Voorhees Arts Council celebrates one year

At its birthday celebration Friday, June 28, the Voorhees Arts Center and Gallery looked forward to more years working with local artists

Nearly thirty pieces of carefully crafted artwork, ranging from paintings to stained glass, sit on display in the Voorhees Town Center on Friday, June 28.

Amid years of rumors of redevelopment with the former Echelon Mall, which now displays several empty storefronts, a hidden gem inside the town center continues to draw crowds due to its uniqueness and style.

The night, highly attended by township officials, artists and South Jersey residents, is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Voorhees Arts Center and Gallery, a nonprofit that displays unique, one-of-a-kind gifts from the hands of local artists.

In approximately one year, the Voorhees Arts Center, run by co-chairs Marianne Leone and Natalie Sutherland, has amassed a solid following on social media, using it to display art submissions and promote the more than 20 special events it has held over the past 12 months.

“I feel like we really hit the ground running and we didn’t even have the space at first,” said Sutherland. “But now, in under a year, not only do we have a space, but we have really developed a thriving art community in Voorhees. We’re absolutely thrilled and proud of where we are right now.”

Now on this Friday night, the center celebrates the culmination of 12 months of hard work. The center is popular enough with artists to have a waitlist for them to have their unique work displayed on one of the shelves. With events like this, the center is able to welcome in residents to see for themselves the artwork, and artists who created it.

Jack Denby McGovern has been working with the Voorhees Arts Center since its inception, displaying artwork in both the center and along the gallery, while also volunteering to assist in its artwork programs.

McGovern was also one of the 30 artists displaying artwork in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Voorhees Arts Center and Gallery. With the selected theme of all submissions being “Firsts,” his work was his first-ever total collage piece, using a book titled “Anatomy of the Artist,” given to him by a friend, to use watercolor to paint the human body on separate pages before connecting them later in a frame.

“I typically do work with the human figure, so that’s what ended up coming out and it worked out perfectly for this show,” said McGovern. “I’ve done collages before but it’s just something that I’m kind of pulling into now.”

Having been involved in various ways with the center and gallery over the past year, McGovern says Voorhees Township is lucky to have such a program in its midst.

“It’s just phenomenal,” said McGovern. “It adds another dimension to the culture of the town.”

Stacie Cantu submitted “Snowy Owl – First Morning Light,” a white owl looking out of the painting while sunrise dawns behind it from the depths of the ocean in the background. Cantu in month’s prior has helped orchestrate bird walks with Sustainable Gibbsboro and Sustainable Voorhees, with her love for birds being one of the reasons why an owl found its way into her painting.

Cantu frequently takes pictures of birds, trying to get as many different angles as possible of the bird itself while not focusing on what’s in the background. After taking pictures, she reviews as many as possible to get a complete image of what a specific bird looks like before taking her skills to the paint.

Cantu said she was amazed at the turnout that the reception drew from residents and artists.

“It’s really nice to see so many people that are interested,” said Cantu. “I’m impressed by the number of people that are here because I didn’t think there would be that many … it’s a Friday night in the summer, I thought a lot of people would be away, but a lot of people came out to see what’s here.”

Residents who follow the Voorhees Arts Council on Facebook were able to vote for a winner in the people’s choice category, with Risa Dera’s “First Ascent” stained glass piece of a hippopotamus winning at the birthday celebration, which was actually bought during the night.

Dera, who had previously worked with Leone at another art center, says she is a big supporter of art initiatives being promoted and supported by residents as times continue to get tough for funding in schools.

“I’m a real big supporter of kids in the arts, especially since it’s been cut from a lot of schools, so any time I can get involved with kids programs and showing them the arts, I’ll do anything that I can,” said Dera.

In the in-person voting during the birthday celebration, Kim Clay’s “Dawn of a New Day” won first place, while Robin Brownfield’s “Tree Spirit” won second place, as well as peoples choice at the event, and Bonnie Rovere’s “The Naturalist’s Shack” won third place.

The Voorhees Arts Center and Gallery displays artwork of all kinds in the Voorhees Town Center at its shop located in the back of the food court. For more information, visit www.voorheesartscouncil.org. The Arts of the Boulevard Summer Exhibit is currently on display in the Voorhees Town Center.