More than 40 artists and authors from South Jersey and Philadelphia gathered at Croft Farm Arts Center on May 1 for the first in-person Author and Artist Expo in two years, and its first outdoors.
The event was a joint effort between Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the township and the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association. It featured music and food and the chance to meet and buy from local authors and artists.
“We wanted to showcase local authors and artists because they go unnoticed, and there’s a lot of talent in South Jersey and we really wanted to showcase what we have in our own backyard,” said Joanne Ceaser, president of South Jersey Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
“ … We need to support them,” she added. “Especially post-pandemic – a lot of them didn’t have a venue or time to show their wares.”
While past expos were held at the Cherry Hill Public Library, the number of creators involved has doubled since the event began in 2016, so planners decided on an outdoor setting. Some artists also had live painting demonstrations.
Philadelphia illustrator and fine artist Terrill Johnson’s painting showed two people hugging each other. Called “Fire in My Bosom,” it was inspired by the pandemic.
“The longing for human contact, the longing for human interaction outside of the internet … ,” he noted. “Once we find out our loved ones are still with us, it’s like that embrace. When (people/music/culture) were lacking, it affected my work and how I looked at things.
“But it took me in a different direction,” Johnson added, “and that’s why my work looked colorful, because I was pushing for that positive energy.”
Event attendees could circle the courtyard and stop inside the various studios that make up the arts center to see 3D artists with more tangible art like sculptures made of paper mache and jewelry. One of the studios housed members of the Society for Poets of Southern New Jersey.
In the main barnhouse were rows of authors with books on display, including autobiographies, poetry, children’s titles and devotional books. Cherry Hill author Haleh Resnick’s children’s series “Think Again” was designed to encourage kids to think outside the box. In one book, the same character appears in varied contexts to represent different things.
“I think that it’s something we all need to remind each other of every single day, to look at things from a different perspective and appreciate everything that everyone brings to the table,” Resnick noted. “And that’s what this does.”
“We all have similar stories, and it’s so important to share them so we can grow and heal together,” said Philadelphia poet Se Williams, who grew up in Camden. Her poetry book is based on how being fatherless impacted her childhood.
Cherry Hill continues to showcase local artists with its Art Blooms Juried Art Exhibit, also at Croft Farm Arts Center. It will continue through May 15.