In the Galleries

Art in Town

Art On Campus

Other Museums

Art In Trenton

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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the December 20, 2000

edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Peggy Lewis: ABC of the Arts

Word of her writing and editing prowess, and her fine

art savvy, reaches you long before you meet her. The drumbeat says

she’s a consummate professional, a perfectionist. Oh, great. Only

the news that she doesn’t suffer fools gladly leaves your confidence

intact — after all, you may have arrived on the scene well after

her, but your momma didn’t raise no fool. So, wisely or not, you rush

in to interview and write about her.

Peggy Lewis, longtime Lambertville resident, and writer, editor,


poet, arts patron, has feathery silver hair, keenly bright eyes, and

a throaty laugh that comes often. Where the visual arts are concerned,

she has long since "been there, done that" — and she’s

still doing it.

The familiar refrain goes like this: "Peggy already took care

of it. She’s handling this. Peggy would know. That’s her job."

In short, in Lambertville, the name you often hear, and the name to

know, is "Peggy Lewis." A can-do, even take-charge manner,

and a tendency to say, "Well, I can do that. Let me do it"

typify her approach. She can be outspoken and to the point. But, say

any number of artists, gallery owners and museum reps who know Lewis,

that’s merely a reflection of the high standards that mark her work

and her dealings. She has, as they say and her commitments bear out,

a profound respect for the arts and artists. And with that, the


heart of gold.

Lewis’s retirement from New Jersey state service more than a decade

ago served only to give her more time for what she seems to have done

all her life: cultivate art and artists. Today, pretty much confined

to her home, but not complaining and not quitting, she’s often called

upon to do art commentary and publicity. She keeps abreast of art

currents, and undercurrents, and draws on her many years’ involvement

in the art world for her observations and ideas. One admirer cites

her "feisty spirit," saying she "can be fierce if she

thinks someone’s false or foolish."

She also reads widely — currently, it’s Sylvia Plath’s unabridged

journals; "Dreamcatcher," a daughter’s look at J.D. Salinger;

an art book about Cornish artist Terry Frost; recently, it was the

entire Harry Potter series — and she continues to collect art,

some of which goes back to her days as a gallery owner, first in New

York, then in New Hope. She is the prime mover behind the ABC Gallery,

in Lambertville’s Public Library, where what started as the Michael

Lewis art book collection (ABC), in memory of her late husband, soon

evolved into a gallery space too. With her friend, artist Barry


Lewis reviews slides and looks at the work ("in the flesh")

to select artists for six-week shows at ABC.

Calling the gallery "a good example of her care," Snyder notes

that while money made on art sales comes back to the library as art

books and videos, he knows Lewis supplements the collection with her

own purchases. "In a quiet way, she’s a patron of artists, a


to the art community in general," he says. Even now, she writes

and edits art exhibition catalogs for diverse sites ranging from the

James Michener Art Museum to Rider University. "A lot of places

use her as a checker," Snyder adds. "She’s a very brilliant

lady at editing. She’s like a computer, how she goes through


for punctuation."

Nancy Dallaire, now public information officer at the New Jersey State

Museum, and for nearly 10 years before that Lewis’s colleague at the

New Jersey Historical Commission, concurs. She still contacts Lewis

with thorny punctuation questions — "I was on the phone with

her today," she mentioned the afternoon when we talked about


Occasioning some of those calls, they still swap book tips and confer

on crossword puzzle answers.

Until her mid-20s, Lewis lived in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was

born Peggy ("not Margaret") Elaine Kaufman in 1918. An only

child, she was raised by her father, Frank, "a 50-year man in

advertising with the Baltimore Sun," and mother, Rose, who had

a dress shop and whose preoccupation with fashion ultimately prompted

Lewis’s strong disdain for it and related fripperies as a waste of


Lewis’s early interest in art was stoked in Saturday school at the

Maryland Institute of Art — for $15 a year, she recalls. Later,

when she could attend after school and Saturdays, the annual fee


to $7.50 because she was then seen as "more serious." Her

cultural upbringing also included piano lessons at the Peabody


and proximity to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Also nearby, Druid Hill

