By Rebecca Hersh
EDISON – The Edison visual arts scene is so vibrant that the paint is barely dry on one colorful initiative when a new splash of visual delight appears in a new spot in town.
The artistic hand producing all this activity is the Edison Arts Society (EAS), which, since 2013, has operated under the leadership of President Gloria Dittman. Even though EAS initiatives include theater and musical performances, Dittman admits to a particular affinity for the visual arts that continually energizes her to create projects bringing joy to residents and visitors alike.
The nearly 45 EAS members, several of whom are visual artists, make Dittman’s job “easy – a wealth of artistic riches from which to choose,” she said.
Current and immediate future exhibitions include:
- June 30: David Ward, Solo Art Exhibit, EAS Gallery
- Aug. 31: Margaret Cohen, Solo Art Exhibit, EAS Gallery
- Oct. 28: Arlene & Jules Carallo, Joint Exhibit, EAS Gallery
- Nov. 23: Len Mesonas, Solo Art Exhibit EAS Gallery
- All summer through the fall at the Menlo Park Mall, a window exhibit located on the second floor (former GAP store) has artworks from EAS artists on display
And then there are the public street art initiatives that have made the town “just come alive,” in the words of one visitor, Susan Crowe, while walking on Amboy Avenue. As a frequent visitor to Edison, she has seen how these projects, including the recent piano arts project “has created an exciting new vibe.”
In June, Dittman worked with the Edison Chamber of Commerce President Joe Doyle to marry two art forms and create a public art exhibit. The chamber acquired stand up pianos (people donated the pianos to the chamber), Doyle arranged to have them tuned, and then Dittman organized the decorating project. EAS artists painted them with spring/summer garden images – flowers, vines, butterflies etc. They are now placed along Amboy Avenue in front of different retail shops.
The pianos will stay in place all through the summer; they are covered at night and in storms.
At the end of the summer, EAS will offer them to either the shops or perhaps the schools, which can utilize the artistic pianos to further visual and musical arts appreciation among the students.
The other public art projects enhancing the town are the murals, which are being painted in the different neighborhoods of Edison. Over the course of the next two weeks, residents can watch artist Olga Muzician Pacilio paint a mural at a Chinese restaurant on Amboy Avenue.
The town’s most famous mural is located at the entrance of the Edison Administration Building, where the EAS Gallery is located on the building’s second and third floors.
“In 2016, we were given permission to enhance the entrance to the Edison Administration Building. Fernando Silva, international artist residing in Edison, created over 400 tiles that form two murals. One mural reflects the beauty of Edison itself and the other mural pays tribute to our namesake – Thomas Alva Edison,” Dittman said.
EAS, incorporated in September 1998, was the creation of Angelo Orlando and Catherine Spadoro, who believed that Edison needed more culture. Their focus was on music – with a full orchestra playing classical music twice a year.
“Since I have been president, EAS has produced a play, ‘Jerry’s Girls,’ at the Edison Valley Playhouse. The next year we held a concert featuring The British Invasion at Middlesex College to improve our financial base. And we also held a folk concert starring a local artist, Mara Levine.
“But as most people know, my passion is the visual arts and using arts projects to do community building, such as working with the Jewish Community Center, Terra Nova Garden Club, the Edison Chamber of Commerce, and the schools,” Dittman said.
The highlight of the connection to the schools is that every March, EAS celebrates Student Art Month in Edison. All students can participate, and if their art is sold, EAS takes no commission. Edison TV films the event and it can be viewed on Channel 15 in Edison.
Dittman offers a big thank you to Mayor Thomas Lankey, who gave permission for EAS to use the upper floors of the Edison Administration Building as the EAS Art Gallery. Every two months, EAS installs a new exhibit featuring the work of a local artist.
“These exhibits are very popular with the artists and the entire community,” Dittman said.
Pre-pandemic in 2018 and 2019, EAS was building momentum and visibility not only in Edison but the entire region, Dittman said. In 2018, EAS created a Sculpture Garden, whose first sculpture was “The Family.” The work of art was designed and built by Fernando Silva – “an immigrant to our country and who reflected his love of the country in his sculpture. There are four figures in the piece. The young girl is holding a dove which represents peace, the young boy is holding a book of the U.S. Constitution and the adults are of the same height indicating equality,” Dittman said.
In 2019, EAS artists painted Adirondack chairs, which were sold as an EAS fundraiser. Poised for an exciting year, EAS activity was thwarted abruptly by COVID. But Dittman’s spirit was never diminished by the pandemic.
In addition to all the arts exhibitions, the murals, and the pianos, in 2021, “we are hoping to install a gazebo in the Sculpture Garden. This would be a magnificent addition where we could have concerts, poetry readings, exhibits and weddings. The mayor, as part of his responsibilities, performs wedding ceremonies and a gazebo would be a perfect backdrop,” said Dittman, who many say is a perfect picture of perseverant, committed 24/7 and enthusiastic advocacy for the arts.