though I strongly encourage using 360-degree systems for career development, I caution against their use in performance appraisals. Using a 360-degree system as part of a performance appraisal can be very damaging and may actually obviate its original intent.

As part of the performance appraisal process subordinates may believe that, "At long last I have the power to get the idiot boss fired." Or, the reverse: If the boss has promised me a coat-tail rise, my intent in completing the questionnaire changes dramatically. Far more genuine, unencumbered by hidden agendas, and useful, I believe, is the feedback received from raters who understand the intent of the process to be the development of the subject, be it boss, peer, or direct report/subordinate.

I would not, therefore, use 360 as a component of annual reviews, for it's too difficult to filter for intent.

Top Of Page
Pioneers of the Process

This opinion is shared by the Clark Wilson Group, designer, publisher and early pioneer of the process, and by Emil Sadloch of Sadloch Associates, a Yardley-based consultant and certified coach of 360-degree feedback systems. Sadloch likes using Wilson systems because they offer a broad range of surveys and have a deep research base, enabling his clients to compare their team's results with organizational norms. Sadloch uses 360-degree instruments and processes only as a part of a career development process. "It is a philosophical decision I made a long time ago," he reports.

The intent of the process, according to Jane Wilson, vice president of the Clark Wilson Group, is to gather sound and reliable data for a feedback and coaching discussion (a service provided by Sadloch). The ultimate aim is to help the client build an independent development plan.

An important piece of the process, according to both, is the use of questions that have been analyzed and tested through strict psychometric processes and which meet the criteria for reliability and validity.

Clearly, to be most effective, 360-degree feedback is not a "do-it-yourself" project. The process is not to be entered into lightly -- even when used strictly for development purposes -- because it has the makings for causing damage to both the individual's and organization's psyches.

Let me explain. When the process was first developed in the early 1970s the intent was to research the skill sets required of a manager and then find a way to measure their success at using them. First the researchers asked managers to assess themselves. They then provided them with surveys to distribute to their bosses, peers and subordinates.

The results? The complete picture of Terry's performance -- found in the compilation of all responses -- was found to be most accurate. The industrial psychologists conducting the research then knew they had a valid tool for measuring competencies. A new process was born. At the time it was called "multi-rater" and "multilevel" and was, as you may imagine, a difficult sell, because few people enjoy the thought of getting feedback. More blood and tears are shed on corporate carpets in that often painful process known as Performance Appraisal than in any other organizational process. And for two good reasons: lack of education and lack of alignment.

We are woefully uneducated in meaningful methods for giving feedback, believing often that our role as manager requires us to point out all the foibles in our direct reports. We forget that they need to be caught doing something right, as well.

Another cause for my concern is the issue of alignment. All human resources mobility systems (those systems which affect the way employees move into and throughout the system) must be in alignment with each other and in sync with the organizational climate. What does that mean? Simply this:

If the guy at the top inspires hushed tones when passing by, your system is probably not conducive to having a feedback system in which underlings are expected to give constructive criticism to their immediate superiors.

To step in and impose a rather egalitarian system of peer review on employees after they have been growing in a hierarchical system for years is like asking cacti to bloom in a swamp.

The same is true when someone at the top decides to implement a 360 degree appraisal process. It, like the cactus, might not thrive in your climate. Indeed, death is likely.

Top Of Page
Alignment is Key

Alignment -- establishing the appropriate environment for a particular performance appraisal system -- should therefore be a company's first priority. The addition of a 360-degree system is akin to the insertion of a transplanted organ performed by surgeons who haven't found an organ that is a complete match: "Oh well," this surgical team theorizes, "we like this process a lot, so let's just go ahead and put it in and see what happens. We'll deal with the infections -- and whatever other consequences arise -- as we encounter them. After all, we're doctors!"

How many times have I been called in to organizations in this post-op predicament and been expected to perform triage? Inserting any new part into a functioning system without first checking for alignment/matching components becomes noxious and is a sure path to systemic crises.

Now that I've done everything in my power to talk you out of instituting a 360-degree feedback process without considerable preparation and caution, let me say that for those who refuse to be intimidated by tales of gloom and doom, you may well be among the few organizations where this process will be aligned with present practices.

When entered into and conducted carefully and appropriately, full-circle feedback systems can yield great rewards. Both Bell Atlantic and Nynex, for instance, bought into 360-degree systems for development of senior managers, and both found it produced honest feedback.

I've always been a fan of gathering hard data -- especially baseline data against which to measure progress. In the face of hard data Terry loses the ability to cry foul.

Defensive managers often do that during somewhat subjective performance appraisals. "Of course you'd say that," goes one common retort to receiving critical feedback, "You've never liked me because I'm ________ (pick a quality)." Well-designed and valid 360-degree feedback processes eliminate the option of such alibis for poor performance.

People can no longer say to those evaluating them: "How dare you come in here and judge me," because the coach has a simple reply: "I'm not here to judge you, but to help make sense of the data."

Additional rewards:

Increased loyalty and job satisfaction reported by previously voiceless employees.

The discovery of other systems needing improvement, such as recognizing that the organization's mission is unclear to the executive team, causing misaligned plans and priorities.

The break-up of any collusion that the boss might be using to wrongly promote the wrong people. At the very least it makes collusion visible.

The identification of any manifested biases.

The ability to compare one's team results to norms; to measure up to a benchmark.

Research shows us conclusively that among the three environments in which one can live -- one with a preponderance of positive feedback, one with a preponderance of negative feedback, and one absent of any feedback -- the healthiest people emerge from those with mostly positive feedback, while the next healthiest come from environments in which they received mostly negative feedback. (The attention might have been negative, but at least they got some attention.). And the least healthy people come from an absence of feedback -- a condition in which many executives find themselves.

Like bowlers in the dark, without feedback on what pins they have knocked down, they don't know the "next" best things to do.

Implementing a 360-degree feedback system may well put them into the abundance of positive feedback category and give them the feedback they need to lead healthy lives.

Like many human resources systems that seem, at first blush, like a good idea, 360-degree systems need buy-in from the top. Buy-in is necessary for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the higher up one rises in an organization the less feedback one receives. Leadership must be enlightened to the process and its benefits. Executives, having participated in the process for the first time, are often delighted with the results and become feedback converts if not out and out feedback junkies. Once they get the kind of numerically quantified, structured data available in 360-degree feedback plans, they often seek more.

Take the case of Johnson & Johnson. In the 1980s it ordered the Wilson Leadership Index for its executive team. At the time they were firmly against using the services of a professional, outside coach. After the first round with the 360-degree process the executives requested the coaching component, which they then got.

The only people who don't like feedback, it seems, are those who don't get much. And with good reason. All growth begins by identifying the present level of mastery, whether in karate class or on the job. Gathering baseline data by use of a 360-degree feedback process allows for measured progress. No longer will people be able to say to those subjectively evaluating them: "How dare you come in here and judge me?"

The coach has a simple reply: "I'm not here to judge you, but to help make sense of the data. Let's look at the data."

Neat. Clean. Measurable. Just the way I like an organization.

Top Of Page
Bracing for 360

Organizations must certainly make a substantial investment to ready the culture for 360-degree systems," agrees John Sarno, executive director of the Employer's Association of New Jersey (EANJ). And he should know. In 1997 alone he conducted training programs to hundreds of state employers interested in implementing feedback systems.

"If you've never had any feedback system in place," he warns, "do not begin with 360-degree, which is a sophisticated system. Begin with the standard, one-on-one, top-down method first." In the meantime, create a culture appropriate to a 360-degree process: one with plenty of honesty, candor and peer relationships, he advises.

Ron Czajkowski says that his organization, the New Jersey Hospital Association on Alexander Road, aims to do just that. "As part of the yearly written appraisal and the 90 minute sit-down "head to head" conference, what we do is try to encourage a dialogue," says Czajkowski. The dialogue might include the manager asking "what I am doing right, what am I not doing well enough, and how can I help you be a better employee."

"That is just common sense," he says. "If any manager is not doing that, I don't think they are managing well."

The New Jersey Manufacturers Association has only recently instituted formal appraisal systems, but, says Patrick Breslin, its organizational culture promotes two-way feedback. "Three years ago we established a process of written program of describing responsibilities and formalizing the grading process of employees by responsibility," says Breslin, of the insurance company that has grown to have 1,300 employees on Sullivan Way in West Trenton. "It was never part of the process that employees grade their managers on a formal basis but we have a good rapport here. We don't have a very stiff management, and in the private sessions of the review process the feedback goes both ways."

How do you know when you've got a system that will support a 360-degree feedback system? Lee Bellarmino did, albeit on a very small scale. Newly hired into the Trenton Savings Bank as a vice president, he realized his leadership style might not be consistent with that of his new employer. With 24 years experience at another bank that supported widespread use of 360 (where he was trained as a coach for the process) he decided to ask his colleagues to appraise his performance after one year on the job. The data he received helped him make subtle shifts to be in alignment with the corporation's style.

Bellarmino's plans include conducting another assessment of his work in order to measure his progress. He acknowledges that his present organization is not yet ready to implement a system-wide 360 feedback process as part of an employee development program. He reports working long-term on cultural issues to prepare for that eventuality. His prudence, patience, and plan should -- according to the experts -- pay off.

Top Of Page
Is Your Company Ready?

While I don't always like to admit it, I fear actually getting feedback. Yet I am addicted to it and have learned to ask for it. Without feedback I can't grow. Like bowling in the dark, I don't know the next best things to do. Without feedback I'll keep doing the same things over and over again until -- at age 50 -- I'm still behaving like a child.

That is, of course, an exaggeration, for I do get feedback, plenty of it. We all do. Regularly. It's just that what we receive is neither constant nor consistent, two requirements which make feedback useful to growth. Most feedback comes in unstructured, often subtle ways that confuse and don't point neatly to the path to improved performance.

How ready is your organization for similar growth? How will you know when you've got a system which will support this strange new way of assessing performance? Jane L. Wilson, vice president of the Clark Wilson Group, an early pioneer in multi-rater assessments, makes these suggestions in the journal published by the American Society for Training and Development (June, 1997). She offers a checklist of questions to be answered:

1. Why are we doing this? The organization must be clear about why it is conducting a 360 degree feedback process. She recommends it not be used for selection of employees to layoff or promote. Know what the feedback will be used for. Will it be used as a piece of the annual performance appraisal process or solely as a development tool?

2. What are the skills we want to measure? These tools measure attributes, not personality traits, and must be aligned with the organization's competencies testing. Be certain to test for the presence of the skills necessary for the specific job. (In other words: use a system designed by experts.)

3. How will the feedback be presented and dealt with? Do not handout surveys, get 'em scored and give em the reports, unless you want to cause serious damage. The handling of feedback should conform to the American Psychological Association's guidelines for ethical treatment. In other words: hire trained coaches to work in the development of action plans.

Wilson further warns that the effectiveness of the entire process is dependent upon the setting of boundaries known to all. Who will have access to the results of the worker's 360-degree survey? It should be only the worker and the outside coach, according to Wilson. "People need to feel safe for this process to work."

While some organizations have -- in the past five years -- begun to use 360 as a piece of the annual review process, Wilson (whose company designs and sells only instruments to be used for development purposes) offers a few guidelines for this use:

If you are considering an off-the-shelf feedback instrument, examine the purpose for which the survey was developed. Was it designed for performance appraisal or for developmental feedback? One size does not fit all. Use an instrument for its intended purpose. Raters approach an item differently depending upon its purpose.

If you design your own survey, consult with a measurement specialist to make sure it will accurately measure what you want it to. The key to effective feedback is to keep the purpose clear, the data anonymous, and the environment safe for the raters and the person receiving the feedback.

Keep the feedback process for development and career planning separate from performance appraisal feedback. Six months before performance appraisal time, conduct a 360 assessment survey for development. In a session with a feedback coach, review the feedback and have individual write an individual development plan (IDP) based on that discussion. This is the "diagnostic" step.

During performance appraisal, gather anecdotal feedback from coworkers and subordinates as well as more detailed measures of performance against objectives from the worker's manager. As a part of the performance appraisal discussion between the worker and the manager, review the IDP to see what achievements have been made on the plan. This is the "enforcement" step.

One year later conduct the 360 assessment survey again. Compare the two to measure progress. Rewrite the IDP and continue the development process.

-- Kate Butler

Top Of Page
Tips for Offering 360 Feedback

The most successful multi-rate interventions are conducted by certified professional coaches. Indeed, using 360-degree reviews without providing training has been compared to practicing psychotherapy without a license. But if you're game to try it without professional assistance, expert coach Emil Sadloch offers the following Top Ten Tips for a savvy, productive and safe launch.

1. Unless your organization has used 360-degree instruments extensively, use them for development, not for appraisal. People will accept the benefits of heightened awareness, personal learning, and potential change. They will resist 360-degree systems used for judgments affecting their pay and their futures.

2. Develop support in the executive ranks. Senior managers will buy into the process if they see opportunities for measurable results and performance improvements. More and more, they know that people represent a valuable asset.

3. Ensure that the instrument is reliable and valid, not the personality or "styles" flavor-of-the-month type. The better 360-degree instruments have been developed based on a sound model of competent performance (of managers, leaders, teams, etc.) and are supported by a broad data base.

4. Verify the confidentiality of the data. The data belongs to the participant. Don't let others in the organization draw out confidential results. The potential for misuse can threaten a valuable intervention.

