Annual Arts Festival in Salem County Goes Virtual

Salem County has adapted its Arts in Bloom driving tour amid the Covid-19 crisis.

arts in bloom
Donna McArdle spins fiber on a manually operated wheel to make yarn. Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Long known as a center for agriculture, Salem County in recent decades has nurtured a vibrant arts scene. The South Jersey county will show off its creativity May 16–17 with a virtual version of its planned 12th Annual Arts in Bloom driving tour.

For the free festival, artists based throughout the county were to welcome visitors into their studios and local galleries to show off their work in a wide range of disciplines. Instead, they will be staging virtual tours. (The driving tour has been rescheduled for November 28–29.)

A complete schedule of the virtual tours can be found on the Arts in Bloom website. The schedule also includes daily, hands-on Dig Into Art sessions requiring some supplies in advance.

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arts in bloom

John Greco makes pens that are works of art from plastic, metal, stone and wood, including one made with bits of the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Here’s a sampling of some of the participating artists and organizations:

  • Perry’s Clock and Conservation Studio, Woodstown: Gregg Perry specializes in marquetry, a process known as painting with wood. He uses wood veneer to form patterns or create pictures.
  • GW Pens, Woodstown: John Greco makes pens that are works of art from plastic, metal, stone and wood, including one made with bits of the Seaside Heights boardwalk damaged by Superstorm Sandy. “My biggest sellers are fountain pens,” says Greco. His creations range from $50–$2,700.
  • Third Star Fibre Artists Guild, Mannington: “We do anything that you can with fiber,” says Donna McArdle of Elmer. She spins fiber on a manually operated wheel to make yarn.
  • Salem Art Bank, Mannington: In 2017, Bruce and Sue Jo converted the former bank into a gallery for their work and local artists like Gregg Stett of Mannington. Stett turned to art as a retiree. “I draw my inspiration from New Jersey,” he says. His work includes detailed Cape May scenes made with pastels.
  • Alloway Trains ‘N Things, Elmer: Owned by Vicki and Bob Dyer, the store features woodcarving exhibits, a 400-foot, model-train layout and activities such as watercolor lessons for children. Vicki Dyer is an artist herself. She turns ordinary objects into art, such as a bowling ball transformed into a gazing ball inscribed with a sunflower.

During last year’s Arts in Bloom, Rachel Plagge of Penns Grove, brought her son, Ben, 4, to enjoy the trains, while she surveyed the artistic offerings.

“I’ve lived here all my life, but didn’t realize what’s here,” she said. “It gives you a new perspective.”

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