The Story Behind the Upcoming Art Across the River - A Collaborative Exhibition with Iconic Juror.
Pictured Above, Art Across the River’s Solo Juror, Artist and Gallery Owner, James Dupree. Photo Credit: Jay Garrison
“I’m a big fan of authenticity. I want to see something original. I want to see the palm of somebody’s hand that no one has but them.” - stated Dupree
By: Lori Goldstein
“Art across the River” promises to be an exciting “first,” a collaborative exhibit featuring the work of member artists of both New Hope Arts and New Jersey-based Artsbridge. This year’s juried Spring Salon will be open from March 16 through March 20 at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, New Jersey. It will showcase original paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, and works in other media.
Another “first” is the choice of juror: the renowned artist, James Dupree. It was Carol Cruickshanks, New Hope Arts’ executive director, who invited Dupree to take on this important position.
“A distinguished art educator, gallery owner, and civic activist in the Philadelphia art world, James Dupree brings a qualified and informed awareness to this regional exhibition,” says Cruickshanks. “He has mentored a number of area artists who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,” and his role as juror “will provide an opportunity to introduce him to a new audience and make him part of our community. His sophisticated and keen eye will add new insight for the ‘Art Across the River’ collaboration.”
An iconic African-American artist and teacher for over five decades, Dupree knows what to look for when he critiques a work of art. “I’m a big fan of authenticity. I want to see something original. I want to see the palm of somebody’s hand that no one has but them.”
“Throughout my years as an educator, I taught students to tell their story, with first the how, followed by the what. There is a rich uniqueness to everybody’s handwriting or fingerprint. It’s the one thing you truly have that is 100% individual to you.”
Above: The interior gallery exhibition space at Prallsville Mill, Stockton, NJ. Photo credit: Rodney Miller
When asked about jurying “Art Across the River,” Dupree responds with a smile, “Piece of cake.” One show he juried in the 1990s, at the Allentown Art Museum, had 2800 entries. He also installed the show with the help of a local artist.
Twenty-five years ago, when he was working at the African American Museum in in Philadelphia as assistant coordinator of exhibitions, Dupree also served on the National Conference of Artists (NCA), the oldest black art organization in the country. For NCA he coordinated, curated, and installed approximately 15 exhibitions at satellite locations around the city. More recently, as Artistic Director of the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia, he curated shows, created programming, and critiqued top artists from around the country and the world.
In 2021, Dupree bought the “house of my dreams” on two acres in Upper Bucks County, where he hopes to establish an artists’ retreat. Shortly after his move, Cruickshanks invited him to show his work at New Hope Arts, then he the rented the “A space” there. In 2022, Dupree opened his gallery in Lambertville at 10 North Union Street, where he displays monthly exhibits of other artists’ work as well as his own.
Because Dupree is relatively new to the New Hope-Lambertville arts community, the artists whose works he’ll be judging will be practically 99 percent new to him. He is ecstatic to be a part of this community. Dupree regards it as “a village that supports art, where everybody is inclusive. This town has a history built on the backs of the Quakers who said slavery is a sin. This place has numerous underground railroads…it has always had this energy and now I’m a part of it.”
“Art Across the River” will be “the highlight of our year,” according to Laura Nicholson, vice president and exhibits chair of Artsbridge. “I think artists learn by talking to other artists, seeing what they’re doing. It inspires you to try something new, think about what you’re doing in a new way…that sort of synergy and energy will be even better because the more, the merrier.”
New Hope Arts has 200 member artists, while Artsbridge has 116. There is some overlap, with artists holding membership in both organizations. The longevity of each arts guild is impressive: New Hope Arts commemorated its 20th anniversary last year, while Artsbridge is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Cruickshanks points out that New Hope Arts hosted Artsbridge’s show in 2017 and has rented it gallery space at least two times in the past.
A practical advantage of this collaboration is that it enables New Hope Arts to continue to serve its members and the public while renovation of its building at 2 Stockton Avenue is underway. “We have been the corresponding art groups on both sides of the river,” says Cruickshanks, “and we’ll be trying to say with ‘Art Across the River,’ we’re doing a collaboration to expand what you see in this exhibition, as well as gratefully being supported by another organization to host us.”
Above painting by artists Ty Hodanish. Contributed
The renovation, which began in January, is expected to be complete in June. With the installation of an elevator, a ramp, and more easily navigable interior stairs, New Hope Arts will become ADA-compliant and thereby eligible for state and national grants.
Prallsville Mills is the venue most often used, but not owned, by Artsbridge. “It’s an historic mill, right on the canal, overlooking the river…it’s an absolutely gorgeous building,” says Nicholson.
The show will award seven prizes, including one that New Hope Arts will sponsor in memoriam to its founder, Robin Larsen, for an abstract painting. Another prize, for an oil landscape, will be given in memoriam to Ty Hadonish, an Artsbridge artist and teacher. Artsbridge has two sponsors for this exhibit: Jerry’s Artarama of Lawrenceville, NJ, and the First National Bank of Newtown, PA.