Studio Montclair celebrated its 25th anniversary and an expansion of its space on Sunday, June 26.
The event took place in the Leach Gallery, at 641 Bloomfield Ave. The new exhibition is a collection of art, including paintings and sculptures, and is titled “State of the Art 2022.” More than 180 artists have works on display.
“It was just great cause as we’re talking to people as they were leaving they’re telling us they’ve never seen this space,” said Ed Remsen, president of Studio Montclair. “It’s literally just open and then never seen so much art in one place. This is so much talent. I mean we let the art speak for itself. There’s a lot of talented people in this organization.”
Though the township is a part of its name, Studio Montclair is a national organization with more than 500 members. The exhibition prioritized newer and underrepresented artists while also focusing on representing art on a global scale. Artists from places such as South America and Asia had the opportunity for their work to be on display.
“We’re creating more accessibility not just for artists of one group, but for everyone,” said Patti Jordan, an artist and a board member of Studio Montclair. “And we welcome people from different backgrounds, and their work represents those different backgrounds and ethnicities. And I think that’s also part of the multicultural aspect we’re trying to attain more of right now.”
As soon as people walk through the door, they encounter many artworks. The space has chairs and couches to encourage onlookers to take their time to enjoy the pieces, which were chosen by a committee of jurors.
Jordan believes efforts like this will help Studio Montclair become a more welcoming space in the art world.
“The other thing about accessibility is not just the artists represented but the viewers, the audience that are coming here,” she said. “We tried to make it accessible by having couches. We have a handicap restroom. We have handicap ramps so that anybody can come and view art. There’s not that barrier anymore.”
As the Studio’s membership rose, its board felt the pressure of providing more physical spaces to showcase members’ art. When approached by David Placek, local developer and managing partner of the real estate investment company BDP Holdings, the board found the perfect opportunity to cater to its growing community of artists.
Placek gave Studio Montclair the new space at no cost, and with the help of a grant from the Montclair Center Business Improvement District, Remsen and others were able to turn the once-vacant space into a display of works by smaller artists in a matter of three months.
“I went from ‘What did I get myself into’ and three months later I’m like, ‘Look what we did,’” Remsen said.
The Leach Gallery will be an “incubator space,” a concept developed by Studio Montclair. With more than 3,000 square feet, it will solely serve emerging artists and will provide the Studio the opportunity to host several solo exhibitions simultaneously.
When it started in 1996, Studio Montclair focused on highlighting local artists who didn’t receive much recognition. Now, 25 years later, as Montclair changes, the board understands it has a duty to reflect that change in its organization while holding true to its original mission, Jordan said.
“The world is changing and so is Montclair, and I feel with each step we take we’re chipping away at elitism or exclusionism and including more, and with that we grow,” she said. “We grow mentally, we grow in terms of audience, and we’re reshaping, and it’s transforming.”