5. Build trust with participants. Develop an understanding of the culture and context of the organization. Show empathy in coaching, using questions rather than statements as you help participants grasp the meaning of their data.

6. Get the participant involved in working with the data. Help the participant to make relevant self-discoveries and insights. These lead to acceptance, ownership, and beneficial change.

7. Allow each participant to focus on the group whose feedback is most relevant: boss, peers, direct reports, or customers. Groups other than the boss may have the most valid information on the participant's true competencies. Go where the participant wants to go.

8. Help participants focus on results: the performance outcomes that are important to the organization. Help make connections between behavioral changes and desired results.

9. Build on the participant's strengths and seek balance in all skill dimensions. Say, "Keep those high scores where they are; they are helping you be successful." Ask, "What can you do to bring up the lower scores?"

10. Help the participant create realistic plans for change. Focus action planning on a few key areas that will contribute to operational and leadership results. Encourage sharing the results with trusted colleagues (or the boss).

Top Of Page
Resources

Kate Butler, executive director, American Humanagement Associates (aha!), 36 South Broad Street, Trenton 08608-2102, 609-989-9890. E-mail: katebutler@CompuServe.com. Butler helps client organizations create and maintain ideal work environments. http://www.princetoninfo.com/butler.html.

The Clark Wilson Group Inc., 1320 Fenwick Lane, Suite 708, Silver Spring, MD 20910, 800-537-7249. E-mail: info@cwginc.com. Publishers of 360-degree surveys that provide feedback on skills for individuals and groups, the firm's surveys measure skills that are observable, trainable and related to a specific role, and are statistically valid.

Emil Sadloch, president, Sadloch Development Associates, Nine East School Lane, Yardley PA 19067-3234, 215-736-8869. Sadloch provides innovative consulting and training services.

Lee Bellarmino, vice president, Trenton Savings Bank, 134 Franklin Corner Road, Lawrenceville 08648, 609-844-3100. Experienced as a coach for the 360-degree process and currently responsible for human resources, Bellarmino is planning for the eventual implementation of the process at Trenton Savings Bank.

John Sarno, executive director, Employer's Association of New Jersey, 799 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona, 609-393-7100.

Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com -- the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Life in the Fast Lane: PVI

Founder Vacates: Escalon Moves

Mettler’s Move

New Integra CEO

A Better Way to Run the Railroads?

Scout to Chamber

At 55 Plus, a New Career

Deaths

Corrections or additions?

Life in the Fast Lane: PVI

These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

In the sports world it could be the best thing since

sliced bread — or the worst thing since 3Com bought the rights

to rename San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. But either way, Princeton

Video Image’s live video imaging system could someday be the next

step in the unspoken campaign to commercialize just about everything.

The product, called L-VIS, electronically inserts advertising banners

into live television broadcasts so that the image is viewable only

to the public watching the game on TV, not the spectators or the

players.

PVI’s system uses a patented technique called pattern recognition,

in which a computer seeks out a particular area on a playing field

or stadium, and then pops a paid advertisement in that area every

time it appears on camera. So far, these virtual ads have appeared

on the backstop behind home plate or the midfield circle in soccer

matches, and in between the goal posts of a few preseason football

games.

An initial public offering has given Princeton Video Image the funds

to get its patented electronic billboards on more screens than ever.

On December 16, the company sold 4 million shares of stock and raised

$28 million to build more L-VIS units and hire additional employees.

Shares of the stock, sold on NASDAQ under the symbol

PVII, opened at $7 and within the month increased to roughly $9. For

PVI, this IPO couldn’t come at a better time. A perennial money-eater,

the seven-year-old PVI has not experienced a profitable period in

its history, and by June 30 had an accumulated deficit of $19.5

million.

A prospectus filed with Securities and Exchange Commission says that

PVI will "continue to incur substantial losses at least through

calendar year 1998 due to the significant costs associated with the

manufacturing, marketing and further enhancement of the L-VIS

system."

The prospectus adds that for PVI to succeed, L-VIS will have to create

a new advertising paradigm that’s acceptable to a number of entities.

"The ability of the company to market successfully the L-VIS

system

will depend upon broad acceptance of its technology by at least four

distinct groups of participants in the sports advertising market:

television viewers, advertisers, broadcasters, and event rights

holders,"

it says.

PVI has three large competitors, Symah Vision, a French company owned

by the LaGardere Group; SciDel, an Israeli concern owned by Scitex;

and Orad-ISL, an American venture owned by ISL and Ormat. Orad-ISL

uses a different method of delivering the virtual ads: the ad is

inserted

into an on-the-field camera, although experts claim that this system

could be foiled by a stadium shaking from applause. PVI has also

acknowledged

that larger broadcasting companies will most likely get into the ad

insertion fray should electronic billboards become an accepted medium.

PVI was started in 1990 as Princeton Electronic Billboard by Brown

Williams, chairman of the board, and Sarnoff alumnus. Williams

received

the patent for pattern recognition in 1993, and in 1995 changed the

company’s name to PVI. In January of 1996, PVI elected a new president

and CEO, Douglas J. Greenlaw, an MTV Networks alumnus. Last fall it

moved to 16,000 square feet at 15 Princess Road (U.S. 1, October 22)

with plans to increase its staff from 30 to 50.

L-VIS hit the market in 1995 and was first used by Comcast during

a Trenton Thunder broadcast. Its first major league contract was with

the San Francisco Giants, and new contracts reportedly have been

signed

with the Giants and the San Diego Padres for this year’s baseball

season. Industry sources say that PVI has also approached the NFL

for possible deals. The company itself confirms that the opening of

the 1998 baseball season will mark the introduction of animation,

special effects, and 3-D, in addition to the static banners the firm

has previously produced.

Investing in PVI has been likened to providing

"public

venture capital" to a start-up — but this venture is fairly

promising. "They seem to have the best technology out there,"

says one investor familiar with the company. "You’d have an

opportunity

to make five to ten times on your money — if they perfect it and

the patents hold up."

The need for such a system is obviated by the rising costs of

broadcasting

rights, and unlike selling ad banners on the Internet, it requires

very little explaining to advertisers who are eager to find a way

to outsmart channel-surfers. Virtual ads could also, theoretically,

cover up mechanical billboards located at the stadium that carry local

ads — space that national broadcasters have historically begrudged

local merchants.

Andy Kienzle is the principal of a Hamilton-based multimedia firm,

Television Ideas and Software Inc., and was formerly president of

the video trade association, Moving Image Professionals. Kienzle feels

that PVI has found an promising niche. "They have something

unique,"

he says. "They have a technology that should be a big money maker

because it’s a way of generating additional revenue for a lot of these

sports teams and providing additional opportunities for sponsorship

and advertising that a lot of companies are looking for. Is this

something

that the viewing public will get into? That’s another question. But

I think the revenue drivers are there."

PVI, he adds, should be a viable venture because there is no lack

of demand for places to stick ads. "These people have an ability

to put ads in front of a large audience, and that’s a valuable thing

for an advertiser, and for somebody who owns the space it’s a valuable

way to get revenue. I like the economic prospects."

How intrusive are the virtual ads? A sample video of PVI’s work

suggests

that virtual ads may be little more than new entries added to the

omnipresent commercial clutter. If it’s any indication,

L-VIS-generated

electronic billboards will probably annoy viewers until they become

immune or desensitized. But, Kienzle adds, even if virtual ads are

somewhat intrusive, the public has a pretty high tolerance for

ad-generated

pain.

"Everybody accepts this encroachment to some degree," says

Kienzle. "Everything has a commercial affiliation — that

hasn’t

stopped it from happening. I don’t think this is going to stop the

electronic billboard either."

Like the TV time-out, virtual ads will probably not go away just

because

they bother viewers, nor will they replace commercials. Does this

mean that viewers may someday have to adjust to seeing cans of

Cheez-Whiz

superimposed on Cheeseheads or McDonald’s Fries fluttering through

the air under Grant Hill’s Air Jordans every time he dunks? Probably

not. One of PVI’s R&D-related tasks of the moment, say experts, is

locating reasonable spots for virtual ads. It’s up to the public not

to watch.

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
Founder Vacates: Escalon Moves

Escalon Medical Corp., 182 Tamarack Circle,

Skillman

08558. 609-497-9141; fax, 609-497-0948.

After eight years Escalon has moved out of Princeton

and its founding CEO has moved on to another endeavor. "I had

eight great years and enjoyed it, and now I am doing something I

greatly

enjoy," says Sterling C. Johnson, the former CEO who left in April

to work for a Denver-based mergers & acquisitions firm, Grayson &

Associates.

Escalon can now be reached c/o Richard DePiano, the new president

and CEO, at 351 East Conestoga, Wayne PA 19087, 610-688-6829; fax,

609-610-254-8958. "This was basically a strategic move to minimize

the cost of operation and to become more efficient in terms of onsite

personnel and manufacture," says DePiano.

A venture capitalist who was a long-time member of the board, DePiano

has signed a lease for Escalon in the space that had been occupied

by his venture capital firm — Sandhurst Company — which he

says is being "wound down." Of the seven people who worked

at the Tamarack Circle office, four will remain with the company,

including Shawn P. Mullen, director of sales and marketing. John T.

Rich, vice president of finance and administration, will leave on

January 15.

In November Escalon did a reverse split and reduced the number of

shares from 10.8 million to 2.7 million. At that time trading on

NASDAQ

went from below $1 to around $5, and in the last two weeks of December

the stock went from $5 to $9.

Though Escalon had merged with a laser technology firm in 1996, it

sold off that business last year so it could concentrate on developing

systems for long term drug delivery to the eye that will eliminate

the problem of patients’ having to administer their own eyedrops after

surgery. Escalon has three patents (another one pending) on a tiny

device that sits under the eyelid, not felt or seen by the patient,

that can release drugs for two weeks or longer.

When Johnson founded Escalon in 1989, he had been director of business

development at the Liposome Company for five years. He named the

company

after his California hometown, Escalon, which means "stepping

stone" in Spanish. "One of the talents I have is building

businesses, and now I am helping other companies do the same

thing,"

says Johnson. "I’m happy for the company to continue to grow and

the price to go up. The company had been undervalued for a long

time."

Top Of Page
Mettler’s Move

Mettler-Toledo International, 69

Princeton-Hightstown

Road, Box 71, Hightstown 08520-0071. Maurice Knapp, president.

609-448-3000;

fax, 609-586-5451. Home page: http://www.mico.mt.com.

Once 200 strong, the East Windsor outpost of the world’s largest maker

of scales and balances is now down to about 60 employees, and those

will be gone by the summertime. The firm is building an 80,000 square

foot headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Fewer than 20 of the East Windsor

workers will move to Ohio and the rest are taking a severance package.

Founded in 1954 as the U.S. headquarters of a Swiss firm, it merged

with Toledo Scale in 1989, was bought by a prestigious private

investment

firm, American European Associates, in 1996. It went public in

November

and its stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange (MTI) started

at 14 and now hovers at 16 and 17.

Top Of Page
New Integra CEO

Integra LifeSciences Corporation, 105 Morgan Lane,

Box 688, Plainsboro 08536. Stuart M. Essig, president/CEO.

609-683-0900;

fax, 609-799-3297. Home page: http://www.integra-ls.com.

A 36-year-old Princeton University alumnus has been appointed

president

and CEO of Integra LifeSciences on Morgan Lane, but Richard E. Caruso,

the founder of the firm, remains as chairman. Stuart M. Essig was

formerly a managing director at Goldman Sachs, where he supervised

the medical technology practice.

Essig has an MBA and PhD in financial economics from the University

of Chicago and was senior merger and acquisitions advisor to a wide

range of domestic and international medical technology,

pharmaceutical,

and biotechnology clients. His 10 years of health care experience

includes acquisitions, divestitures, strategic alliances, principal

investing, and capital markets.

"Stuart’s experience at Goldman Sachs will give Integra access

to a considerable wealth of relationships and business opportunities

that will help us to continue to fulfill our mission," says

Caruso.

The company’s stock trades on NASDAQ as IART; it develops and

manufactures

BioSmart absorbable materials-based products that aim to control the

behavior of cells within a patient’s body to regenerate. Integra’s

Artificial Skin is the first in a series of products being developed

to regenerate body tissues (such as articular cartilage and peripheral

nerves) that usually do not regenerate themselves.

Essig’s four-year contract with Integra includes options for 1 million

Integra common shares plus deferred payment of 2 million Integra

shares.

The latter payment will result in a one-time, non-cash compensation

charge of about $6 million in the fourth quarter of this year.

Intek Stock BuyBack

Intek Diversified Corporation, 214 Carnegie Center,

Suite 304, Princeton 08540-6237. Robert Shiver, president and CEO.

609-419-1222; fax, 609-419-1221. E-mail: kmonahan@inteknj.com.

After watching its stock drop from $5.75 to under $2 the mobile radio

services firm decided to buy back up to $1 million of its stock, which

trades as IDCC on the NASDAQ small cap market.

The firm offers specialized mobile radio services for public safety

facilities and owns Midland U.S.A. and Roamer One, which represent

175 markets in the United States, plus LMT and Securicor Radiocom

in the United Kingdom. The corporate office moved from Moorestown

to the Carnegie Center in September, 1997, and two staff positions

have been added for a total of eight.

Robert Shiver, chairman and CEO, says that the buyback is supposed

to be "another clear demonstrate of our confidence in Intek and

its future growth." The full stock repurchase would represent

about one percent of the approximately 42 million common shares

outstanding.

