Celebrating SOMA Artists: the Smart, the Strong, the Creative

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South Orange and Maplewood have a strong reputation for being communities that embrace all forms of the arts. Local artists find a welcoming home here, and residents have an almost embarrassing plethora of arts-related events and activities available at their doorstep.

On Sunday, the arts in all their glory will be celebrated at the 3rd Annual Maplewood Art Walk & Music Fest. A day-long, free event that features professional artists, photographers and jewelry craft artisans from throughout New Jersey displaying and selling their handcrafted work, the ArtWalk features as its centerpiece a juried fine art show.

“This community is alive with artists from many disciplines,” said Julie Doran, manager of the Maplewood Village Alliance — which along with the town’s Department of Cultural Affairs is hosting the event — in a previous article. “The town has a strong arts community that works together to ensure that a wide variety of artistic skills are showcased properly. This day combines the best of the arts and businesses in our area.”

This year, the juried show will be judged by two prominent members of the local art community, Sandy Martiny and Tricia Laughlin Bloom.

The winner will receive a $250 cash prize; the runner-up will receive a $150 gift certificate from Restaurant Lorena’s.

Sandy Martiny

Sandy Martiny

“Last year was the first year I went to the ArtWalk and I have to say the whole event was very, very charming,” said Martiny, director of cultural affairs and the director of the Pierro Gallery for the Village of South Orange. “I loved the whole set up and the way the local businesses got involved each in their own enthusiastic way. And I bought a lot of art! It was hard to say no to anything I saw, so when I was asked to judge the show, how could I refuse?”

Martiny, who lives in Jersey City, said one of the biggest reasons she chose to work here is SOMA’s reputation as an arts community.

“I really wanted to do community oriented work in the arts, and when I saw this job listed I remembered several artists I knew who had shown at the Pierro Gallery and they had had very positive experiences there,” said Martiny. “I also knew several creative people from Hoboken who had moved to South Orange and Maplewood. I was very excited to have the opportunity to work in a community that values the arts so highly.”

Martiny said the job has deepened her appreciation of the high level of commitment and personal artistic achievement artists here exhibit.

Bloom, associate curator of exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, has lived in Maplewood since 2006 and has taught at Rutger’s University and New School for Social Research. She agreed to be a judge because she wanted to get to know what local artists are up to, and to become more involved in her community.

Tricia Bloom

Tricia Bloom

“I have a sense that the SOMA art community is heterogeneous, smart and strong,” said Bloom. “Most artists I know are committed to their practice and finding ways to make it work often against the odds, both economic and existential–living so close to NYC brings advantages and also challenges.”

While she and her family didn’t move here specifically for the arts community, Bloom feels the practicing local artists she knows are the “creative backbone of this community, something the towns should honor and celebrate.”

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