Park sparked both her interest in druids and eventual travels to


besides housing a zoo. "When the lions roared, our whole apartment


She attended a summer camp in Maine that she describes as "an

arts camp before there were such things" — its counselors

included an expatriate from the Martha Graham dance company —

and graduated from Goucher College with a major in English. That focus

was never intended as a preparation for teaching, Lewis has said,

but it seems to this observer that she actually has taught, time and

again, in her work with others. Then, however, it let her "get

reading in and try writing." Moving from her first job, as an

intake interviewer with the city’s department of public welfare, to

a research position with the Britannica Research Library Service,

in the Library of Congress, Lewis remembers, "We learned ways

to think, how to research — and I thought I’d learned that in


Married in 1945, she moved to New Mexico with her artist-husband,

Michael, then in the army. They lived about seven miles from the army

air base, renting from the Garcia family, whose 11th child was born

the same day President Roosevelt died. "We were in Sante Fe the

day people were discharged from Los Alamos," she recalls.


rushed to town, probably to get drunk."

The couple enjoyed all-day horseback rides in New Mexico’s


country." She had learned to ride English saddle at Goucher —

"When I learned I could take riding as part of gym, I said `thank

god!’ — [till then] gym always meant playing goalie in


Then, in New Mexico, she learned to ride Western: "I always looked

interested so I learned a lot," she says of this and countless

other formative experiences.

By the time the Lewises left for New York, she had also learned about

watercolor painting. They lived in Greenwich Village, at Charles and

Fourth Streets, and when a friend observed, "You have two


— you can have a gallery," voila: "Charles-Fourth,"

a venue for debut artists was founded. "It was an address


Lewis says. "We thought it would help people find the place. It

didn’t. They thought we sold antiques." Saying, "You can’t

have a gallery if you don’t know how to write a press release,"

her sister-in-law taught her how to do it. Lewis remembers this as

an exciting time to be in New York, with summers in Westport,


As housing grew too expensive, the Lewises starting looking outside

New York, settling first in Raven Rock, then New Hope, where


was reincarnated: "This time we showed modern" — graphics,

contemporary china, stainless steel flatware, furniture samples, like

an Eames chair, and fabrics. Active in the community, Lewis for seven

years spent a day a week in the area high school, supplementing the

full-time writing teachers. "I spoke to the kids like an editor.

I taught them to edit themselves, and I also taught some of them the

things they should have known."

In the ’70s, the Lewises — by then with four children, William,

Peter, Nora, and Carol — moved to Lambertville, where as a


with the community weekly newspaper, the Beacon, Peggy started

an arts page and was a special writer for the Trenton Times arts page.

She also held an editing role with Bucks County Life magazine.

In early 1993, Lewis hosted a meeting of artists


about creating an area art center. While neither that facility nor

an art school was ever realized, what soon became known as


was born. In the years since, the small group that met at Lewis’s

home has grown into an organization of some 400 members, mostly visual

artists, joined by writers, musicians, and performance artists.


sponsors a couple sizeable exhibitions each year, including last


cutting-edge juried show at Prallsville Mills. It recently moved its

administrative functions into the one-time linseed house at


Mills, gaining exhibit space in the process. The organization also

produces an annual publication for its writer-members, and opens


meetings to the public.

For some 20 years, Lewis worked in Trenton, first doing public


and editing at the State Museum, and then much the same with the


Commission. Dallaire, her former associate, remembers her innovative

use of color and design, and how she encouraged experimentation.


has an eye," Dallaire says, "and she helped train my eye.

She’s honest in her critique and helpful in her suggestions."

The Lewises first visited Cornwall, on England’s west coast, in the

mid-’80s, and for three summers, Dallaire visited them there. "It

was like a salon," she says. "Artists came to see them (Peggy

and Michael, whom she remembers as a `one of a kind,’ and `a fabulous

cook’), and wherever they went, doors were open. They got to meet

the most wonderful people. They visited artists’ studios and


and they introduced me. They were always generous with their contacts.

Everything was an adventure."