The stock traded 12 months ago at $5.75. Purchases will be made, he

says, "from time to time in the open market, through block or

privately negotiated transactions or otherwise."

Top Of Page
A Better Way to Run the Railroads?

It could be a classic case of the parent company feeling

abandoned by the spin-off, but no one’s saying it. Carl D. Van Dyke,

the president of MultiModal Applied Systems Inc., paused a few seconds

when asked about his former employer and direct competitor, ALK

Associates,

and then offered what he called a politically correct explanation

of why he split off from ALK in 1992: "I felt that I wanted to

try my wings," he says.

ALK of 1000 Herrontown Road had no comment, although the suspicions

should be obvious: MultiModal, at 5 1/2 years old, is fast becoming

a major player in the transportation computing industry, the same

industry in which he once helped to define with ALK, the 40-employee

firm that employed him from 1985 to 1991.

Van Dyke, formerly a vice president at ALK, and fellow ALK alumnus

Ingrid Schultze Brandle have grown their company to 20 employees in

five years and are moving it from 3,000 square feet in Somerset to

6,200 square feet in Forrestal Village. MultiModal’s software package

is MultiRail, a Windows-based rail management system being used by

the majority of the major rail lines in the United States.

MultiRail users number only about a dozen but, Van Dyke explains,

he is aiming at the biggest rail companies. "Only 10 or 15

railroads

represent 95 percent of the rail business," he says. "Most

of them are our clients. There are 400 or 500 small railroads but

they aren’t the target of our business."

Steve Sashihara, the president of Princeton Consultants, which also

makes software applications for the transportation industries, says

that the rail industry presents a potential trove to software

manufactures.

"Running a rail network is a very difficult problem," he says.

"You’re running the police, the repair crew, you’re running

everything.

It’s not someone else’s problem — it’s all your problem, which

creates a great opportunity for railroads to optimize."

To help it compete with the road-based transportation industry,

Sashihara

explains, the rail industry was deregulated in the early ’80s and

has since bounced back and become competitive. "Part of this

competition

is learning how to run with the best asset utilization it can,"

he says. "They’re looking for high powered tools."

MultiRail gets fairly high marks from those in an industry that talks

a lot about "asset utilization," says Sashihara.

"Sometimes

you want to reposition your equipment to where the action is, but

at what price and when," Sashihara adds. "What MultiRail has

are models to help this planning and it’s worth a lot of money to

do it right."

Paul Stevens, president of Transport Dynamics at 103 Carnegie Center,

says that MultiRail is a "coherent way for the railroads to view

their scheduling requirements when planning the movement of freight

through the rail network." Within the railroad industry, he adds,

MultiModal is "viewed as being a very competent, knowledgeable

outside consulting service."

MultiModal and Transport Dynamics might both be converging on the

same light coming at the end of the tunnel. Transport Dynamics, which

has expanded from 5 to 18 employees since it was founded by Derek

Gittoes in 1995, specializes in real time decision support systems.

This is an area, says Van Dyke, into which MultiModal is currently

laying tracks. "The idea is to directly feed the databases that

drive the real time applications of the railroads," says Van Dyke.

MultiModal Applied Systems Inc., 125 Village

Boulevard,

Suite 270, Princeton 08540. Carl Van Dyke, president. 609-419-9800;

fax, 609-419-9600. E-mail: carl@multimodalinc.com. URL:

http://www.multimodalinc.com.

Top Of Page
Scout to Chamber

Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce,

1 Distribution Way, Monmouth Junction 08852. 732-821-1700; fax,

732-821-5852.

After five years of raising money for the regional

chapter

of the largest organization for women in the world, Nancy M. Ostin

has moved to take a job as the new executive director of the regional

chamber of commerce for Middlesex County. Though she knows most of

her constituents from previous volunteer work for the chamber, she

was introduced at a reception on Tuesday, January 6.

Ostin was development director for Delaware-Raritan Girl Scouts, and

she is credited with setting up the department, achieving a 200

percent

increase in donations, and establishing a corporate advisory board

headed by Summit Bank’s Joe Semrod. Compared to other Girl Scout

councils,

"we are now regarded as having one of the premiere fund

development

efforts," says Ostin. Because of her success she has been invited

to teach development workshops for the national organization, Girl

Scouts U.S.A.

The Middlesex chamber’s former executive director, Joan Wisniewski,

had come out of retirement last fall after her first replacement,

Joseph Berger, left suddenly after one year.

Ostin grew up near Albany, New York, where her grandfather had founded

an advertising agency. She graduated from Emerson College in Boston

in 1982 but also earned a master’s degree in foreign relations from

the University of Aix-Marseilles. She has worked in various public

relations capacities for Renaud USA, Rhone Poulenc’s agricultural

division, Parker-Meridien, and the National Needlework Association.

"For me the chamber job was an opportunity to serve the community

I know and where I make my home," says Ostin. Her husband, Dan,

is president of National Software Resource Corporation, and they live

in East Brunswick with their four-year-old daughter.

Ostin believes she can transfer her five years of Girl Scout

experience

in volunteer management skills, programs, and services to her new

position. "The real advantage is that I have worked for a very

mission-driven organization. Lots of businesses — if they had

that same kind of direction and focus — would benefit from clearly

knowing their mission."

Top Of Page
At 55 Plus, a New Career

Don’t talk to Murray Reich about retirement. He tried

that at age 55. Then he started a second career as a gerontology

educator

and interviewed 70 retired corporate executives who were leading

useful,

productive, and influential lives. None had planned to do what they

were doing in retirement. All of their activities had resulted from

being asked to serve.

"You have to wait for someone who comes along who appreciates

your capabilities for a particular task," says Reich. "Each

of us, at our own level, are asked to do things. Some are reluctant

to get out, saying `it’s too early,’ or `it’s too late.’ The people

who say yes meet other people and have fun."

The process, says Reich, "is being asked to do something that

you don’t think you can do — which turns out to be interesting

and challenging. The role each of us has is to be open, to make

ourselves

marketable, to put ourselves in situations where we get these

invitations."

Reich practiced what he preached. Someone asked him to consult for

a plastics firm. "But I don’t know anything about these kinds

of plastics," I said. "`That’s OK,’ said the owner of the

firm. `I think you can do it.’" What he didn’t know did turn out

to be interesting and challenging. One thing led to another and now

he is president of Tyndale Plains-Hunter, a firm that develops leading

edge plastic applications and that recently moved into space at

Princess

Road. Reich now works seven days a week, stopping only to accomplish

an exercise program — walking and T’ai Chi.

Reich’s career went like this: after graduating from City College

of New York he earned a master’s in polymer chemistry at Akron

University.

He obtained a master’s degree in counseling at Trenton State at night,

and, while doing part-time consulting in chemistry, a doctor’s degree

in gerontology education at Teacher’s College, Columbia. With that

degree he taught college courses in ethics, the psychology of aging,

and human development, and worked with the Institute on Aging at

Rutgers.

He helped found "55 Plus," the group for men who are retired

or have flexible schedules that meets at the Jewish Center. His wife,

Naomi, taught kindergarten and then worked in a retail toy store;

they have two seven-year-old grandchildren.

But when someone asked Reich to work on "degradable mulch"

film he was lured back into plastics. It was serendipity, he

emphasizes.

"I never planned to do the things I did. I sold mulch film to

farmers all over the country."

When the technology was licensed to another company, the owner of

another company recruited Reich as a consultant, Reich started a

different

polymer project. Two years later the owner asked him to run the

company

and now he is president of Tyndale Plains-Hunter. The firm had been

doing research in 900 square feet in Ringoes but for production work

has moved to 3,700 feet at Princess Road and has made a significant

investment in equipment. The six-person shop designs and produces

plastic granules (high slip, high water absorptive polymers) for

medical

and cosmetic applications.

We have three or four different materials that can make

up to 10 or 20 different products; we design the polymer composition

for a particular application," says Reich. "We make the

plastic

here and then granulate it for most customers for coatings, wound

dressings, and one area of cosmetics." The granules sell for $10

to $50 a pound and might be used, for instance, in a solution that

could coat a guide wire in a catheter.

Reich is in charge of the bookkeeping, the marketing, supervision

of R&D, and writing the patents — everything but production and

lab work. "It is challenging, exciting, and fulfilling," he

says. "In small businesses, what you do is not filtered through

meetings and conferences. You can make decisions much more

quickly."

Flexibility of mind, body, and spirit is important for everyone, but

particularly for those who are aging. Reich believes the fear of being

embarrassed reinforces the general public’s view of old age as

synonymous

with senility, rigidity, and disablement. "At a certain age you

get concerned about how you appear to other people," Reich says,

"and then that’s the end of it. You don’t want to be embarrassed.

You don’t ask stupid questions, so you don’t learn anything. You don’t

try something new, so you don’t develop new skills."

Reich was so venturesome about developing new skills that he enrolled

in modern dance classes at Princeton Ballet School. He was often the

only man in classes with women of all ages and, in spite of his lack

of skill, conducted himself with aplomb. "In modern dance you

get embarrassed all the time," says Reich. "But if you allow

yourself to be embarrassed you can do different, interesting

things."

Says Reich, "In the `psych’ jargon, it’s OK to be stupid, to `not

know.’ The important thing is to have fun."

— Barbara Fox

Tyndale Plains-Hunter, 17J Princess Road,

Lawrenceville

08648. Murray Reich, president. 609-912-1050; fax, 609-912-1055.

Kellogg Company, 206 Rockingham Row, Princeton

Forrestal Village, Princeton 08540. Jim Scott, vice president.

609-419-8760;

fax, 609-419-8777. Home page: http://www.kelloggs.com.

The world’s leading cereal manufacturer relocated its east coast sales

office from Montvale because Princeton was more convenient.

Top Of Page
Deaths

Rose Pannell, 53, on December 10. She had worked at

Mathematica

Policy Research.

Don Young, 74, on December 12. He owned Don Young’s

Restaurant

and Cocktail Lounge in Ewing.

Pabitra Datta, 55, on December 13. He was a senior member

of the technical staff at the Sarnoff Center.

Gail H. Steinert, 61, on December 16. Head nurse of

Lawrenceville

Nursing Home, she retired in 1997.

R.L. "Doc" Lenhart, 87, on December 19. The owner

of an advertising agency, he founded the Princeton Chamber, and was

its seventh president.

Norma M. Greaves, 71, on December 19. She was a realtor

for Weichert Realtors and then for Coldwell Banker of Princeton.

Frank J. Miotla, 49, on December 23. A member of the

United

Brotherhood of Painters union, he worked at the Carnegie Center.

William Byrd, 93, on December 25. He founded Magnetic

Specialties Inc.

Fredrick Aandahl, 78, on December 25. He was associate

editor of the Papers of Woodrow Wilson. A memorial service in the

University Chapel will be January 24 at 1 p.m.

N. Gerald Sapnar, 62, on December 26. He owned the N.

Gerald Sapnar Insurance Agency and the Office Cafe in Hamilton.

Louis A. Conover, 64, on December 26. An engineer, he

was a consultant with Hopewell Valley Associates.

Malcolm L. Diamond, 73, on December 27. He was a religion

professor at Princeton University and a therapist at Corner House.

A memorial service will be on Sunday, February 8, at 3 p.m., at

Princeton’s

McCosh 50.

Gail M. Simpson, 58, on December 27. She worked for

Lockheed

Martin in East Windsor.

J. Richardson Dilworth on December 29. He had been senior

financial advisor to the Rockefeller family and director at the

Institute

for Advanced Study. A memorial service will be held at noon on

Saturday,

January 10, at the Princeton University Chapel.

Richard A. Lester, 89, on December 30. A former Princeton

University dean, he was a nationally prominent labor economist.

Joseph Sheppard, 30, on December 30. A tennis pro at

Princeton

Racquet Club in South Brunswick, he was a Comcast Cellular One

salesman.

David A. Rothbloom, 36, on December 31. He was a project

manager for AT&T and at McGraw-Hill Corp. on Princeton-Hightstown

Road.

Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Making Room for Jimmy Colavita, 1949-1996

What can you say about a 46-year-old artist who died?

Pigs and Clay, Bells and Fire

Corrections or additions?

Making Room for Jimmy Colavita, 1949-1996

These articles by Pat Summers and Tricia Fagan were published in

U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

Top Of Page
What can you say about a 46-year-old artist who died?

"I carried pictures of his work in my car, and anywhere I went

I looked for places that would be good for him to show."

"Of all the artists I know, I responded most strongly to his

work."

"You didn’t need much contact with him just to adore him."

"We’re tryin’ to keep his spirit goin’ here. It’s all so terribly

sad."

To understand the phenomenon of James J. Colavita, the clay sculptor

for whom five retrospective exhibitions and a host of related events

are offered from January through March, is to accept the old-fashioned

concept, so rare today, of a good man who genuinely cared about

others,

who inspired them, and thoughts of whose untimely death brings those

who knew him to the brink of tears, even now. Colavita died, following

a long illness, in May, 1996.

To those who knew him — whether family, friends, students,

colleagues,

or patrons — he was many things, all of them good and most of

them irreplaceable.

Those of us who did not know Jimmy Colavita can get an idea of what’s

going on here perhaps by thinking of the person in our lives who most

affected us for the good — someone we’ll never forget, someone

we still want to impress, and thank, even now.

And if, lacking such a person in our lives, we can’t make the

association,

it may be even more imperative to go and see Colavita’s works —

about 150, but by no means all of them — at the five sites where

they will be on exhibit beginning this month. The retrospective

features

works Colavita created from 1970 to 1996, the year of his death.

