From folk to pop
First outdoor arts festival showcases area talent
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
Sep 16, 2012 | 5982 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JERSEY DEVIL – A sculpture of the Jersey Devil created by Thomas Shelton was on sale for $666 at the “What the Folk Art,” table during the Secaucus Arts Fest 2012 on Sept. 8.
view slideshow (8 images)

A number of artists from the area and beyond showcased their work at the first outdoor Arts Fest 2012 in Secaucus, held in Buchmuller Park on Sept. 8. By midday a crowd had gathered for the day-long festival and people perused the offerings that included funky folk art, photography, paintings, pop art, and sculpture. Festival-goers also took in performances by the local community performance group CAST, Dance Power Studio, and music bands.

Art Fest 2012 was local artist Michael Cohen’s idea, which he came up with a year ago. A resident of three years, Cohen last year approached Mayor Michael Gonnelli to explore the possibility of an outdoor festival.

Cultivating arts culture

“The space inspired me,” said Cohen of Buchmuller Park. He said that his goal was to improve the image of Secaucus in relation to the arts and give it the same allure as Montclair. “I want people to realize that Secaucus has a little bit to offer,” said Cohen. “That the town is a cultural center.”

Cohen had a number of his pieces on display that focused on the absence of light, light itself, shadow, and reflection. He had reached out to a number of artists while serving as the curator for the festival.


“There are a lot of talented artists here.” – George Curtis


Artists set up displays along the edges of the grassy lawn and pavement. At the entrance, Thomas Shelton from the Oakland area had set up a table for “What the Folk Art.” A sculptor of 20 years, Shelton was selling a range of items from melted record bowls for $10 to a sculpture of the New Jersey Devil for $666.

“I’m inspired by everything,” said Shelton. He was a regular on the arts show circuit, having appeared at many festivals throughout the past year.

Local and area talent

Local artist Joe Pepe first began painting in the early sixties, “then I was drafted,” he said. He served from 1965 to 1971 in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, and it wasn’t until 2008 that he returned to his artistic interests. Back in the sixties he said he was inspired by the Beatniks (a nonconformist cultural movement) whereas today he describes painting as his therapy. He is drawn to paint landscapes and enjoys working with texture. He took first place in a county art contest this year.

Another local resident, Fred Grafeld, also found his artistic inspiration in the sixties.

“I just love landscapes and trains,” said Grafeld who is a photographer and artist. Grafeld has exhibited in the local resident art shows and in the county senior art show. He said he was at Arts Fest to “get out and meet people.”

Photographer Kelly Schirmer, who is from North Bergen and attends New Jersey City University, said the fest was her first arts fair. She was selling prints of her work starting at $5 to $60.

“Things people can hang,” said Schirmer about what she had available.

North Bergen resident Ray Arcadio had a new series of pop-art like prints on display that featured popular characters such as Captain America, Batman, and Sponge-Bob Square Pants.

Opportunity to network

“There are a lot of talented artists here,” said George Curtis, who is from Totowa. He heard about the Arts Fest on Craigslist. He described his work as bright, fun, pop-art.

Artist Anna Ryabtsou had traveled from Mahwah in Bergen County to network, get to know people in the field, and to get exposure. A student at Montclair State University, Ryabtsou said her paintings are philosophical and influenced by the psychological.

“Good art should assault your eyes and annoy you,” said Claudia Miller, a full-time art student, who had traveled from Nanuet, N.Y. Miller had paintings on display with bright and varied colors. She said she was inspired to paint people because of their interesting shapes.

The event, which was sponsored by the Town of Secaucus and the Secaucus Public Library, also featured performances by musicians Hard Bargain, Nikki Armstrong, Stacia Hobdy and Free, and Dara and Frank.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet