May-June 2013 | IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

ALOC executive director Rina Thaler
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ARTISTICALLY SPEAKING

IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

The Art League of Ocean City opens its new home

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

On its website, the Art League of Ocean City (ALOC) beckons the community to “visit us and be inspired,” a promise that will be dramatically easier to fulfill thanks to the grand opening of the Ocean City Center for the Arts on March 1.

In service to the community for a half-century as of this year, the ALOC had been making due in a more-than-humble 1,200 sq. ft. single-room abandoned poolhouse, which the town had granted them permanent permission to use back in 1984. By sharp contrast, the new facility — which was built by Gillis Gilkerson directly over the site of the old building on 94th St. — boasts an expansive 7,500 sq. ft. over two levels. It was designed by architect Robert Heron of Atlantic Planning & Development, which provided its services to the ALOC on a pro bono basis. 

Instead of the card tables and folding chairs that greeted citizens in its predecessor, the new Center for the Arts welcomes you with the kind of granite-topped reception area, pristine hardwood floors and immaculate white walls with matching columns you’d expect from a proper art gallery. Its aesthetic centerpiece is a striking custom-made swirling glass sculpture created by Berlin artist Jeff Auxer and commissioned by Jon and Judy Tremellen. The space also offers an elevator, glass-paneled second-floor railings, a gift shop, courtyard, classrooms and an art-resource library. Five discrete studios are available for rental at the center, two of which have already been claimed for a year by the ALOC’s artists-in-residence, watercolorist Dorothy Harrison Braun and potter Erik Hertz, who doubles as the center’s ceramics director. The first floor, meanwhile, has a studio reserved for its monthly artist-in-residence, who for March is screen-painter John Iampieri, while the main gallery is showcasing the work of Patrick Henry, who was also on hand for the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. 
 
Run by ALOC executive director Rina Thaler, the million-dollar-plus complex was made possible through a combination of municipal and state subsidies, private monetary and service donations, and the league’s own annual Sand Castle Home Tour outings, which had raised over $250,000 for the cause.

“Rina Thaler is the ideal person to be leading this effort,” said Karen Tomasello, co-owner of Fresco’s restaurant in Ocean City and benefactor of the ALOC. “Her passion and dynamism are exactly what this community needs to give it the kind of cultural awareness and presence it deserves.”

Thaler assures that the center will display the original works of hundreds of regional artists of varied techniques and media, which will sell anywhere from $100 to more than $10,000. Artists such as the aforementioned Henry, Kirk McBride, Lynne Lockhart and Ed Challenger, to name only a few, will be represented as virtual staples of the center’s gallery.

In fact, stated Thaler, the Ocean City Center for the Arts will even serve as the venue for performance art, leading off with the Brown Box Theatre Project’s June production of The Nina Variations by Steven Dietz.

“Just like the great art strolls in Berlin and Snow Hill, we wanted to create an art stroll of our own in this building,” said Thaler. Additionally, she emphasized, there will be a very robust program of arts education for children, including classes, summer camps and even scholarships.



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