"Jim left all this incredible art, we had no idea how much,"

says his widow, Susan Kiley Colavita. With a group of close friends

and relatives, she has spent the months since his death selecting

works for inclusion in the James J. Colavita Retrospective,

identifying

his oeuvre’s key themes, deciding what should be shown where, and

coordinating production of a 64-page catalog with numerous color

reproductions. Unfortunately, she notes, despite the group’s best

efforts,

some of her late husband’s work is "out in the world and we can’t

find

it — because all the records were in Jim’s head." Happily,

though, she describes the list of lenders to the exhibition as

"huge."

And "huge" also describes many of Colavita’s

works, which range from life-size, as in a pig or a goat sculpture,

to wall-size, as with his reliquaries, to bells from 3-1/2 to 9 feet

in height. Whatever he sculpted, "you had to make room for his

work — both emotionally and physically — in your life,"

says one admirer.

From his first encounter during art studies at Trenton State College,

clay was Colavita’s medium of choice. Already familiar with the

materials

of reductive sculpture, he readily adopted clay in an additive mode,

developing a variety of approaches. For instance, his younger brother,

Anthony, talks about how Jim might press a tire on the clay to get

the surface texture he was after. "He understood how fire and

smoke work, and he could pattern pieces with smoke by covering and

uncovering them to get the look he wanted." The series of

white-clay

angels, included in Rider University’s segment of the retrospective

show, exemplify this.

In the simplest terms, Colavita’s main themes were animals, people,

and structures. But that doesn’t begin to suggest the breadth of his

work. A lifelong animal lover and farmer (he and Susan raised goats

and cared for a multitude of other animals for 23 years at the farm

they rented on Cherry Valley Road in Princeton), Colavita memorialized

goats, pigs, chickens, and guinea fowl, among others. The Ellarslie

show will feature an array of animal sculptures — and, unless

a woman astride a pig is more common in your world than mine, these

are not by any means traditionally representational. Mel Leipzig,

Colavita’s faculty colleague and friend at Mercer County Community

College, considers him "one of the great domestic animal artists

of all time."

The first segment of the retrospective show opens at Artworks with

a reception on Sunday, January 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. Artworks features

what Susan Colavita describes as "the yin and the yang" of

Colavita’s work — which includes his fountains, bells, and eggs,

as well as his "tortured pieces."

Mercer County Community College will show the artist’s portraits,

as well as structures that encompass people and animals. This show

includes a retrospective of the artist’s red figure series, and the

sculpture he was working on at the time of his death. On view at the

New Jersey State Museum will be Colavita’s reliquaries, figurative

sculptures incorporating images of life and death, inspired by the

shrines of Italy. These draw on his knowledge of color underglazing

and outdoor smoke firing, as well as the engineering principles

required

to produce and assemble such large works in a small kiln.

One of three brothers — Pasquale, or "Pat," former

Lawrence

Township mayor, and Anthony, familiarly known as "Toj," an

artist and elementary art teacher in the township — James Colavita

was born in Trenton in 1949 and grew up in the Eldridge Park

neighborhood

of Lawrence Township. His father was director of recreation for the

township, and the family shared the home with his paternal

grandparents,

immigrants from Southern Italy, who were also farmers. Early on, the

Colavita boys knew and cared about both farming and animals.

Themes that would hold Jim Colavita’s interest for his lifetime showed

up early, clearly foreshadowing his mature work. Susan Colavita cites

a piece he made as a boy in sixth or seventh grade: "And there

it is: two pigs, eating, with a boy riding on the back of one pig;

and the boy has a hat on and a bird in his hands. These were his

themes

— not just in his art, but in his life."

Colavita attended Notre Dame High School, and in 1972

earned his BA from Trenton State College. Susan Colavita was a high

school classmate; she reports falling in love with Jim while watching

him dance during a school show. Also a Trenton State alumna, she

teaches

elementary art in the Trenton public schools, most often at Franklin

Grammar School.

Who, or what, was James J. Colavita, clay artist, that he left such

a powerful impression on so many people, and whose life has inspired

an unprecedented collaborative retrospective at arts institutions

throughout Mercer County?

At MCCC, where Colavita worked as associate professor of ceramics

and sculpture program for almost 20 years, Mel Leipzig describes him

as "very giving, dynamic, big-hearted, charismatic and immensely

gifted." The MCCC Foundation has established a James J. Colavita

Memorial Scholarship Fund for the fine arts. He was "touched by

genius," says Leipzig, who launches into a mini-lecture about

Colavita’s "extraordinary range" of work, from the

light-hearted

to the sensuous to works "filled with agony." Then, as if

fearing all this might sound too saccharine, Leipzig declares, "He

wasn’t a mush ball! He had a really strong center."

Another friend concurs: "He was a real human being, with nothing

schmaltzy or hokey about him."

As a teacher, Colavita was "vital and enthusiastic," according

to one painting student who took his class for an overview of the

ceramics field. She found him unlike so many other teachers,

"bogged

down in routine." Instead, he was passionate and energetic, and

possessed a great sense of humor. She believes "a person who did

work of this magnitude could have developed an attitude," but

he didn’t.

Still others, although not formally his students, regarded Colavita

as a friend and mentor. One hadn’t seen him for a year or so when

he contacted her about helping hang a big upcoming show. Small wonder

that although she didn’t see him often, he was, and is, "always

in the back of her head." Instead of pursuing New York venues

and sales for his work, "he put his effort into other things —

like life," she recalls.

Leipzig describes "Jimmy" as very social and at the same time

very private. A friend observes: "His passion, love, excitement

got transferred into the clay." And his wife Susan agrees:

"All

Jim’s work was highly emotional, yet as a person, he wasn’t. He was

very guarded about that." The works — often mysterious,

sometimes

surrealistic, sometimes anguished or angry — prove it.

And then, as if all this weren’t enough, there was Colavita’s

"Fire

Art," now become near-legendary happenings that were also called

"the burnings," or, more academically, "collaborative

performance art." This "Fire Art" involved many people

working together to make figures and structures of sticks and straw

and ribbons, then parading, partying, and ceremonially burning them.

What had begun as impromptu celebrations of the solstice or other

special times in the field behind the Colavitas’ farm, grew over time

into larger events, several commissions, and even part of a master’s

thesis.

As Anthony Colavita recalls it, "Whenever they (Susan and Jim)

said we were going to have a burning, that meant we’d have a communal

day working in the field making art. Then in the evening we’d have

a party and we’d burn it."

One "burning" commission was tied in with an exhibition at

Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum, in Cadwalader Park. A ceramic

monkey (symbol of Ellarslie’s earlier incarnation as a monkey house)

encased in a straw sculpture was paraded through the park, accompanied

by stilt walkers, people wearing paper masks, and other processional

elements. The monkey figure was burned inside the straw and,

transformed

by its re-firing, became part of the museum show.

Capping their joint studies toward MFAs at Brooklyn College in 1986,

brothers Jim and Anthony Colavita produced a small burning event in

the quad there. Wherever it occurred, the fire art, which Anthony

amazingly describes as "a sideline," variously involved

ritual,

pageantry, universal symbols, and huge shadow puppets behind screens,

illuminated by firelight.

Leipzig marvels at Colavita’s "extraordinary charisma" here,

too. "He was capable of working with lots of people and inspiring

them to put on these performances." A documentary film about the

burnings, compiled from videos and still photographs kept by friends,

will be shown at both the Ellarslie and Rider University exhibits.

The James J. Colavita Retrospective, including its accompanying

catalog,

is being financed in large part by the proceeds from an independent

fundraising effort launched in April, 1997. From an auction of art

donated by scores of admiring friends and artists, and from cash

donations,

Leipzig estimates that about $35,000 was realized. The Mercer County

Cultural and Heritage Commission also provided welcome grant money.

Together, this remarkably positive response allowed retrospective

planners to forge ahead with their ambitious plan for a comprehensive

retrospective.

All in all, this three-month Colavita retrospective festival is

primarily

a family-and-friends affair. Susan Colavita says about 20 people close

to Jim wrote about him, then her father, a professional writer, meshed

their evocations into a "powerful, appreciative" essay that

constitutes the catalog’s central text. To give an idea of the

artist’s

prolific output and his great range, pictures of Colavita’s works

— many taken by another MCCC colleague, photographer Louis Draper

— get heavy emphasis, included even in the chronology that

concludes

the book.

Rounding out the James J. Colavita Retrospective effort are a series

of related events that include symposia on the arts in education and

on writers and art; a panel discussion on central New Jersey resources

for artists; a workshop on ceremonial art; a commemorative walk; and

a sculpture installation.

What can you say about a 46-year-old artist who died? That he and

his work were loved.

Top Of Page
Pigs and Clay, Bells and Fire

Professionally, Jimmy Colavita was a sculptor who worked

in clay and painted with fire. In reality, he was a bard, a poet

storyteller,

who could mold the joys, anguish, and humor of the human experience

into forms that were at once magnificent and unsettling. Although

I met him only once — shortly before his death in May, 1996 —

Colavita was already an almost mythic art figure to me. Over a period

of nine years, his mere existence has continued to color my

experience,

and has also provided me with a fine puzzle: how can all this describe

a single man?

After moving to Trenton in the 1980s, one of my early social outings

was to a gala Halloween bash at the relatively new Hyatt Regency in

Princeton. It was a spectacular party, and the promise of some

impressive

prizes had generated all sorts of amazing costumes. The energy in

the room grew until just before the final judging was announced.

Suddenly

there was a commotion to my left, and then one of those curious calms

occurred that stilled the crowd in a moment of collective amazement.

Making its way regally into the center of the room was a serene parade

of massively over-sized bulldogs in elegant Victorian garb. There

were lord bulldogs, and lady bulldogs, and bulldogs on stilts. For

a moment the whole room simply watched — and then that moment

passed, the bulldogs dissolving into the crowd. Some months later,

when describing the event to a friend, she said immediately, "Oh

yeah. That was the Clark Kent Troupe — that’s Jimmy Colavita!"

I like pushing the form, over-reaching, going a little too

far, just on the edge, sometimes getting your fingers burned. It’s

good to do that. — Gay Talese

Much of what I know about Jimmy Colavita comes from

his work. His "Bell," in the 1992 New Jersey Arts Annual

Crafts

exhibition at the New Jersey State Museum, offered me one of those

rare, breath-taking moments of pure presence. Towards the end of the

show, I turned the corner and came face to face with this piece that

was at once enormous and serene, a clay bell on a massive, hewn wooden

beam with an air that was personal, organic, and grand. It existed

as solidly as an ancient oak. Its spirit was arresting and embracing.

A museum staffer passing by stopped and noted: "It’s wonderful,

isn’t it? That’s Jimmy Colavita."

His work contained a signature that I eventually came to recognize.

There was always the story-telling element, even when the figure was

its own story. There was always a mystery, a question waiting to be

discovered, and there was always a deeply felt spirituality. Still,

the work evolved, and the changing aspects of the artist and his

experience

were distilled for us to read.

At the "Baseball" exhibit at Ellarslie Museum last year, his

wonderful piece, "Go Figure," made people laugh out loud with

its benign hog sitting atop a baseball. A text inscribed on the clay

base confided that the artist’s father had always wanted his sons

to play baseball, but they didn’t. His "Inferno" works were

far more dark and disturbing, but, again, so accessible that it was

impossible to stay completely distant from their agony.

His later allegorical works I found almost more disturbing since they

were so completely and nakedly personal. At one exhibit, I watched

as many people repeated my own actions — standing and staring

at the intricate "Listening To All You Ever Said" for some

time, brows furrowed, hands involuntarily grasping coats over their

hearts, as they read the heartbreak in the piece. Still, Colavita

was a generous artist — there was usually the inference of humor

and the potential for transformation. There was always a tenderness

behind the intensity, a wistfulness beneath the sharp-edged

truth-telling.

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be

violent and original in your work — Gustave Flaubert

A friend teaching in the Trenton Public Schools, hearing that

I was looking for an art instructor to do some work with children,

called me with a name: Susan Kiley, an art teacher in Trenton. She

could not recommend this woman highly enough. "She’s a wonderful

artist, and she’s done amazing things with children over the years.

She and her husband live on a farm in Princeton. He’s an artist, too.

You must know him. His name is Jimmy Colavita."

One of the remarkable things about the Colavita "myth," moving

through the years, was that although he was presented as a prolific,

sometimes driven, artist, he was also always mentioned in the context

of a larger, very down-to-earth, life. He had grown up on a farm in

Lawrence, with his two brothers, his parents, and his grandparents

— and the many different farm animals that his family and nearby

neighbors raised. Family always appeared to be the central base from

which he worked, and his love of animals, so evident in his work,

was legendary.

"Jim really loved the animals, especially the goats, I think,"

his wife, Susan, says. "He gave names to each one of them. The

amazing thing about him was that he took care of the farm and the

farm animals with the same drive and intensity as he did his art.

Every single day he would be out there feeding, grooming, and taking

care of each one. The farm and that part of his life was just as

important

to him as his art."

Someone recently asked me why this man and his work are not yet better

known. It isn’t clear whether some innate modesty prevented him from

making more of a splash at a younger age. It is very evident, though,

that here is a man who made his choices with great deliberateness,

and that he had chosen to focus his life in Mercer County, New Jersey.

When he was 19 years old, Colavita chose to leave the Pennsylvania

School of Fine Arts, and the scholarship he had been offered, because

everything that was important to him was back home. He completed his

degree at Trenton State College.

Rainer Maria Rilke once noted that, "If your everyday life seems

poor to you, do not accuse it, accuse yourself, tell yourself you

are not poet enough to summon up its riches…" It does not appear

that Jimmy ever regretted the decisions that kept him living and

working

in his intimate local circle. Instead, he embraced what many would

consider mundane or imponderable, and gave it expression through his

art.

Another "regular and orderly" aspect of his life was in his

role as art instructor, particularly in his years as associate

professor

of ceramics and sculpture at Mercer Community College. People who

have studied with him have called him inspiring, committed,

challenging,

supportive. His approach to teaching appears to have been as intrinsic

and organic to his nature as the rest of his life.

Though his work often demanded long hours of intensely concentrated

solitude, Jimmy found time to get involved with many artists’ groups,

both formally and informally. I heard about him early on as a

co-founder

of the Trenton Artists’ Workshop Association (TAWA), and an early

active member of the Princeton Art Association.

People are always good company when they are doing what

they enjoy. — Samuel Butler

One other part of the Colavita myth seems important to share:

Jimmy Colavita played with fire — and he invited others to play

with him. Creating ritual celebrations with friends and family seems

to have been an almost instinctive act for him. By the early 1980s,

he and Susan were hosting "field burnings" on their Sundry

Farm as a way to greet the New Year. As the years went on, guests

often helped to construct the massive fire sculptures and intricate

ceremonies that accompanied each burning, but Anne Demarais, a friend

who acted as an informal historian of the events, notes that Jim

"was

the only essential element" of these gatherings.

One of the final, and perhaps most quietly splendid, testimonies to

the man and the artist that was James J. Colavita came in response

to his death in May, 1996. People who had known him, as well as people

who had only known of him, felt the loss deeply. Crowds packed his

funeral. For most of us, that outpouring of love, in itself, would

have been enough of an affirmation for a life well lived. But for

those who loved Jimmy Colavita, his death required a passage, a

transformation.

This "From the Fire" retrospective exhibition is the result

of that transformation from grief back to life. Hundreds of artists

donated works of art for the auction that raised money for this

exhibit.

Friends, family, and artists have voluntarily spent thousands of hours

working with Susan Kiley, Anthony (Toj) Colavita, Mel Leipzig, and

others to bring together the hundreds of pieces that will be on

display.

In a spirit of collaboration not often seen among arts venues, five

major regional arts institutions are simultaneously presenting this

exhibition. It is a rare spirit who can generate this type of energy

and love.

Jimmy Colavita embraced his life and lived it well. Towards the end,

though pain and exhaustion became constant companions, he continued

the path that he had started on 46 years before, and had climbed:

@POETRY = …so far,

Through a round aperture I saw appear

Some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears,

Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars — Dante

He has left his work and his spirit behind to touch and instruct

us still. I only met him once — yet I feel I knew him well.

— Tricia Fagan

James J. Colavita Retrospective, Artworks, 19

Everett

Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. Opening reception for the first of five

area exhibitions celebrating the life and work of the late sculptor.

Each show highlights a different facet of his career. Show continues

to February 28. Free. Sunday, January 11, 1 to 4 p.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective, Gallery at Mercer

County College, Communications Center, Second Floor, West Windsor,

609-586-4800. First day for the MCCC show that continues to February

26. Free. Wednesday, January 14, 11 a.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective, Ellarslie, Trenton

City Museum, 319 East State Street, Cadwalader Park, Trenton,

609-989-3632.

Opening reception for the show that continues to March 1. Free.

Friday,

January 16, 7 to 9 p.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective, New Jersey State

Museum,

205 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. Opening reception for

the show that continues to March 15. Call to RSVP. Free. Sunday,

January 18, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective, Gallery at Mercer

County College, Communications Center, Second Floor, West Windsor,

609-586-4800. Opening reception for the show that continues to

February

26. Free. Wednesday, January 21, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective Panel, Artworks,

19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. "Resources for Artists

in Central New Jersey," a panel discussion moderated by Mel

Leipzig,

MCCC faculty, in conjunction with the retrospective shows. Free.

Sunday,

January 25, 1 p.m.

James J. Colavita Retrospective, Rider University Art

Gallery, Lawrenceville, 609-896-5168. Opening reception for the

show that continues to March 8. Free. Thursday, February 5, 5 to

7 p.m.

Artists Commemorate James J. Colavita, Riverrun

Gallery,

287 South Main Street, Lambertville, 609-397-3349. Opening reception

for a group show honoring the artist that continues to March 7. Free.

Saturday, February 7, 6 to 9 p.m.

Colavita Retrospective Workshop, Artworks, 19

Everett

Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. Workshop in "The Making of

Ceremonial

Art," in collaboration with the Eldridge Park Artists. Sunday,

February 15, 1 to 5 p.m.

Colavita Retrospective Symposium, Gallery at Mercer

County College, Kelsey Theater, 609-586-4800. "The Importance

of the Arts in Education: Problems and Solutions," coordinated

by Mel Leipzig, MCCC, and Carol Belt, arts education consultant. To

register call extension 3353. Saturday, February 21, 10 a.m. to

2 p.m.

James Colavita Retrospective Walk, Artworks, 19

Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436. Ceremonial walk from Artworks

to Mill Hill Park. Free. Sunday, February 22, 4 p.m.


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The Lion, the Witch et al

Corrections or additions?

The Lion, the Witch et al

This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

Although everyone goes to `The Nutcracker’ ballet every

year, a lot of people — especially families — don’t have a

tradition of going to modern dance performances at all," says

Randy James, artistic director of the New Brunswick-based modern dance

company, Randy James Dance Works. "Before I started my company

four years ago, I had been looking for a full-length, evening work

— some kind of story, that would help build an audience for us,

that would make a tradition."

Although "The Nutcracker" was never considered by the young

modern dance company, that beloved tale did lead James to the

company’s

first full-length work, created for audiences of all ages, "The

Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," based on the C.S. Lewis

children’s

classic.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," performed by a company

of 15 dancers, has its world premiere at George Street Playhouse in

New Brunswick, on Saturday and Sunday, January 10 and 11, with

performances

at 1 and 4 p.m. each day.

It was James’ seven-year-old goddaughter, Sarah Krauss, a veteran

performer of three seasons in "The Nutcracker" with the

American

Repertory Ballet, who suggested to James that he stage the dramatic

story of four children embroiled in magic — both good and evil

— in the land of Narnia.

"I don’t mind saying that my goddaughter is brilliant — and

this was a brilliant idea," says James. "I still remembered

the story from when I was a child. It has so many great characters,

and so many messages, about good against evil, redemption, and

forgiveness."

Staging such a complex story was a challenge. "I had never

choreographed

a story before," he says, "not one where dancers take and

keep a character throughout two acts." Simplicity was one obvious

key to making this first chronicle of Narnia comprehensible to

children

and their parents. "The most important things I remembered from

the book, the things that were most interesting, happened in Narnia.

So we have one scene at home in the beginning, and the rest of the

story is set in Narnia."

The characters that struck James as most appropriate for a modern

dance work are the woodland nymphs and the faun, Mr. Tumnus. James

recognized these characters as natural inhabitants of a modern dance

world founded by Isadora Duncan — whose dances often conjured

up visions of free-spirited sprites — and the legendary dancer

Nijinsky, known for his choreography of "Afternoon of a Faun."

"The character of the witch has so many possibilities," says

James. "When you first see her, you know she’s evil, but she’s

enticing. Like any sin — like Turkish delight — it’s

attractive

and intriguing at first. We have her first entrance on a sled drawn

by reindeer, accompanied by the wolf Maugrim. A bad person always

has a sidekick, and the wolf is our witch’s main sidekick."

The story’s climactic battle happens very quickly in the book, James

notes, but he thought a battle would be an interesting choreographic

challenge, particularly for all 15 dancers. His dance version appears

to be less weepy than the book. "Our Lion is dead for less than

three minutes," says James. "There’s a mourning dance by the

two young girls in which they express their pure love for him, and

this breathes life back into him. So the story has a celebratory

ending."

Everything is designed for family fun. "There’s a lot to see and

hear in dance — movement, music, sets, costumes — and I

believe

you should make the audience work a bit, but some artists make their

audiences work too much. They live in an ivory tower," says James.

"My hope is that people will see modern dance in a different way

— we’re not always wearing unitards and crawling around like

insects.

There are no rules to modern dance, it’s so inclusive." Those

who tried to deconstruct modern dance, he says, succeeded only in

making it inaccessible to many. "Somehow it got away from real

life and real people."

James found himself auditioning all types of already composed music,

everything from Billy Holiday to bluegrass. Then it struck him that

this classic story, with modern choreography and modern costumes,

needed one classic artist at its center. "The project was so huge

and scary, I realized I should go totally for Mozart," says James.

He adapted scores featuring harp and flute for the nymphs and

"dark

choral work" for the battle. "I think people will find the

music comforting," says James, "even though they may not be

that familiar with the modern dance form."

These performances have been funded by a $15,000 grant from the

Geraldine

R. Dodge Foundation. "They believed in the project. I couldn’t

have done it without them," he says.

With his own company of eight augmented by seven guest artists for

the production, James will not be found onstage. "My dancing days

are not totally over, but they’re near the end," he says. "Of

course I still dance a lot — when I teach, when I create movement

— I’m just not performing in public. One lesson that teacher

Bessie

Schoenberg taught me was that `If you’re in your work, you can’t see

your work.’"

Although not created exclusively for children, the work is designed

to include them. Adults may see more underlying resonances, but

children

will follow the story. "They’re the audience of the future. So

if we don’t cultivate children, there will be no modern dance

audience."

And has goddaughter Sarah consulted any further on the work?

No previews for young Sarah, says the artist. "I want her to see

the finished work with a virgin eye."

— Nicole Plett

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Randy James Dance

Works, George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick,

732-246-7717. $15 adults; $12 children, students, & seniors.

Saturday

and Sunday, January 10 and 11, at 1 and 4 p.m.


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George Street’s New Man

Corrections or additions?

George Street’s New Man

This article by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

@INITIAL CAP+ = Here’s to a great time for the both of us, David.

I know that we can still change the face of theater. If not us who?

Love, Jonathan." David Saint reads these words from a note written

to him by his close friend and theater collaborator, the late Jonathan

Larson. A few months later, the composer would be dead, but his show

"Rent" would be running, winner of the Tony Award and Pulitzer

Prize. A year later Saint expresses the significance of the note in

a press conference as he prepares to take the reins as artistic

director

of the George Street Playhouse. Saint succeeds Gregory F. Hurst who

resigned hastily in July, 1997, after nine years at the helm.

Saint’s large eyes open wide as he looks around the rehearsal space

just off the lobby of the George Street theater, used on occasion

for performances by small outside theater groups. "Wouldn’t this

be just perfect for a second stage to develop new plays?" says

Saint during a conversation following the press conference. I’m

curious

to know if Saint thinks it is possible to alter or change the

character

of an established subscription audience. "You don’t pander to

the audience, you must make them stretch and do the best that you

can," says Saint who assures me that he will be out among the

audience at intermission and after shows listening to their comments.

One could easily go on listening to Saint talk of his love of theater.

But who would expect Saint’s family history to be so adventurously

embroidered? Born in Boston in 1959, and raised in Cape Cod, David

was named after his great-great-grandfather, a sea captain, whose

ship was wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod at an area now know as

Saint’s Landing. A formal Jesuit education and time spent in a

seminary

contemplating a life in religion preceded Saint’s admittance to

another

Jesuit institution, Holy Cross College in Worcester. While Saint now

says he wasn’t cut out for the priesthood, T.S. Eliot’s "Murder

in the Cathedral" is a play he would consider directing.

No one in Saint’s family had ever been connected with the theater,

except that Joseph, the youngest of his five brothers, is now a

lighting

designer. He allows that Eva Marie Saint is a third cousin, or

something.

"I was always acting," says Saint. "Right through school,

every summer I did summer stock. The minute I graduated from college,

I moved to New York and took classes with Uta Hagen." Good breaks

and talent landed Saint roles at the Public Theater, the Phoenix,

Playwrights Horizons, and the Manhattan Theater Club. But Saint adds

that it wasn’t until he began coaching other actors, like Diane Wiest

and Douglas Hughes, that the idea of directing came to him.

Interestingly it was Saint who succeeded Hughes (director of

"Wonderful

Tennessee" at McCarter last season) in his job at the Seattle

Repertory Company when Hughes left to take over the Guthrie Theater

in Minneapolis. Saint directed many productions as a freelancer at

Seattle beginning in 1990, achieving the title of associate artistic

director in 1996.

Saint, who has completed his last season at Seattle

Rep, is also no stranger to theater in New Jersey. He has directed

plays in recent seasons at McCarter (the world premiere of the one

act, "My Mother, Then and Now," by Wendy Wasserstein), Paper

Mill Playhouse ("The Foreigner"), and the American Stage

("Billy

Bishop Goes to War," which included Jonathan Larson in the cast).

"Somehow I feel that Jonathan is sending me back to New Jersey

to finish the work." Saint says that it is too soon to talk about

making changes at George Street until "they learn about me and

I learn about them." He expresses his enthusiasm for reexamining

the classics, but says the one thing he is sure about is the

development

of new works, which he calls "the life-blood of the theater."

At this stage, Saint says it is imperative that staff work together

to build up the theater. "Because of its size, George Street

Theater

is much more hospitable to the kind of play that I like to do than

Seattle Rep, a big hall of 860 seats." Saint talks of this being

a great moment in time in New Brunswick, where he sees a real

renaissance

of the arts emerging, notably nurtured and supported by the New

Brunswick

Cultural Center.

"This is an exciting day for the George Street Playhouse,"

announced board president Clarence Lockett, as he introduced George

Street’s new artistic director to the press. Lockett, an ordained

minister, is eager to share the news that Saint had himself spent

time in a seminary. "Yes, I did spend time in the seminary, but

I climbed the wall. I couldn’t face the future as Father Saint,"

he interjects.

Lockett is not shy about expressing his feeling that George Street

is "blessed" with this particular Saint’s arrival, notably

as the theater will begin its 25th year next season. The introduction

was, in fact, notable for the display of feelings as Lockett turned

to thank Wendy Liscow ("She prevented me from having sleepless

nights"), the associate artistic director whose leadership and

direction, during the interim, kept George Street on its artistic

path.

Saint arrives at the theater during a prosperous time. Lockett

confirms

that the theater has run with an operational surplus for the past

seven years. Saint joins forces with another newcomer, Tom Werder,

who took the position of managing director this past summer. This

leads Lockett to view this addition of two energetic young men as

"visionary."

Leading the search for a new artistic director, following the sudden

and swift departure of Hurst, was Bill Hagaman, the board’s vice

president.

Assisted by an 11-member search committee, which in turn was led

through

each intricate step of the search and selection process by Werder,

Hagaman was determined to make the selection by January 1. Besides

taking advantage of the committee’s contacts within the theatrical

community for a list of candidates, Hagaman commends the press (with

distinct irony) for "letting everyone know that a position was

available." Out of the 34 to 40 submissions were a dozen

impressive

candidates, among them Wendy Liscow, then acting artistic director,

who were singled out for personal interviews.

"We interviewed many talented people, but in David Saint we

believe

that we’ve found someone whose experience as an artist, and his strong

rapport with the national theater community will attract the finest

talent to George Street Playhouse," says Hagaman. Awarded the

Alan Schneider Award, a $10,000 award from the Theater Communications

Group to a promising mid-career director, the 38-year-old Saint has

won numerous awards for direction, including a Los Angeles Drama

Critics

Award, and the Helen Hayes Award.

Sealing Saint’s appointment, however, was an endorsement received

from noted playwright Wendy Wasserstein in which she wrote, "Saint

was intelligent, forthright, highly skilled, and somehow

simultaneously

warm and accessible, the sort of man who can create the best kind

of theater community."

Revealing how the process of picking an artistic director was as

time-consuming

as it was rewarding, Hagaman says, "it has energized us as board

members and put us 100 percent behind our new artistic director."

That the board has also been 100 percent behind acting artistic

director

Liscow during this difficult transitional phase may lead some of us

to ponder her future at George Street, now that she has not moved

up to the top job.

"I’ve been involved with over 65 productions during the past nine

seasons, now going into my tenth," says Liscow, who says she is

ready to hand over the reins to Saint in January. This, although the

balance of this season will continue under her artistic supervision.

One would have to be deaf and blind not to pick up the genuine emotion

behind Liscow’s welcome to Saint, particularly in light of being a

co-contender. "Saint has been touching souls," says Liscow,

referring to the letters of recommendation (Liscow called them

"love

songs") that poured in from world-class playwrights, designers,

and actors. There is a slight catch in Liscow’s throat as she says,

"I look forward to working with you and good luck."

New Brunswick now has a Saint in the city," are

the apt words Hagaman chooses to acknowledge the new artistic

director.

"It takes an act of bravery to create theater in this day and

age," says Saint, who also lets us know that it is the artistic

director who is the person "most responsible for creating a safe

home for the artist. This home has to be built on a series of

relationships,

and I particularly treasure the relationships I brought with me today.

It’s great to have friends rally round." At this point he casts

a big smile toward actress-playwright Anne Meara and author-playwright

Arthur Laurents, in attendance as a gesture of their support.

Introducing Laurents, Saint calls him "the most principled man

I know," and a protector of what Saint calls "the innocence

of truth." Saint shares the memory of his first job in the

theater:

a non-union summer stock production of "Gypsy" in New

Hampshire,

in which he played nine roles, staged managed, and pulled the curtain.

"I was hooked," says Saint, reminding us that it was Laurents

who wrote the book for "Gypsy," the musical that many people

consider the greatest of all American musicals. Mutual admiration

is apparent as Laurents responds with, "I don’t know of any

director

working in today’s theater who is more skilled in finding the

emotional

truth in the play and in the actors than David. I think you are very

lucky to have him."

Saint received accolades for directing Meara’s first play, "After

Play," successfully produced Off-Broadway a few seasons back.

That collaboration was the beginning of a firm friendship ("I

was white knuckled and he was my mentor") that would bring Meara

back to George Street. Not surprisingly, Meara’s affectionate remarks

about Saint and his abilities ("You’re in good hands with David

Saint") end on a funny note when she unabashedly reminds everyone

of the professional actor’s eternal quest. "I hope to do something

with you here David . . . that is if you . . ." Her voice was

unable to rise over the laughter and applause, both for herself and

the new artistic director who sees himself as "an evangelist of

the theater," and the one who has taken to heart Larson’s words,

"If not us, who?"

— Simon Saltzman

At George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New

Brunswick,

732-246-7717.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Christopher Sergel’s adaptation

of Harper Lee’s Southern, coming-of-age novel. January 24 to

February

28.

Voices in the Dark, a psychological thriller by John

Pielmeier.

March 7 to April 5.

Council of Thirty, the world premiere of a drama by Bob

Clyman that centers on a child custody battle. Wendy Liscow directs.

April 11 to May 3.

Old Wicked Songs, Jon Marans’ Pulitzer nominee, about

an American piano prodigy assigned to take vocal lessons from an

elderly

Viennese teacher. May 16 to June 7.


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A Cellist, On the Line

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A Cellist, On the Line

This article by Elaine Strauss was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

Sure, it’s pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s show when he solos

in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 to open the New Jersey Symphony

Orchestra’s

three-week Brahms festival. The four-movement work is a compendium

of pianistic difficulties that might slip by unnoticed, so well does

the music flow. The demanding piano part exists within a relatively

sunny piece.

Yet pianist Ohlsson is not the only instrumentalist who faces a

demanding

part in the concerto. The piece opens with a horn solo. Principal

hornist Lucinda Lewis bears the unforgiving responsibility not only

of getting a sometimes finicky instrument to work, but getting it

to do its job at precisely the right moment. And in the third

movement,

a solo cello comes to the fore, providing one of the most richly

romantic

and hummable passages in the concerto. Principal cellist Jonathan

Spitz puts himself and his performing skills on the line at that time.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), conducted by Music Director

Zdenek Macal, pairs the piano concerto with Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.

The program is set for Thursday, January 8, at 8 p.m., in New

Brunswick’s

State Theater. It will also be given on Saturday, January 10, at 8

p.m., and on Sunday, January 11, at 3 p.m., at Newark’s New Jersey

Performing Arts Center. Within a three-week period the NJSO mounts

all four of Brahms’ symphonies, as well as his concerto for violin,

the piano concerto, and the New Jersey premiere of David Noon’s

"Tempus

Fugit, Vivat Brahms." The programs fall within 12-month observance

of the 100th anniversary of Brahms’ death in April, 1897.

In a telephone interview from his Tenafly home, cellist Spitz explains

that the cello solo in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 has loomed large

in his life. "It was a crucial part of my history in getting my

current position," he says. Spitz played the Brahms concerto

excerpt

when he auditioned to join the orchestra in 1984. He played it again

in 1991, when he auditioned for the position of acting principal

cello,

and then once again in 1994, when he auditioned for the permanent

post of principal cellist. (The older name for the cello, the

violoncello,

seems to be making a comeback, part of the period intrument movement.)

"We learn the solo to play for the audition," says Spitz.

"At the audition you play it by yourself. Then it’s a new and

different experience to play it in the context of an orchestra. It’s

more inspiring to play with a piano soloist."

"The cello solo is nostalgic," says Spitz. "Brahms has

a sad, dark quality. Though the solo is not underlyingly tragic, it’s

suited to the dark sound of the cello. When I think of the Brahms’

solo cello part, maybe `deep’ is a good word to describe it. What’s

nice about playing Brahms is that he understood the voice of each

instrument so well. The thing that makes the solo easy is that all

I have to do is to make my instrument sound like a cello while in

some cases the instrument has to sound like a human voice, or make

the sounds of nature.

"It’s the most famous cello solo in the repertoire," Spitz

says. "There’s not a principal cello in a major orchestra in the

world who hasn’t had to play that excerpt in an audition." He

describes as "standard orchestral audition fare" for cellists,

in addition to the Brahms piano concerto solo, a passage from Richard

Strauss’ "Don Quixote," and one from Giacomo Rossini’s

"William

Tell Overture." Beyond that, Spitz says, orchestras tend to have

divergent requirements. Orchestral auditions for all string

instruments,

he notes, always include an excerpt from a Brahms symphony or

concerto.

Now 39, Spitz grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He remembers his

mother,

a pianist, playing recitals with a cellist when he was very young.

"I first saw the instrument when I was five," Spitz says,

"and I couldn’t stop talking about it. There was no Suzuki in

those days." Spitz’s interest in cello precedes the widespread

use of the Suzuki method developed in Japan, where children begin

their study of string instruments as toddlers, and a five-year-old

is classified as an older beginner. "I was given a cello when

I was seven," Spitz says, "and was always real eager about

it. By the time I was 14, I knew that was where I had to go."

Spitz studied at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, the

crucible of instrumental performers. He spent three summers at

Marlboro,

the Vermont chamber music haven begun by pianist Rudolf Serkin, who

for many years was head of Curtis. Except for a three-year hiatus,

he has been a member of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra since 1988.

He made his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital

Hall in 1990 as winner of the Artists International Competition.

"I’ve always been open to anything that crosses my path that seems

interesting in ways not necessarily limited to the cello," Spitz

says. He has looked into various mind-body works over the last 15

years — self-hypnosis, yoga and sensory awareness, a practice

of German origin. "Yoga is part of my life," he says.

Avocationally,

Spitz is an avid golfer.

Principal cellist of the NJSO since 1991, Spitz describes his duties,

first and foremost, as deciding on bowings. In other words, he works

out whether the members of the cello section should draw their bow

across the strings of the instrument, "downbow," pulling away

from their body, or "upbow," pushing toward their body. The

sound is slightly different when the direction changes, with downbow

generally sounding stronger and upbow generally sounding lighter.

Sometimes, for effect, string players use a succession of upbows,

or of downbows. For a uniform sound within the section all players

must move their bows in the same direction. Consistent bow directions

within an instrumental section contribute more to a consistent sound

than do uniform right hand fingerings or playing in the same place

on one of a string instrument’s four strings, or even playing on the

same string. In developing bowings Spitz coordinates with the other

string principals, to produce the desired musical effects.

"Working out the bowings is very time consuming," Spitz says.

"We cover so much repertoire in a season. There are a lot of

bowings

in music in our library, but if it’s not something I went over

personally

in the past, I like to reconsider."

As he looks over Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, which appears on the second

of the three NJSO Brahms festival programs, Spitz marvels at the

complexity

of the task. "It’s remarkable to me," he says, "how

difficult

it is to work out the bowing in terms of rhythm, intonation, and

clarity

because of the way Brahms writes the part technically. He’s similar

to Beethoven: every note in every part is important; there’s no

filler.

Brahms is very full. He’s contrapuntal and dense. A lot is happening

in all the different voices. You have to play your part in a way to

make it clear, but in a way so it doesn’t obliterate the other parts.

It’s a lot like playing chamber music. But fortunately there’s a

conductor

in whom we have a lot of faith to guide us through. While each of

us has a vision of the piece, it’s important to commit oneself to

playing the conductor’s version.

"Bowings differ with different conductors," Spitz says.

"Macal

wants a rich, cantabile sound, so with him you need to use more bow

than with some conductors." To make the full, singing sound that

Macal desires, the bow must be drawn over the string more quickly

than for a flightier sound. When the bow is moved more quickly, the

player reaches its extremes earlier than when the bow is moved more

slowly, and a change of direction from upbow to downbow, or vice

versa,

must be made relatively frequently.

Macal’s musical taste affects bowing in another way,

Spitz explains. For him, there is a big difference between a passage

marked "piano," meaning "soft," or

"pianissimo,"

meaning "very soft." "With Macal," says Spitz,

"`pianissimo’

is very soft, but `piano’ has a big range. `Piano’ is soft, but not

wispy or too delicate. Macal’s `piano’ uses more bow than many

conductors,

so you have to change bow more frequently."

Selecting bowings is only one of the tasks of the principal, says

Spitz. "It’s a more amorphous thing," he adds. "It’s hard

to define. You’re really concerned with getting unanimity of phrasing

within the section. And you have to work at integrating the section

effectively into the orchestra. Sometimes the cellos accompany a

delicate

wind passage, sometimes they take charge of the orchestra. You must

be responsive to what the orchestra is doing, and what the conductor

wants. The artistic guidance for a section is subservient to the

conductor’s

needs, but it’s still a leadership role.

Spitz has learned that the cello section of which he is the principal

is considered one of the strongest in the country. "I get that

feedback from guest conductors who’ve been around," he explains.

