New cooperative gives local artists a place to create, sell art

People view various art pieces and artwork inside Princeton Makes during the grand opening at the Princeton Shopping Center on Sept. 18.

Local artists have a new space to create and showcase their work in Princeton with the opening of Princeton Makes.

Princeton Makes is an artist cooperative located at the Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison St., next to Metropolis Spa & Salon and near Color Me Mine.

The cooperative founded by Jim Levine, who is the former interim executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, recently held a grand opening to the public on Sept. 18.

“I started thinking about this during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Levine said. “I was doing work in my house with stained glass, work that I do, and realized I probably should be doing that somewhere else, so I thought to look for a studio and the idea sort of dawned on me from conversations I had at the Arts Council that there are other people in the same boat.”

Princeton Makes is open from Thursday to Sunday each week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and features artists that create works in different mediums such as painting, sculpture, felting, stained glass, textiles and jewelry.

The new artist cooperative gives artists studio space as well as gallery space to sell their latest works.

“Local artists that can use studio space or a place to sell, I put together a thought on how to make it work and approached the shopping center. They were great about working with me to bring it to fruition, so that was about the beginning of May,” Levine said.

Princeton Makes currently has 28 artists who are part of the cooperative. Eleven of those artists are in studios. The artists sell their work at Princeton Makes and they commit to working four hours a week for the co-op.

In addition to the work responsibility, the artists pay a commission to Princeton Makes.

The Princeton-based artist cooperative is for local artists; which Levine has defined as artists in a two-town radius of Princeton: Lawrence, Ewing, Trenton, Pennington, Hopewell, Hillsborough, Montgomery, Kingston, Rocky Hill, Plainsboro, West Windsor, South Brunswick, Hightstown, Hamilton and Cranbury.

“You need to be in a town that touches a town that touches Princeton. I have got a list of 20 more artists that are interested in addition to the 28 artists,” Levine said. “I want the public who comes to Princeton Makes to think about the array of talented artists in the local area and be willing to support them.”

Princeton Makes is going to have a selection process starting in October for artists who are interested and there will be a committee that evaluates them for the co-op.

Adriana Groza of Hamilton is one of the artists already part of the cooperative. She is a fluid acrylic artist who works specifically on gallery wrap canvas.

“What I do is mix my own paints, I mix my own colors. I do start with liquitex and golden paints then add a medium and some water,” Groza said. “What I did today was an aerial view over the ocean of a beach. What I do is layer the colors and manipulate with different tools. I used a hairdryer, spatula and a paint brush straw and I just blow air over the paints, which helps them mix, coalesce, and create a good imbalance so that it resembles a real place.”

Groza, who created the work of the aerial view during a demonstration at the grand opening on Sept. 18, explained that aerial views over the beach have meaning to her, gives her a calm feeling and are an antagonistic look over time.

She was thrilled from the first moment when she heard of the establishment of the Princeton Makes artist cooperative.

“When I heard about it in early July, I think, I was thrilled. We had a conference call on Zoom and as soon as the call was done I was here,” Groza said. “I wanted to be a part of it and love the energy that communicating with other artists brings me. I love the energy other people looking at my work or other work and appreciating art gives me and I feel I can give back.”

Princeton artist Claude Winn is a large format abstract painter and describes her art as creating spontaneous, colorful works of art.

“They’re spontaneous, in a sense that they continue to evolve. I do not plan them and they just come right out of whatever is happening beside me or around me,” Winn said. “As I paint, the paintings are describing a reality I see inside myself when I meditate.”

She is another artist involved with the cooperative.

“I lived in Princeton a long time and there was nothing remotely like this artist cooperative. There is the Arts Council which I love and take classes at, but there wasn’t an organically formed community that I knew of that I could join and connect with other artists, whereas most of the time I am painting by myself,” Winn said. “It feeds me and is enlivening and hopefully enlivening to the community.”

She said the time it takes to create and complete her art pieces varies. They may be completed in a few days and others take months to complete as Winn likes to work and rework her pieces.

“Often when I am working, the canvas will have it own energy. They almost all have feminine energy there, but they don’t always become the obvious face,” she said. “Most of my work is abstract.”

Rachel Diamond, an interdisciplinary artist, who does not limit herself to one medium, is a painter, sculptor and felter.

“The usual thing that I do now is felt creations inspired by nature and everyday life. I take felt this soft and plush material and take a needle and jab it into a shape that you want,” she said. “It becomes its own art creation. For me, I like to do anything that will make people smile, so I make tiny felt plants that people can attach to their heads. I make felt creatures like dogs, fish and cats.”

Diamond has also been creating paper lanterns. Her felt creations can vary in time used for completing the projects from one to two hours. For her sculptures the time used to complete those pieces ranges from weeks to months.

Diamond, who is Princeton based artist, said Princeton Makes builds a second community where artists can communicate about their art and share with other artists.

“It really builds us up so that it is less lonely to be part of a community. As artists we are all working on our own stuff, but that does not mean we want to be alone,” she said.