The winter day was as picturesque as one of the many portraits hanging on the walls.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day,” said a visitor about the picture-perfect sky and above 50° weather that accompanied the ribbon-cutting for Art & Soul Galleries a little after 12 noon yesterday.
The brainchild of Megan Connelly Accardi, the latest addition to Roselle Park’s business community took a couple of months to come to fruition but was years in the planning. The idea was to create an environment where local artists and artisans could showcase and sell their works. The ‘local’ aspect of the gallery was a focal point for Megan who realized that so many residents with a wide range of talents lived within our one-square mile town and surrounding area. She stated, “We always wanted to have a store in town and now seemed like a good time. Our goal is to promote the artists, not the gallery.”
After a small preview, Megan, accompanied by her husband – Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Accardi – and neighboring Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley stood in front of Art & Soul and officially opened its doors with a brief countdown and ceremonial ribbon cutting. Afterwards, as gatherers and vendors mingled, champagne and wine were offered along with cookies and sandwiches for the grand opening.
In speaking with some of the exhibitors/vendors, all were excited to be part of a new chapter in Roselle Park’s downtown. Photographer and Roselle Park resident Sharon Ann Curia (link), who had around a dozen photographs on display for sale – including a canvased night photograph of the intersection of Westfield Avenue and Chestnut Street – stated, “This is a great idea. It brings something unique to Roselle Park.”
Lisa Coppola, another borough resident who designs and creates handcrafted jewelry with a vintage flair, remarked that the store is a good fit for Roselle Park and the artistic community. Running a small business – Bevastyles (link) – that previously sold mostly through online sales, Lisa appreciated the opportunity to have people come and see and experience her pieces firsthand. Having it displayed in a gallery-style environment like Art & Soul that presents her work as a collection of creativity emphasizes all the hard work that goes into her one-of-a-kind designs. She said of the storefront, “I’m very impressed with the gallery. It’s lovely. It’s classy, neat, and tidy. It’s not so much a store as it is a studio.”
Even looking inside from the sidewalk through its glass storefront, the atmosphere is more artistic than commercial, although Megan understands the importance of both. She explained, “We didn’t want to just fill up space with things, we wanted to support local artists and showcase their work. Being a consignment shop, the gallery receives a percentage from all sales and our vendors factor that into their pricing. In the future, we plan to include antiques and artist shows to offset things but we want to do it within an artistic environment.”
Roselle Park resident Jenny Lichtenwalner, owner of Charlie Thyme (link), who has her tote bags and up-cycled mason jars on display right in one of the front windows, sees the opportunities that have opened up for the artistic community, commenting, “It’s a great thing for downtown. It supports local artists and it’s great promotion for independent artists.”
The sentiment is echoed by others, such as Koolcreativity (link) proprietor Kelly Chladil whose quilts were available as part of the gallery’s initial offerings. She said, “I’m so excited about this. I wasn’t sure what to expect and honestly thought it was going to be an Arts & Craft store. I was impressed when I walked into a gallery.”
Even internationally recognized award-winning artist Rosalia Tignini Verdun (link), another Roselle Park resident, who had her works on display at Art & Soul, was taken aback by the respectful atmosphere of the gallery.
“I was born with the brush,” she said with a smile about her lifetime of artistry, “I have had shows in New York and to have something like that here in Roselle Park is wonderful.”
As the opening gala continued through the afternoon, visitors were able to take in works from artists such as Algerian artist Djahida Houadef (link) – who had visited Roselle Park last year – along with those mentioned previously. There was even – to help commemorate the opening of the gallery – a presenting by Mayor & Mrs. Accardi of a large bicycle-themed canvas print to lifelong resident and downtown greenery maintenance director Lyman Thompson who is known throughout town for his bicycling.
“We hope this is the beginning for Roselle Park of something like Lambertville in New Jersey,” Megan said, finishing up the conversation while continuing to welcome well-wishers and interested visitors. In referring to the small town along the banks of the Delaware River filled with antiques shops, galleries, coffee shops, small restaurants, and unique stores, Megan sees the same possibilities for Roselle Park, and she wants Art & Soul to be her part in making that happen.
Art & Soul Galleries is located at 128 Chestnut Street and will be opened Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Currently they have a Facebook page (link) and are in development for a website. Their phone number is (908) 245-5900.