As principal, Spitz also has tenure. Tenure is awarded after two years

in the position. "If I start to do a lousy job, they could get

rid of me," Spitz says, "but there has to be a strong

consensus."

Seating within the NJSO is a matter of permanent assignment, with

more accomplished players occupying chairs at the front of the

section.

While skill, not seniority, determines the seating, players who sit

further back in the section are not permitted to challenge higher

ranked instrumentalists for their seat, as happens in summer music

camps.

In addition to his position at the NJSO, Spitz performs with other

orchestras, among them Orpheus, the chamber orchestra spotlighted

on public television recently. "Orpheus is a great education

because

there’s no conductor," says Spitz. "We each bring our vision

of a piece to the orchestra, but you have to move the rehearsal

process

along, and not just use rehearsal as an ego trip. Orpheus has affected

how I handle being principal of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

The responsibilities are similar. You learn a certain combination

of leadership and autonomy. With Macal there’s always a sense of

pulse,

but he brings much flexibility to romantic music. My experience in

Orpheus reinforces the skills you need to keep a good sense of time,

but stay flexible."

Spitz maintains flexible boundaries about the repertoire he plays.

"The range of music I deal with," he says, "is the best

part of my life. It’s so big, it’s impossible to have any sense of

boredom or routine. The more that I do, the richer I feel

artistically.

I love the standard orchestral repertoire, and my pleasure has

increased

as I continue to play it. I love the chamber repertoire and the

obscure

works I play with Orpheus."

In 1995, Spitz soloed with vocalist Bobby McFerrin at the NJSO

performance

of a Vivaldi concerto for two cellos, an event difficult to classify.

Spitz played his cello; McFerrin vocalized the second cello part.

Spitz delighted in performing with McFerrin. "It was a tremendous

feat vocally," he says. "It didn’t sound like two cellos.

It gave greater clarity to the counterpoint. I loved the flexibility

that was forced on me. We had one rehearsal and had to sound like

we were playing the same piece."

Last season Spitz enjoyed himself as soloist with the NJSO in the

Dvorak cello concerto. "It was an opportunity to make my own

statement

about a piece that is a standard part of the repertoire. I felt

privileged

and fired up"

Spitz is also cellist with the Leonardo Trio. His wife, Erica

Kiesewetter,

a freelance violinist active in New York, joins him in the ensemble,

along with pianist Cameron Grant. Kiesewetter comes from a long line

of violinists with an ancestor in Schubert’s circle. At the turn of

the century, an ancestor’s Stradivarius violin became known as the

Kiesewetter Stradivarius; it is now played by Russian violinist Maxim

Vengerov.

Spitz’s six-year-old daughter, Gabriela, plays cello

and studies with a Tenafly teacher. "I practice with her, but

I don’t pressure her," says Spitz. "I never say a word to

her about cello that her teacher hasn’t said." Son Sebastian,

age two, Spitz reports, "gets very excited when we start

practicing

cello. My wife and I will try to steer him away from the cello,"

Spitz says.

Watching his young daughter at the cello helps Spitz identify what

he considers to be the hardest characteristic of the instrument —

what he calls, "the changes over time as one’s skill level

changes.

"First of all," he says, "it’s hard to draw the bow so

you get a clean sound. The next obstacle is playing in tune on an

instrument that has no frets, no guideposts. It becomes a combination

of muscle memory, being guided by your ears, and a certain amount

of luck. The idea is to try to make luck as small a factor as

possible.

The chief difficulty in cello is shifting from low to high on one

string." In other words, the problem is to slide downwards along

the string, stopping at precisely the point that will produce the

desired pitch.

Spitz has developed a method for accomplishing this. With luck,

daughter

Gabriela’s teacher will explain it to her so Spitz can pursue the

matter when he practices with her. "It’s sort of like Zen and

the Art of Archery," Spitz says. "You have to have a very

strong focus on the target note. You need an image in your mind of

the pitch, and a memory of what that note feels like. You need to

practice the note you’re shifting to, where your shoulders and arms

are, and what the vibrato feels like. You need a good awareness of

what your bow is doing. It’s important not to be too preoccupied with

how to get from point A to point B. That can make the target foggy.

The mechanics of the shift are secondary to your awareness of the

target. What I like about this method is that it works under pressure.

The way I articulate it is my own, but I suspect that it’s an amalgam

of many people’s ideas."

Like the smooth big cello solo in the Brahms Piano Concerto, mastering

Spitz’s shifting technique is not as easy as it appears. "It takes

a half hour to explain it," he says, "and a year to get

it."

— Elaine Strauss

Brahms Festival, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,

State Theater, New Brunswick, 800-ALLEGRO. Featured artist is Garrick

Ohlsson on piano performing the Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major. $10

to $48. Thursday, January 8, 8 p.m.

Brahms Festival, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,

State Theater, New Brunswick, 800-ALLEGRO. Violinist Gil Shaham is

featured in Brahms’ Concerto in D Major. $12 to $52. Thursday,

January 15, 8 p.m.

Brahms Festival, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,

State Theater, New Brunswick, 800-ALLEGRO. Zdenek Macal conducts

Brahms’

Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 3. $10 to $48. Saturday, January

31, 8 p.m.


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On the Road with Martin Sexton

Corrections or additions?

On the Road with Martin Sexton

This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

Singer-songwriter Martin Sexton is coming back to

central New Jersey for what he guesses may be his seventh gig here

in 12 months. But this time the peripatetic troubadour’s destination

isn’t a church basement or a high school auditorium, but the plush

upholstery of Princeton’s McCarter Theater. Not coincidentally, Sexton

will be carrying in his back pocket a contract with Atlantic Records.

A native of Syracuse who now calls Northampton, Massachusetts, home,

Sexton has been touring non-stop since the release of his debut CD

"Black Sheep," from Eastern Front records. "I’ve been

everywhere on the continent in the past year, to every state, and

to Canada," says Sexton. Yet New Jersey has been his most frequent

destination.

"I honestly wondered why I was coming through New Jersey so

often,"

he explains, "but if an artist doesn’t have the support of a major

corporation then you have to show up in person and play. And that’s

what I’ve done in New Jersey."

"It’s such a supportive area for what I do. First of all, you

have so many people. Then there are several radio stations that play

my stuff." Then Sexton gets to the heart — or stomach —

of the matter. His "shiny, shiny love" of roadside diners.

Sexton’s love ballad to diners he has known, from Maine, Minnesota,

Michigan, and Worcester, Mass., to Georgia, North Carolina, and

Sarasota,

Florida — replete with aluminum siding, Formica, Bakelite,

table-top

consoles, cheeseburgers, and apple pie a la mode — is featured

on his "Black Sheep" album. And a year on the road has not

diminished the songwriter’s devotion to the New Jersey diner.

The self-taught artist comes from a family of 12 children, and

listening

to records was the backbone of his music education. The Beatles and

Stevie Wonder were the inspirations of his teen years. Now he’s known

for his "superhuman live shows" in which, according to the

Boston Phoenix, Sexton has been known to channel an old bluesman,

a jazz scat singer, a soul crooner, and a trombone. The four-time

Boston Music Awards winner has been called "a master of dynamics,

reducing a room to silence with his blustering baritone, then teasing

that silence with a fluttering falsetto."

For the songwriter who also possesses an astonishing

vocal range, building an audience has been a grassroots, word-of-mouth

experience. "People come to my shows, have a good time, maybe

buy a CD, and the next time I come through they come back with family

and friends," says Sexton.

Now, at age 31, Sexton’s devotion to music and the road is paying

off. His first Atlantic release is ready to roll. With 12 new songs

written, he plans to begin recording this winter, with a

"hopeful"

release date in August. Untitled as yet, he says this will be "a

very American-sounding record. I have a tune called `The American,’

so that might be it — but then again it might not." He

recently

mastered his first cassette tape, "In The Journey," of which

he has sold 20,000 copies from the stage, to a CD that is also selling

briskly.

Though traveling is a persistent theme of Sexton’s songs, he doesn’t

find the touring life particularly productive for his writing.

"I write a little bit on the road," he says, "but most

of my writing happens at the kitchen table when I’m back home."

He has also been collaborating on material for the new album with

Ned Claflin, with whom he co-authored "Diner" and "Freedom

of the Road" on the first CD. "In everything Martin touches

there is a heroic certainty," writes Claflin in his liner notes.

"Fiercely unpretentious, he is at the same time profound and

debonair.

He makes boundaries explode like a fire-cracker."

So what will it be on Sexton’s return trip to Jersey?

"I like to eat seafood on the road, so maybe I’ll order baked

haddock, or then again, maybe I’ll have a meatloaf plate."

— Nicole Plett

Martin Sexton, Borders Books, Nassau Park,

609-514-0040.

An in-store performance and CD signing. Free. Saturday, January

10, 3 p.m.

Martin Sexton, McCarter Theater, 91 University

Place,

609-683-8000. With Susan Werner. $16 to $20. Saturday, January

10, 8 p.m.


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Survival Guide

Commercial Real Estate

How to Negotiate Better Pay

Year 2000 Predictions

Quality New Jersey

Schmooze by Rail

Corrections or additions?

Survival Guide

These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 7, 1998. All rights reserved.

In the next few weeks, predictions will proliferate about everything from the Year 2000 to the Apocalypse to whether the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory will survive the next round of Congressional budget cuts. Expect one common theme to emerge: optimism, which seems to be hitting an all time high. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association's annual business outlook survey has proclaimed that "business optimism about future sales, profits and employment has reached a post-recession record" and that "pessimism about future business conditions has reached a record low."

The NJBIA found that 34 percent of its 1,160 survey subjects feel that overall economic conditions will improve in the first six months of 1998, and 56 percent said that the good conditions would stay the same. But a few caveats persist. Amid the record low of pessimistic views are concerns over New Jersey's shortage of office space and skilled workers. "The strength of the economy is also reflected in a growing scarcity of high-skill workers," says the survey. "However, the bloom in optimism about business conditions has not translated into a much more favorable view of New Jersey as a place for business expansion."

James W. Hughes, dean of Rutgers University's Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, feels that it will hard for 1998 to match 1997 in terms of economic progress. "It was an extraordinary year," he says. "The year 1997 turned out to be a far more optimistic year than any economic forecaster predicted. So we enter 1998 with a lot of economic momentum. Our economic stars are in pretty good alignment."

He tempers his optimism with a prediction of a possible economic "soft landing" in 1998. "The new year will probably be above-trend again, but not as strong as 1997," he says. "We've never invented a boom that lasts forever."

The 53-year-old Hughes, who addresses the Princeton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 8, calls for a recession sometime in his lifetime, "but not this year," he says. Cost of the Chamber luncheon: $28. Call 609-520-1776. Hughes compares New Jersey's economic recovery favorably to that of the nation as a whole. In "Anatomy of a Business Cycle," a report published by the Bloustein School, Hughes and Joseph J. Seneca, a Rutgers economics professor who is also the university's vice president for academic affairs, describe the depth of New Jersey's economic hole. "While the early 1990s national recession was mild by historical standards, the severity of the New Jersey contraction was unparalleled," the report states. "The 38-month duration of the most recent downturn in New Jersey is unprecedented in absolute length compared to earlier state recessions, and is unprecedented in its differential from the eight-month national recession."

Hughes gives three reasons for a possible slowdown in the 1998 economy. "The Asian contagion is going to have some impact on United States growth," he says. "That will filter down to New Jersey." Second, Hughes predicts that the Federal Reserve will be forced to increase interest rates, which will have a tempering effect on economic growth. Third is the fact that New Jersey, which has been steadily adding jobs since 1992, is running out of labor.

"For three of the past four years the state has been above the long-term average growth of about 50,000 jobs per year," says Hughes. The report states that September, 1997, saw "the full recapture" of all of the jobs lost in the recession of 1989 to 1992. In fact, a record number of jobs (3,717,800) tallied in that month beat out the record established in March, 1989 (3,706,400).

The NJBIA report concurs that the growing scarcity of labor has a somewhat dampening effect on the ability of many businesses to expand. "In the face of the strong job growth and low unemployment, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find skilled workers," it says. "Survey respondents reported having the greatest difficulty since 1989 in finding skilled, professional/technical and managerial jobs."

However, Hughes cautions against comparing the '90s and the '80s. "We had some great years in the boom of the 1980s, but a lot of that was part of a bubble economy, so the fundamentals weren't that good," he says. Hughes prefers using the '60s as a analogy. These two time periods, he says, share many of the same characteristics in terms of employment growth and economic expansion, with one difference: the '90s are a period of peacetime. At least so far.

"There was a 106-month expansion from '61 to '69, but that was given a second life by Vietnam," he says. If this expansion should continue to December of this year, it will be the longest peacetime expansion ever, he adds.

Perhaps the biggest stimulus to the state's economy, Hughes suggests, has been the information technology revolution. "The state has made a successful transition from the industrial era to the information age," he says.

IT "permeates every other economic sector," says Hughes. "You have information technology inside a Wal-Mart. You have information technology inside of your pharmaceutical research houses. It's the entire infrastructure adapting to IT. I think that's really a driving force. It's hidden. You don't see it as a distinct entity but every company is shifting its hiring in that direction."

Hughes predicts that IT will also stimulate the commercial real estate sector. "It will be a locomotive," he says. "If we look at the office sector, we had a slam dunk office market in 1997. Most of the space is gone, so office building has been on the siding now for eight years. We should see more in 1998."

