By Rebecca Hersh
EDISON – Edison’s visual arts scene is so vibrant that the paint barely dries up on a colorful initiative when a new touch of visual enjoyment appears in a new location in town.
The artistic hand producing all this activity is the Edison Arts Society (EAS), which since 2013 has operated under the leadership of President Gloria Dittman. Even though EAS’s initiatives include theatrical and musical performances, Dittman admits a special affinity for the visual arts that continually inspires her to create projects that bring joy to residents and visitors.
The approximately 45 members of EAS, many of whom are visual artists, make Dittman’s work “easy – a wealth of artistic riches to choose from,” she said.
Current and immediate future exposures include:
- June 30: David Ward, solo art exhibition, EAS Gallery
- August 31: Margaret Cohen, solo art exhibition, EAS Gallery
- October 28: Arlene & Jules Carallo, joint exhibition, EAS Gallery
- November 23: Len Mesonas, EAS Gallery solo art exhibition
- All summer until fall at the Menlo Park Mall, a second floor display window (former GAP store) features works of art by EAS artists
And then there are the public street art initiatives that have made the city “just come alive” in the words of a visitor, Susan Crowe, as she walks down Amboy Avenue. As a frequent visitor to Edison, she saw how these projects, including the recent piano art project “created an exciting new vibe”.
In June, Dittman worked with Edison Chamber of Commerce president Joe Doyle to marry two art forms and create a public art exhibit. The chamber acquired standing pianos (people donated the pianos to the chamber), Doyle arranged for them to be tuned, and then Dittman organized the decorating project. EAS artists painted them with images of spring / summer gardens – flowers, vines, butterflies, etc. They are now placed along Amboy Avenue in front of various retail stores.
The pianos will remain in place all summer; they are covered at night and in storms.
At the end of the summer, EAS will offer them to stores or perhaps schools, who can use the artistic pianos to foster appreciation of the visual and musical arts among students.
Other public art projects enhancing the city are the murals, which are painted in different neighborhoods in Edison. Over the next two weeks, residents will be able to watch artist Olga Muzician Pacilio paint a mural at a Chinese restaurant on Amboy Avenue.
The city’s most famous mural is located at the entrance to the Edison Administration Building, where the EAS Gallery is located on the second and third floors of the building.
“In 2016, we received approval to improve the entrance to the Edison administration building. Fernando Silva, an international artist residing in Edison, has created more than 400 tiles that form two murals. One mural reflects the beauty of Edison herself and the other pays homage to our namesake – Thomas Alva Edison, ”said Dittman.
EAS, incorporated in September 1998, was created by Angelo Orlando and Catherine Spadoro, who believed Edison needed more culture. Their emphasis was on music – with a full orchestra playing classical music twice a year.
“Since becoming president, EAS has produced a play, ‘Jerry’s Girls’, at the Edison Valley Playhouse. The following year we hosted a concert featuring The British Invasion at Middlesex College to improve our financial base. And we also had a folk concert with a local artist, Mara Levine.
“But as most people know, my passion is the visual arts and using art projects to strengthen community, like working with the Jewish Community Center, Terra Nova Garden Club, Edison Chamber of Commerce and schools, ”Dittman said.
The highlight of connecting with schools is that each March EAS celebrates Student Art Month at Edison. All students can participate, and if their art is sold, EAS takes no commission. Edison TV is filming the event and can be viewed on Channel 15 at Edison.
Dittman warmly thanks Mayor Thomas Lankey for allowing EAS to use the upper floors of the Edison Administration Building as an EAS art gallery. Every two months, EAS sets up a new exhibition featuring the work of a local artist.
“These exhibits are very popular with artists and the entire community,” said Dittman.
Before the pandemic in 2018 and 2019, EAS was creating momentum and visibility not only in Edison but across the region, Dittman said. In 2018, EAS created a sculpture garden, the first sculpture of which was “The Family”. The artwork was designed and built by Fernando Silva – “an immigrant to our country and who reflected his love of the country in his sculpture. There are four characters in the room. The girl holds a dove which represents peace, the young boy holds a book of the US Constitution, and the adults are the same height indicating equality, ”Dittman said.
In 2019, EAS artists painted Adirondack chairs, which were sold as an EAS fundraiser. Ready for an exciting year, EAS’s activity has been brutally thwarted by COVID. But Dittman’s spirit has never been diminished by the pandemic.
In addition to all the art exhibitions, murals and pianos, in 2021, “we hope to install a gazebo in the Sculpture Garden. It would be a wonderful addition where we could have concerts, poetry readings, exhibitions and weddings. The mayor, as part of his responsibilities, arranges wedding ceremonies and a gazebo would be a perfect backdrop, ”said Dittman, who many say is a perfect picture of persevering, 24-hour committed advocacy and 7 days a week and enthusiastic about the arts.