Most of us in West Orange have been reminded of the value of community as we thank friends and neighbors who pitched in when and where needed — be it bringing over their wet vac or delivering water. Many of these same friends and neighbors work year round as artists and arts volunteers to bring a community of the arts to the township.
In the weeks to come, will be taking a closer look at many of the following events, but here — venue by venue — is a selection of season highlights. Some are going on right now; others are arriving with the first glimpse of autumn color.
The Valley Arts District is always busy — with live music many nights a week at Hat City Kitchen www.hatcitykitchen.com, including a bimonthly Sunday afternoon blues jam led by West Orange bluesman Al Gold. A little to the north, Cecil’s Jazz Club www.cecilsjazzclub.com has music nightly — if you have never heard the Monday night Cecil’s Big Band, now’s a good time to check it out.
In the visual arts, West Orange’s Marty Kahnle has a wonderful at the IronWorks Gallery, 406 Tompkins Street., Orange that is running weekdays 10:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. through Sept. 10, but call first to make sure they are open or to make an appointment.
IronWorks and the three VAD Freeman Street galleries — Oualie, Yema, and Arts Unbound — are getting ready for the regular last Friday of most month's ART LOOP on Friday evening Sept. 30 with new exhibits and performance art.
The opening reception for “Symmetry: VSA and Arts Unbound” is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16 at Arts Unbound. VSA is Very Special Arts, like Arts Unbound, an organization that showcases works by artists with disabilities. See www.artsunbound.org for information or to register for their studio classes, which start in September.
You can visit the Arts Unbound reception before heading over to Luna Stage Theater for their two nights only, one man musical show, “Picture Incomplete” with a performance by the well traveled Broadway actor/singer Trent Armand Kendall at 8 p.m. both Friday Sept. 16 and Saturday Sept. 17. That Saturday afternoon, you can bring the whole family to the Luna Theater at 555 Valley Road, West Orange for an afternoon of music, food and kids activities. You can read all about each event and find out about registration for adult, teen and kids classes as well as the regular season play, “The Dangers of Electric Lighting” which starts previews on Thursday, Oct. 13. There’s the regular first Monday of the month script in hand “New Moon” reading on Oct. 3, too.
Thousands are expected from throughout the metro area and beyond for the ninth annual Swiss Global/Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center Jazz Festival in partnership with the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation. The dazzling line up starts Friday night Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. with the "Bob DeVos-Mike Perez West Orange All Stars” and guests headlining at 8:30 p.m. then resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday Sept. 17. It continues nonstop all day Saturday through to the Nat Adderly, Jr. Trio with guest Dave Stryker, who close out the night at 8 p.m. (Full disclosure: as most readers know, Bob DeVos is my husband.) Vocalist Kate Baker, the executive director of OSPAC and festival producer, is among the performers including renowned pianist Bill Charlap and drummer Ali Jackson who travel the world but call West Orange home. Arts Beat will preview the event on Sept. 10 and be on hand for coverage, too. It’s an incredible bargain at $10 adults, $5 seniors and, by all means, bring the teens and kids: Kids are FREE with many children activities and more. Rain Dates are Friday and Saturday Sept. 23 and 24. http://www.ospac.org/
A bit south from OSPAC (which is at 4 Boland Place, just off Prospect Avenue in West Orange) is the similarly not for profit New Jersey Arts Incubator (NJAI). NJAI is in the Essex Green Shopping Center upper courtyard, around the corner from Panera’s, north of the AMC Theaters. NJAI has a full slate for this fall starting with a Saturday, Sept. 10 meet the artist opening reception for a three woman show, “Pale Language,” at the NJAI Gallery from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The exhibit will be open weekend afternoons and by appointment (973-669-0602) through Oct. 29th. There will be more on this exhibit in the weeks to come; featured are painters Martha Ferguson and Nancy Gail Ring and sculptor/Installation artist Alice Momm. www.njai.org
The ever popular Café Zed returns to NJAI on Sept. 17 for its monthly Saturday night open mic followed by a performance by Richard Dean. Dean has performed on stages such as The Bottom Line as part of the singer songwriting circuit. Signups for the open mic are at 7 p.m., the entertainment begins at 7:30 p.m. and goes to about 11 p.m. $7; free for NJAI members.
I raved about The Theater Project’s “Penny Pennyworth” this past summer and Jenelle Sosa’s performance in that comic gem. Sosa returns to the NJAI stage from Thursday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 30 to star in the project’s presentation of the very well reviewed “Fully Committed,” another very funny play. This is hot off the presses news; details will be available soon at www.thetheaterproject.org Shows will be Thursday-Saturday evenings with a Sunday matinee and figure about a $25 ticket.
The JCC MetroWest at Northfield Avenue is accepting registrations now for their outstanding, Friday mornings film-discussion series,the Reel Film Series. It starts Friday Sept. 9 and runs to Dec. 16, with ten viewings of international, Jewish themed films. The season opener, “Sholom Aleichem,” had an outstanding review in the “New York Times,” and the lineup of films and discussion leaders are similarly outstanding. Screenings are at the Maurice Levin Theater, Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, and 760 Northfield Avenue, West Orange from 10 a.m. to noon. Advance registration is recommended: $120 for JCC members and $210 for non members for the 10 sessions, with prorated fees for late registrations. Call (973) 530-3417 or see at www.jccmetrowest.org.
West Orange’s Lisa Suss, the director of visual services at the JCC has curated three shows that look to be wonderful for this fall. The opening reception for all the exhibits is Sunday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the three shows run through Nov. 6. In the JCC Galen Gallery, “Ageless Art; Boundless Creativity,” shows works by six very well known contemporary senior artists; Phyllis Carlin, Philip Drill, Joan Goldsmith, Ed Hoffner, George Tarr and Fran Willner, many of whom live in the township. All six will be on hand on closing day from 11:50 am. to 1 p.m. during the JCC “Creative Maturity Expo.”
Also showing are painter Amy Charmatz in the adjacent Roland Exhibition Corridor and Arts Lobby, joined by the ceramic sculptures from Evelyn Gurland, Beverly Stern and Debora Meltz. Gaelen Gallery East hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call (973) 530–3413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are around town on Wednesday, Sept. 20 and Thursday, Sept. 21 expect to see a lot of still cameras. The West Orange Arts Council (WOAC) has been working all year on a major project to document the life of our town: “A Day In West Orange.” WOAC vice chair, photographer Mansa Mussa is heading up the endeavor which includes many photographers profiled in past editions of West Orange's Arts Beat column— WOAC chair Heidi Sussman, Bill Cofone, Panos Lambrou and Bill Westheimer are among those volunteering their significant skills and time. There will be a major exhibit of a selection of the works at the JCC MetroWest in winter, 2012 as well as many smaller shows throughout town. Contact WOAC at email@example.com or call (973) 324-9100 if you would like to suggest a place or person to be photographed.
To bring this column full circle to my opening theme, “A Day In West Orange” exemplifies our community artists enriching the lives of the West Orange community.