Tinton Falls, NJ –  This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Monmouth Festival of Arts (MFA, the Festival) as one of the most popular and professional juried art shows in the area supporting artists as well as art education. The show pre-opens on Saturday, April, 17th at 7:30 pm with a spectacular ruby-studded Gala in honor of its 40th anniversary at the Monmouth Reform Temple on Hance Avenue in Tinton Falls. It continues through to Wednesday, April 21. Area art lovers can enjoy the variety of art on display and for sale from more than 250 artists who hail from all over the Northeast. Ticket costs are $8 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students. Gala tickets are $60 in advance and $65 at the door and entitle the patron to return to the Festival throughout its duration.  Hours of operation are noon to 8 pm on Sunday, 9:30 am to 8 pm on Monday and Tuesday and 9:30 am to 5 pm on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 18th, is Family Day including children’s craft workshops and entertainment for children (ages 5 to 11). Entertainment on tap includes African dance educator and performer Audrey Davis demonstrating African dance and drumming, a special presentation by the Monmouth Winds quintet, and an evening dance program presented by the Kathryn Barnett School of Dance.  During the week, patrons viewing the Exhibit are offered a daily schedule of demonstrations presented by featured artists on techniques of their craft.  A jazz performance is scheduled for Monday evening. Tuesday evening features a lecture by humorous guest artist Jo-Ellen Trilling entitled “Unrealestate of mind.”

The MFA offers a symposium for educators, a day-long event which qualifies toward professional development credits and provides activities and lesson plans for teachers. A special student-artist display heralds the artwork of 11th grade student art competition winners from the annual Junior Student Art Competition held earlier in the year. The Festival was recently recognized for its contribution to art education by the Art Educators of New Jersey.

One of the Festival’s long time organizers, four-time chairperson and Tinton Fall resident Barbara Goldstein believes the Festival has remained vibrant and popular over four decades since it adhered to certain criteria.

Mrs. Goldstein comments, “It was always professionally designed, which differentiates it significantly from the standard craft or booth show, and every year we strive to give it a fresh look.”


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That look sometimes utilized the landscape design talents of Norman Hungerford, a professional landscaper who recreated gardens in the center of the main display room. In the earlier years of the Festival, a flower show dominated the displays; complementing flower design workshops were offered to the public.

This year’s show designer, Daniel Reiser of Brooklyn, New York, will bring his contemporary perspective to the art festival. Mr. Reiser has served as the exhibition design coordinator and technical consultant to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City as well as its satellite branches in Berlin, Germany, Venice, Italy, and Bilbao, Spain. Mr. Reiser has been affiliated with architectural projects in major cities throughout the United States and the world. He brings a broad range of experience in the contemporary art world working with museums, engineers and architects for both large and small scale exhibitions.

MFA Co-chair Marilyn Michaels of Red Bank states of Mr. Reiser’s work, “He has some great new ways of dealing with lighting, space, material and color.  We are really excited to have him working on our show for this special 40th anniversary.”

In addition to the professional design, the show has always been run by dedicated volunteers. An army of temple members begin working almost from the time one show ends to assure it runs smoothly the following year.

Mrs. Goldstein adds, “From the very beginning The Monmouth Festival of the Arts has earned the reputation of being a top-notch show which artists appreciate and are anxious to return to each year. People are always amazed it is run by volunteers.”

Volunteers run the Café, which provides homemade soups, salads and desserts all week long providing a pleasant respite from gallery touring. All artist display materials are created by temple members and reconfigured each year to the show designer’s specific display specifications. Volunteers work the sales floor, the sales office, the Café and coordinate the many tours offered each year to groups including schools, and senior citizen organizations. There are dozens of “behind the scenes” jobs that volunteers fill from registering artists to cataloguing their pieces and organizing their sales.

Alice Berman of Morganville, the current co-chair adds, “The show is an incredible amount of work, only made possible by today’s technology, yet I am so amazed that for the first three decades everything was done manually and recorded on little file cards.”

Barbara Goldstein recalls those low-tech days and a specific incident when Festival volunteers worked long hours in addressing the first Gala brochures at the office of the Shrewsbury Guild of Creative Arts. (The Guild has been an invaluable resource to the Festival and involved from the very beginning.)

She states, “We had just finished addressing hundreds of brochures by hand and then we spilled soda all over the table and brochures, but luckily it was clear soda.”

Over the past forty years, The Festival has endured other minor calamites including two temple renovations, a major springtime snowstorm, loss of electricity, floods and a regurgitation of the sewerage system. Despite these mishaps the show went on without fail.

Another feature of the show is that all works remain on exhibit throughout the Festival. Therefore, all visitors see the complete exhibit whenever they come. Over the years, favorite artists would return by popular demand. There were the giant dinosaurs crafted from recycled car parts by the late Jim Gary. Christine Garretson-Pearson’s famous little miniature animals dressed in fetching fashion always sold out by the end of the Gala evening. The Metal kinetic sculptures of John Ruckeshel and John Heise featured large colorful metal birds with movable necks promising to become an instant garden focal point and conversation starter. The wearable art in scarves, hand tooled handbags and voluminous offerings in handcrafted jewelry also expanded the show’s offerings. Patrons would return year after year to collect the unique pottery pieces of favorite artists, as well as all mediums of wall art—water color, oil, pencil, charcoal, metal ceramic and mixed media. Many artists also donate a piece for the popular chance art auction.

The Gala has always been a highlight of the event with pass around hors d’oeuvres, wine and the opportunity to mingle with the show’s artists. Additionally, discerning art seekers have first crack on all artwork before the general admission sales begin. While the Gala began as a very regal affair replete with tuxedo and gowns, the times rendered it less formal. This year, the Festival’s long-time volunteers may be re-donning those tuxs complimented by some ruby red dresses in honor of forty fabulous years.

Those interested in learning more about the Monmouth Festival of the Arts can call 732-747-8278 or visit www.monmouthfestivalofthearts.com. Large groups are welcome.

The Monmouth Festival of the Arts is hosted by Monmouth Reform Temple and is made possible, in part, by the Monmouth County Arts Council through funding from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the County Historical Commission, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State a Partner Agency of the National Endowment of the Arts.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...