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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Colorfully Capturing Growing Interest – Warren County ARTs (WCARTs)!

Attendees at WCARTs contest at the Oxford municipal building, 11 Green Street, Oxford. Photo by L. Ward, 05/2024.

Recently celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Warren County ARTs organization has seen a surge of interest and membership growth in the last two years.  

WCARTs is a group of artists located in Warren County which began in 1992. The first meeting was held at Shippen Manor in Oxford when the group of originating artists chose a name and elected officers. Jeffrey Kuhlman was the first president. WCARTs became a legal nonprofit soon after. Some beginning members still participating today are Deette Little, Merle Morse and Peggy Niece.

Then-mayor Don Niece agreed to have the first show, “Artistic Visions,” at the Oxford municipal building, where they continue to present with monthly meetings and annually, a judged show. 

 

Hydrangea, oil and acrylic by Pam Dulaff, WCARTs spring contest. Photo by Laura Ward, 05/2024.

Members are from all different persuasions, a diverse group including poets, musicians, sculptors, painters and photographers. WCARTs offers monthly programs to members and non-members, which in two hours offer a peek into different mediums. There has been an uptick in membership and participation, starting with a few members and jumping from 30 to 50 members over the last two years. 

Spring Has Sprung, wild card pastel by Carl A. Ohlsen, WCARTs spring contest. Photo by Laura Ward, 05/2024.

Today’s president of three-plus years has had every position in the organization during her 28-year membership. Hainesburg resident Pamela Dulaff of Knowlton is presently handling the group’s programming, posters, social media and newsletter. 

A 28-year veteran of WCARTs and master of many vital tasks, Hainesburg’s Pamela Dulaff has been president for more than three years. Photo by L. Ward, 05/2024.

Grants come from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“Money in our pocket is how much (we) can ask for from the grant. For example, if WCARTs has $2,000, they can ask for $2,000,” Dulaff said.

The money is used for workshops, operating fees, postage, music, ribbons and programs. 

“WCARTs offers more money than most local groups,” said Dulaff. “Since Oxford doesn’t have an art-centric downtown—we’re really country— we offer more money to encourage and lure in good teachers, compensate well, and be competitive. We’ve had some really good programs with presenters that are professional and skilled. The last was the watercolor instruction with Doris Ettlinger, which sold out.” 

Dulaff began her adventure in art as a young adult in photography. Her father was an engineer and photographer, and her mother was also an artist. Most of her career had been in photography until an epiphany came after a 2018 knee replacement. Dulaff had a sudden urge to paint as though “the anesthesia flipped a switch” and she began painting in bed during convalescence. Now she paints or draws every day.  

Dulaff said that there have been many changes in photography since she began. 

“The cameras were manual with no integrated light meter and light exposure took understanding,” she said. “Now anyone can take a picture with their phone.” 

When asked if she spent a lot on photography equipment throughout her career she said, “I think I put several people at Kodak through their retirement pensions.”

“It’s still a struggle, especially when I see it on Facebook,” Dulaff said about how the art fabric has changed in 25 years. “Local artists, everyone, struggle to get exposure and find venues to show work. I don’t think people appreciate art. When some folks have a flea market mentality, where nothing has any value because there is so much commercial.”  

Dulaff suggested the photography turning point was 9/11. 

“Gradually, things dropped off due to lack of disposable income and fear,”  Dulaff said. “Most of all the world news affects a sense of safety and stability. Certainly, purchasing art is not a life essential. You can’t eat or wear it. Art is the first to get tossed out, certainly in school budgets.” 

When asked about the COVID impact, she said the WCARTs continued programs, not exhibits, but that they did have programs, while wearing masks and physically spacing between people.  

Fun fact: Who says artists can’t be left and right-brained?  

Dulaff worked in Flanders until 2016 as a biochemist, in projects such as robotics and instrument design. However, another project on her list was the building’s interior design. 

Hence, Dulaff began an art gallery in the building showcasing the engineers’ and technicians’ surprising artwork. Each month, new work would be hung and by popular vote, 12 images would be chosen. Dulaff hand-delivered 200 calendars which were received with great appreciation.

Dulaff revealed what she would say if she had to advise the next generation regarding art.

“You have to do what makes you happy, what fills your soul,” she explained. “And have a thick skin. Not everyone will like what you do, but that’s fine.”

Up next: Poetry and art exhibit. The May program on Saturday, May 11, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is poetry readings by Jane Ebihara and Elaine Koplow. It is open to the public and will include an open mic session. The artist reception for this exhibit is Sunday, May 19, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. They will be held at the Oxford municipal building, 11 Green Street in Oxford. 

Visit WCARTs, learn more and find events at http://www.wcarts.org/.

Laura Ward, Contributing Writer

Laura Ward is a gallerist at Infloressense in Belvidere, NJ, whose motto is "poetic synthesis of all the cultural arts." Born in West Orange, NJ, Ward had a unique childhood growing up in a three-story, three-generation, 1895 Victorian where she learned gardening with her great-grandfather, theater with her grandmother, and typing with her mom. Ward spent the last two decades in the architectural design industry, followed by her present pursuit into the entrepreneurial world of art and event planning. Ward lives in the esoteric Delaware Village Historic District and volunteers at Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead. Ward spent 11 years in Florida where she graduated with an English B.A. from FAU and later The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an art history minor.