Both photographers, Lewis and Dallaire captured images of their


visits. These came into play when in 1988, Lewis — who had come

to know a number of artists whose work she admired — coordinated

an exhibition of work by "12 Cornish Artists and Two


in the Artfull Eye Gallery, Lambertville. Describing her as


collector, inveterate gallery- and museum-goer," the then fine

arts curator at the New Jersey State Museum lauded her for introducing

the work in "The Cornish Collection." Although her hope for

an art-show exchange, whereby work by Lambertville-area artists would

be shown in Cornwall, did not materialize, Lewis had the satisfaction

of bringing Cornwall to Hunterdon County, in both the art shown and

in the person of one participating artist who spent about a month


Neither Lewis’s outreach nor her compassion is limited by location.

Barry Snyder mentions her sensitivity to unknown artists and artists

in general. Some time ago, from the annual "Neediest" drive

in the New York Times, Lewis and he each identified a New York City

artist who was sick and down on his luck, and decided to help. Each

did so; with her daughters, Nora and Carol, Lewis arranged a


benefit and silent auction. Ever since, Lewis and "Max" have

kept in touch, and his work was featured recently in the ABC Gallery.

Of her own artistic skill, Lewis says, "I paint, I’ve even had

things in shows, but I know where my work belongs," while Snyder

speaks of her "delicate watercolors and drawings." Also a

poet, she says only that she writes poetry "not everyday, but

I’m always at it, occasionally."

It takes Elaine Restivo, editor of the annual "River"


to say, "If it weren’t for Peggy and her encouragement," to

mention she’s associate editor, and she publishes poems and drawings

in each edition. Snyder sums it up: Peggy Lewis doesn’t self-promote,

she doesn’t talk up her own art or work, and she doesn’t complain

about her health — which lately has limited her physical scope,

though not her influence.

On the subject of influence, both Lewis the English major and Lewis

the professional might identify with the title of one poem, Bret


"Plain Language from Truthful James," and this philosophy

from "The Code" of Robert Frost:

The hand that knows his business won’t be told

To do work better or faster — those two things.

— Pat Summers

ABC Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street,

609-397-0275. An exhibit of works by members of the Hunterdon


Society. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday

1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 5.

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In the Galleries

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Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street,


"Sauce for the Goose," the annual holiday fine art and craft

sale. Proceeds benefit children’s art scholarships. Sale hours are

Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4:30 p.m.

To December 23.

Borders Books, 601 Nassau Park, 609-514-0040. In the Cafe

Expression, an exhibit of oils and pastels by Helen Post, on view

through December 31. Artist’s reception is Friday, December 22, from

7 to 9 p.m.

Firebird Gallery, 16 Witherspoon Street, 609-688-0775.

A holiday exhibit of original watercolors by the Russian-born


Gennady Spirin from two new picture books: "Philipok" by Leo

Tolstoy, and "Joy to the World, a Family Christmas Treasury."

His exquisitely detailed watercolor also graces the playbill and


for McCarter Theater’s new production of "A Christmas Carol."

Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To January


Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Old Traditions, New Beginnings,"

a major exhibition celebrating 250 years of Princeton Jewish history,

jointly presented and exhibited at the Jewish Center of Princeton.

This is the first-ever exhibit on the history of Princeton’s Jewish

community, scheduled to coincide with the Jewish Center’s 50th


Topics addressed include early arrivals, family life, social


work and business pursuits, religious traditions, and anti-Semitism.

On view through March.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street,


Dining room exhibit of works by Pennsylvania resident artist Susan

Ketcham. Part of the proceeds benefit the Medical Center. On view

8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, to January 18.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, Moore Street,

609-683-4480. The new student-run professional gallery features,


an exhibition of photographs by Ricardo Barros, featuring a series

of environmental portraits of artists currently being developed as

a book. All profits from sale of works go directly to PHS art


Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment

from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Show runs to January 5.

Numina, a Latin word that means "sacred space," is a gallery

space salvaged from a neglected and under-used space overlooking the

school’s visual arts studios. Faculty advisor John Kavalos, in his

fifth year teaching at PHS, says his own high school education


him of the art education he desired. "The visual arts faculty

at PHS does not want our students to have that disadvantage. We want

to satisfy all of their needs to fulfill their obligations to their

love of art — in any and every possible way."

