HomeMedford NewsMedford Arts Center prepares for the holidays

Medford Arts Center prepares for the holidays

The Medford Arts Center helps run the Dickens Festival and also does a whole lot more.

The festival, which takes place Dec. 3, includes Santa arriving by horse-drawn carriage at 6 p.m. to kick off the event along with musical entertainment, crafts, foods, and the lighting of the holiday tree at the gazebo.

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Janet Jackson-Gould, chairperson of the center, said they have already begun decorating for the event.

“We think it’s important to the main street and downtown here,” she said.

One unique thing the center is doing is having artists create 2.5” x 3” trading cards that hang on the center’s holiday tree. Visitors are encouraged to take one from the tree and leave one of their own.

Storyteller Betsy Gravatt will be in the art center telling stories during the Dickens Festival.

There will be an opening reception the night before the Dickens Festival on Friday, Dec. 2. The show will be juried and awards will be given.

The center has about 250 members, 150 of them being artists or photographers. They are encouraged to hang work so people might buy them for holiday presents.

“It’s a joyful season” for everyone, Jackson-Gould said. “It’s just great to have people stop in and celebrate with the arts, create things.”

On Dec. 11 professional singer Valerie Vaughn will play guitar and lead a sing a long with toddlers to first graders. While she plays, the children will play instruments and sing songs from holidays around the world.

Walter Urban, chairman of the Medford Cultural Arts Commission said the entity was appointed by council “many, many years ago” to create an environment for the arts to thrive in the township.

He said the center’s building allows for all kinds of art, including performing, to flourish. The vision started when he was first elected to council in 2000.

“I think now that there is a place where artists can come and gather, we have a Mecca, a destination place,” Urban said, noting it is an “anchor” for artists who want to share ideas and display talents.

While the center hosts small events to raise funds, its biggest fundraiser is comedy night. In the spring it hosts an art and antiques appraisal luncheon.

The center also got a $5,000 grant from the county this year.

Jackson-Gould said the center started the year with $18,000 in the bank. It now has $19,000.

She said the center will finish year in the black and always has.

There are also significant corporate sponsors for events. The center also welcomes in-kind donations like computers, printers, and vacuum cleaners.

“We’re very fortunate to have that level of community support,” Jackson-Gould said.

“We could be very easily a jumping off point for economic development going forward as the town expands its business model,” Urban said. “We are strategically and tactically located right here in the center of town.”

Jackson-Gould said she sees the center as more of a community center for the arts.

The center has partnered with many organizations, including South Jersey Acoustical Roots music group which meets there monthly as does South Jersey mixed media artist group. Medford Celebrates foundation meets there as well.

“We like to share the facilities with other organizations,” Jackson-Gould said. “I think that helps everybody in town.”

“It’s penny wise and dollar foolish to think of us as a drain on the economy of the town,” Urban said, noting it brings people to Medford.

The center has only been in its present building at 18 N. Main Street for two-and-a-half years. Prior to that it had no central location to have classes or host music concerts.

“It’s really given us a base to expand the arts in Medford” and increased participation in the arts, Jackson-Gould said. “We try and bring feet to the street.”

She said one item on her wish list is to have the center buy the building. It currently leases it from the “Burlington County Times.”

“We love this building we’d love to have it as a permanent home,” Jackson-Gould said.


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