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Commercial Real Estate

Don't expect to hear anything different from any commercial real estate person, says Rutgers' Jim Hughes: "The market's back, it was last year; this year even got stronger. We expect to see more of the same in 1998."

For the time being, it's slim pickings for office space in the Princeton area. "It's very tight," says Steve Tolcash, a broker with Buschman Jackson-Cross. The Lenox Drive-based commercial real estate firm hosts its annual real estate forecast breakfast on Wednesday, January 14, at 8:15 a.m. at Carnegie 101. Call 609-896-1600 for reservations. "The demand has caught up with the supply to a great extent. We've got the Class A vacancy rate tagged at three percent. Class B is slightly under 10 percent."

And if you're trying to grab a large block of space, forget about it, at least until next summer. "The Princeton market only has four blocks of contiguous space greater than 50,000 feet on the market or coming to market," says Tolcash.

By the second or third quarter, there should be some new speculative buildings dotting the landscape, Tolcash reports. "Exit 8A has got over 1 million square feet of speculative distribution space, high-ceilinged warehouse-type space on line for 1998," he says. "It's under construction now." Also, he adds, Nexus Properties is putting up a 60,000-square-foot "spec" building on Alexander Road, which should be up by the second quarter, he adds.

But don't be misled -- the amount of new construction planned for 1998 will barely represent the tip of the iceberg of the office space shortage in the Princeton area. The 1 million square feet at Exit 8A is relatively insignificant in a market that has nearly 26 million square feet, says Tolcash. "A million square feet doesn't represent a large uptake in space," he adds. "You do see speculative construction there but you just don't see a lot of spec. It's not going to get overbuilt like it was in the '80s. This kind of real estate cycle is fueled by true economic demand."

Tolcash points out one other possibility that would pave the way for a glut of quick office space: "A glitch in the economy and the major companies go into a period of layoffs like the early '90s."

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How to Negotiate Better Pay

Most companies tend to take their employees for granted, says Lee E. Miller, author of "Get More Money on Your Next Job: 25 proven strategies for getting more money, better benefits, and greater job security" (McGraw Hill, January 1998, $14.95). He speaks at Encore Books at the Princeton Shopping Center on Tuesday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. Call 609-252-0608.

Most of the book deals with negotiating salaries for a future job, and the more than 27 chapter titles include "Creating Red Herring Issues," "Looking for Exceptions," "Making the Company Negotiator Look Good," "Silence is Golden: When to Let the Other Side Talk," "When You're Unemployed: How to Gain Bargaining Leverage Even If You Think You Have None," and "How to Win by Conceding." But Miller does devote one chapter to preparing for your current job's performance review (see page 15). He offers these tips:

Continuously market yourself both inside and outside the company. Without appearing to be self-promoting, make sure key people throughout the company, especially your boss, know what you are accomplishing.

Make your boss look good. Make sure you give priority to the projects your boss considers important. If your boss needs something, make sure to deliver it promptly and make sure it is correct. You want to be what athletes call the "go-to-person," the person you want to get the ball to when you're in the final seconds of the game and need to score.

Share credit for your successes with your boss and with the people who helped you achieve those successes. Your boss will then fight for you when it comes to determine salary increases, and those who work for you will continue to help you in the future.

Communicate your successes to your boss on a regular basis. Executive coaches teach clients to work on developing a relationship with their boss which allows them just to call up or drop by and matter of factly deliver the news whenever something good happens.

Several months before your performance review, find a way to outline for your boss what you have accomplished during the past year. That time frame is soon enough that it will not appear that you are trying directly to affect the outcome.

Learn new skills that are needed by the organization. If you are considered to be a valuable employee but a promotion is not forthcoming, you are still likely to get a sizable raise to assuage your feelings and to keep you from leaving. You can always revisit the issue of a promotion at a later date.

Seek out additional responsibilities. When a company president abruptly resigned, an executive vice president offered to take responsibility for several more departments. When a new president was appointed, she continued to supervise two of the departments that had temporarily reported to her and was given a significant salary increase.

Be aware of your market value. Test the waters in the job market frequently. Play an active role in trade associations. Meet executive recruiters, particularly when you are not looking for a job.

If the company fails to recognize your true market value despite your best efforts, you may want to explore the possibility of changing employers.

An alumnus of Rutgers, Class of 1973, Miller went to Harvard Law and is an adjunct professor at Seton Hall's Stillman School of Business. He has been a partner in a major employment law firm and cochairman of employment practice at Shanley & Fisher, and he has represented such clients as American Express, the National Football League Management Council, and the United States Golf Association. He just left a job as senior vice president of human resources at Barneys New York to be a consultant with Westfield-based Advanced Human Resources Group (908-789-3393). In addition to salary negotiations, he also does training in performance management, hiring and firing, sexual harassment, and career coaching for high level executives.

For most clients Miller works in the background, advising a job hunter on what to say and do next. Where it makes sense to bring in an intermediary is to take a very aggressive position. "If the company reacts negatively to the positions being taken by a professional on your behalf, you are free to disavow them," says Miller. "If it really goes south, you can fire the attorney. This is what the CIA calls maintaining `deniability.'"

Miller says that to use the services of a negotiator might cost $250 an hour for consulting on how to get the best deal for a junior level position, or a flat fee of $2,500 to work on a CEO's behalf -- or $14.95 to buy the book. "What's most fun to me is when the person I've helped recognizes that I've added value," says Miller. "And when I hear from people who have read my book. One person wrote, `I decided it was time to ask my boss for a raise and I got more money than I was going to ask for.'"

The best negotiation strategy is to build your position to bring you to a different salary range. "Explore ways of getting additional responsibilities built into the job," suggests Miller.

The worst negotiation mistake is when the company makes you an offer and you accept it, he says. "Most companies don't lead off with their final offer. Rarely does the company give you the absolute bottom line. When a company does, if you are smart, you will know that." Says Miller: "There is always wiggle room. Even in a situation where there is a budget, there is room to structure it."

-- Barbara Fox

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Year 2000 Predictions

The new hit movie "Titanic" makes clear that the luxury liner was doomed because of several key oversights by the boat's builders and by the White Star cruise line, which thought it could race through the glacier-ridden waters in record time and at the same time cut costs by reducing the number of unneeded lifeboats (gasp). Then, after the 'berg struck the fatal blow, the fact that the ship was doomed wasn't perceived until a mere hour or two before it began its descent into the icy waters of the Atlantic.

Like the Titanic, the world's computer infrastructure has been struck by a veritable iceberg -- the Year 2000 problem, which as everybody already knows will occur on January 1, 2000, when all the two-digit date fields in creation will cause computers the world over to start spazzing out.

The problem of the moment is, while the Year 2000 problem has been largely accepted, there still is a considerable lack of knowledge about the depth of the Year 2000 problem. And some experts predict that 1998 will see a lot of business owners getting awfully frantic over this. One of them is Steve Heffner, president of the Montgomery Commons-based computer consulting firm Pennington Systems. "A lot of companies that are already addressing the issue are going to realize that they don't have enough time and will start to panic," he predicts.

The Princeton ACM/IEEE Computer Society hosts Heffner on Thursday, January 15, at 8 p.m. at the Sarnoff Corporation auditorium. Cost: free. Call 609-924-8704. Also Amper Consulting will be hosting a Year 2000 seminar on Monday, January 26, at its offices at 2055 Lincoln Highway in Edison. Call 732-287-1000 for more information.

Heffner, who taught on the Wharton Business School faculty for 13 years until 1994, was a past chairman of the IEEE Computer Society's Princeton section. His 20-year-old firm makes automated tools to perform computer functions (including XTRAN, which assists in the Y2K process).

His speech, "Armageddon Worried about the Year 2000: How I Learned to Love the Millennium Bomb," uses Biblical references and an adaptation of a line in the mordant Peter Sellers comedy, "Dr. Strangelove." Here are some of his Y2K predictions for 1998:

The Y2K spotlight will finally pierce the preternatural darkness of the universe of embedded systems. The first systems to get attention will be items like emergency systems. "Emergency systems are date sensitive but are high profile and probably won't be too much of a problem," says Heffner. "Everybody talks about hospital ICU wards going berserk and killing people but I don't think so."

But he adds that lower profile gadgets like watches, manufacturing machinery, warehousing automation, jet airline engines, and even retail point-of-sale machines might get left out of the inventories companies do when they begin their Y2K compliance efforts. "People don't realize how many embedded systems are out there," says Heffner. "A lot of people haven't looked at the code for four or five years. People are going to forget that they even have them."

The more sophisticated companies will realize that the Y2K problem is really a reflection of a bigger problem: bad codes. "The problem is actually not the two digits; it's the shape the world's code is in," says Heffner. "Most experts estimate that 90 percent of the code in the world is in bad shape. What the Year 2000 problem does is, it forces substantial changes to almost all existing code. When code is changed, if it's not robust, it breaks. There are a lot of programming shops that are scared to death to touch their code. The situation is like building on a fault line with shoddy construction techniques: you're fine until the earthquake hits. People don't realize just how many bugs there are in code."

Some of the panic will be calmed by the use of automated Y2K agents. "The problem with that is even if you have the money to pay for it you don't have enough time," says Heffner. "You can't find enough COBOL programmers to do the job. What it's going to take is automated systems. More people realize it's the only possibility for getting the job done in time."

The total Y2K bill will go up. In 1997 the experts were estimating the total cleanup would cost $600 billion. Now some are upping that figure to $1 trillion. Heffner agrees with them.

The Y2K world will get even more litigious. The projected bill is now hovering around $100 billion, and Heffner predicts that the legal issues will eventually get to the core of the issue. "If the users of computer programs point the finger at the missing two digits of the year, the programmers will say `You never said the code should be usable through the year 2000!'" he says. "But I think the real litigation issue will turn out to be not so much the missing digits as the sorry condition of the code." But regardless of the outcome, lawyers will do well, he says.

Some Y2K-like computer chaos will commence early. Heffner explains that too many programmers have been in the habit of affixing the numerals "99" to signify unknown dates in programs. Guess what? The time to pay that particular bill is just around the corner. "Most of the software in the world doesn't have that long a view on time," he says.

Since the Y2K problem is unique to human history, be prepared for any range of consequences. "It is a condition that has never occurred in code before, because we didn't have code in 1900," he says. "This is the first time in the history of programming we've had a change in century, much less a change in the millennium. "

So, for 1998, at least, the key is to do away with denial and get to work. But in some ways, Heffner warns, this goes against the grain of programming instinct. "A programmer doesn't want to admit to his boss that the code's in bad shape."

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Quality New Jersey

Unlike the ISO 9000 certifications that some firms are required to comply with in order to compete in certain markets, a firm can choose whether to compete for the quality award known as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. "The good thing about Baldrige standards is that they have a set of core values, and if you don't believe in core values you don't have to play the game. All the ISO ideas are included in Baldrige, but it has much more -- such as how you deal with people and leadership," says Richard Serfass, executive director of Quality New Jersey.

Quality New Jersey is one of the 53 state and city organizations that established quality programs. It is an all-volunteer nonprofit that offers New Jersey businesses quality management and continuous improvement programs. It uses the national Baldrige standards, as decreed by the federal Commerce Department and approved by Congress. National categories include small business, large business, and service businesses, but New Jersey also has categories for education, health care, and government.

Those who want to embark on the quality voyage can take classes at a Central Jersey location. An orientation to the award process is Thursday, January 22, and costs $40 for non-members. It repeats February 18 and October 22. You'll learn about the Baldrige categories and their "excellence indicators," identify priorities for performing an organizational self assessment, review application requirements, and study how the feedback report can be used for self improvement.

A self-assessment workshop is for an organization that plans to start a management program based on the NJQAA/Baldrige criteria -- or for ambitious people who want to school themselves in a job-enhancing skill. It costs $74 for non-members and is given January 20, April 21, July 21, and October 20.

To learn how to actually write the application, attend a $40 seminar on January 29, February 25, or October 29. Call 609-777-0940; fax 609-777-2798, E-mail rserfass@recom.com.

Need inspiration before you sign up? Quality New Jersey's 278-page Networking Directory contains names and profiles of businesses that have successfully used business improvement practices, organized by business categories, with a section on continuous-improvement resources. By profiling successful organizations and identifying the business management tools they have used, the directory helps other organizations by giving them names of companies they can use as benchmarking and networking partners. To get a $38 copy, send a check (payable to Quality New Jersey) to Paul DeBaylo Associates, Box 3767, Princeton 08543, or call 609-497-1992.

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Schmooze by Rail

What February would be complete without the New Jersey Chamber's train ride to Washington? This year's is Thursday, February 5, and will definitely vie for networking event of the year. Imagine being sequestered cheek-to-jowl with 1,200 business executives and government officials, as well as special guest Morley Safer of 60 Minutes' fame, who will be hobnobbing his way up and down the cars as it hurtles to the nation's capital. The train leaves Newark at 11:15 a.m. Stops include Metro Park, New Brunswick, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Wilmington.

The full ticket costs $375 and includes the state chamber's reception and dinner honoring New Jersey's Congressional delegation at the Sheraton Washington Hotel with entertainment by Mark Russell, the political satirist.

For information, call the state chamber at 609-989-7888. The train returns late the next morning, and post-dinner hospitality suites and breakfasts happen at the hotel are all part of the tradition. Guests are encouraged to reserve rooms in the Sheraton Washington (202-328-2900).

Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com -- the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.