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Witnessing to the Word," a group

show featuring the work of sculptor Patrick Birge, potter Patrick

Caughy, and painter Patrick Ellis. The artists met through a


of theological schools. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.

to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9:30 p.m. To January


The Williams Gallery, 8 Chambers Street, 609-921-1142.

First day for "The Familiar and Not So Familiar," an exhibit

of works by digital artist Roman Verostko that includes traditional

landscapes and still lifes to futuristic visions of space and nature.

Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery

will close for the holidays, December 23 to January 2. Show continues

to January 27.

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Art On Campus

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788.


Language: Small-Scale Sculpture after 1950," an exhibition that

complements the newly-dedicated Richard Serra sculpture on the


campus, selected from the permanent collection. Artists include


Calder and Kenneth Snelson, Leo Steppat, Jasper Johns, Barry Bertoia,

Poly Bury, Anthony Caro, George Segal, Jonathan Shahn, Claes


and Christopher Wilmarth; to December 30. On extended view in the

Bowen Gallery, Richard Serra’s "Weight and Measure" etchings.

Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free

tours of the collection are every Saturday at 2 p.m. Free.

Also: "American Drawings from Copley to O’Keeffe," to December

30; "Contemporary Photographs," to January 7; "Dutch


in the Golden Age, an exhibition of Old Master drawings, to January


Princeton University, Firestone Library,


The Graduate School continues its centennial with the exhibition


Community of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton," an


of more than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts that chronicle

the evolution of graduate studies. To April 8.

Princeton University, Milberg Gallery, Firestone

Library, 609-258-5049. "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," a portrait

of the spirited, affluent Parisian society manifest in the printmaking

technique known as "pochoir." The show features 100 color

prints, including a folio by Matisse, reflecting the era of jazz,

tango, high fashion, and modern art. To April 8.

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Other Museums

American Hungarian Museum, 300 Somerset Street, New


732-846-5777. "Herend: Hungarian Porcelain at its Finest,"

an exhibition of hand-painted porcelain pieces created since the


founding in 1839. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to

4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Show runs to February 25. $5 donation.

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street,


215-340-9800. The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism.

Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest bequeathed 59 paintings that tell the

story of the renowned art colony, centered in New Hope, in the early

20th Century. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday &

Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. Exhibit

continues through February 11. Museum admission $5; $1.50 students.

Also, "In Line with Al Hirschfeld," a retrospective


Hirschfeld’s life, career, and the history of the performing arts.

Exhibit, with accompanying lecture, tour, and film series, runs


February 11. "Carved, Incised, Burnished and Gilded: The Bucks

County Framemaking Tradition," featuring 50 objects which tell

the story of a small but well regarded group of frame artists led

by Frederick Harer and Ben Badura; to March 18.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,

New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10

a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. $3 for adults

age 18 and up; free for children and students; admission is free on

the first Sunday of each month. Gallery is closed only on Christmas

and New Year’s Day.

Inaugural exhibitions include: "Michael Mazur: A Print


covering a 40-year span of the artist’s career, to February 16.


in Contemporary American Printmaking," to February 18.


and Utopias: Abstract Painting from the Dodge Collection," to

January 14. "Opening Up: A Half-Century of Artistic Dialogue


Japan and the West" (ongoing). And "A World of Stage: Designs

for Theater, Opera, and Dance from the Riabov Collection," to

March 31.

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Art In Trenton

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436.


and Desire," a seasonal group show by TAWA artists, featuring

more than 70 multi-media works. Show continues to Thursday, December

21. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 9:30

a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park,


"What a Combo!," a shared show by Mel Leipzig and Vince


Leipzig is a professor of art at Mercer County Community College and

his paintings are in collections at the New Jersey State Museum, Yale

Art Gallery, Newark Public Library, and the White House Collection.

Ceglia is retired from 28 years teaching at MCCC and Trenton Junior

College; his paintings can be found at Penn State University, James

A. Michener Art Museum, and Educational Testing Service. To January


Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall-Winter Exhibition: "James Dinerstein: New


recent works in cast bronze; "Outstanding Student Achievement

in Contemporary Sculpture." Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to

9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission is $4


through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday.

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