A showplace for artists of all levels

Pauline Jonas, Deptford Township's art consultant, with a panorama of the Phila. skyline by Ned Barlas.
Pauline Jonas, Deptford Township's art consultant, with a panorama of the Phila. skyline by Ned Barlas. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff)

Deptford's exhibits uplift the art community as well as spectators.

Posted: February 24, 2014

Pauline Jonas, Deptford Township's art consultant, is jazzed about the latest show in the Galleria.

That's the name for the public areas of the Deptford municipal building where work by Photographic Society of Philadelphia members will be displayed through April 2. The show includes 60 pieces by 22 photographers.

"Look at this! Look at this!" says Jonas, 66, guiding me along a first-floor corridor to point out a vivid Philadelphia skyline panorama by photographer Ned Barlas.

"He has positioned himself so perfectly!" Jonas says, with an enthusiasm as expressive as her gestures.

"To have the people of the township see this artwork . . . uplifts them," adds the Thorofare resident and mother of four. "You see the art when you come to pay your taxes. It's a nice way for the township to say thank you."

This Gloucester County suburb of 30,000 - surely more synonymous with shopping than gallery hopping - regularly displays the work of new, emerging, and established artists from throughout the region. The Galleria hosted its first show in 2005 and now mounts five exhibits annually.

"It's a great space," says photographer Jeff Stroud, 61, of Magnolia, who curated the Photographic Society show.

The artists "are looking for that opportunity to sell their work, and to be seen in a different venue, something other than a coffee shop," Stroud notes.

"For me, this is a launching point," says Barlas, 50, an attorney who lives in Bala Cynwyd and exhibited photos for the first time in December.

The Deptford show, his first in New Jersey, "is an opportunity for me to share my art with the public. And it's very nice to get feedback," adds Barlas, who has two other pieces on display.

"Showing is a good way to assess your work," says retiree Susan Ellis, 60, of Carney's Point, Salem County. She's been shooting for 35 years and has three prints, including one of a South Jersey cornfield, on view in Deptford.

The changing exhibits "bring people into the township building," says Mayor Paul Medany, who "can't draw a stick figure" but enjoys the shows. "As far as I know, ours is the only art gallery in the state that's municipally supported."

The support costs Deptford about $6,000 a year. Jonas, who earns $150 a week, sets up the Galleria shows, presents a monthly film series, and organizes 10 field trips to museums and concerts.

About $10,000 - proceeds from the field trips - has been used to acquire 70 paintings and other works of art that make up the township's permanent collection.

Offices and public areas throughout the building feature striking pieces from the collection. Many are by South Jersey artists, including a clever assemblage by Glassboro's Anne Kay created from dryer lint of pastel hues.

And sculptor Steven F. Kilpatrick has lent the Galleria a dramatic, layered bronze sculpture of an angel, now displayed on the busy building's second floor.

Kilpatrick, 56, lives in Woodbury, maintains a studio in Cherry Hill, and is a big fan of the township's arts program. He describes Jonas as "incomparable. . . . Her efforts have helped many artists be recognized."

That sort of comment is music to the ears of the arts consultant, whose voice still carries the accent of her native Brooklyn. That's where her love of arts and culture was born, too.

"Art is food for the spirit," Jonas says. "People can't get enough of beauty. I think beauty is one of the things that will heal the planet."

Starting in Deptford.


kriordan@phillynews.com

856-779-3845 @inqkriordan

www.inquirer.com/blinq

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