Thursday, December 18, 2014

Photography Exhibit Celebrates the “Raw” Spirit and Splendor of New Jersey

The woman in white is pinned to the peeling wall in the attic of the old home, surrounded by dust, dirt and covered in scathing thorns.  Her delicate and beautiful feet balance precariously two feet off the ground in a ethereal way that leaves the viewer wondering how it was done.  

This is “Forsaken,” a portrait by Susan Gietka, which recently won first prize at RAW.  RAW is a juried photography competition organized by The Noyes Museum of Art, now in its third year.  Currently exhibited in the Noyes Gallery at Kramer Hall in Hammonton, RAW focuses on portraits of New Jerseyans in all their diversity and raw spirit, complexity and nuances.  

The exhibit features artists from all over New Jersey, both community artists and professional photographers, according to Brenda Kele, Assistant to the Director. Kele annually puts out the call to artists and curates the show.  “Some come from the other end of New Jersey, almost from the New York state border,” Kele recently said, “and some much closer, from right here in South Jersey.”

One of the local community artists, Belinda Manning, of Pleasantville, said she took the photography that made it into the exhibit while watching dancers at a Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center Lenni Lenape Pow Wow in MIllville.  “There were women there dancing, and this young dancer was absolutely beautiful,” said Manning of her photo.  The picture features the profile portrait of a young woman in full traditional garments and headdress, and is a swirl of bright greens and blues.

Manning and all of the other artists paid an entry fee to be entered into the competition, and that money was used to create prizes for the first, second and third place, according to Kele.  In addition, all of the pieces came to the Noyes Museum matted and framed before being reviewed by Bill Horin, a professional photographer who has worked in South Jersey for over twenty years.  Horin, of Linwood,  is the founder of ArtC and the art based magazines ArtBeat and Envision Arts Magazine.

First, second and third prize artists were awarded $300, $200 and $100, respectively, while honorable mentions won ribbons.  “Bill had a hard time with the honorable mentions, and eventually awarded four of them, because he was so impressed with the entire collection and especially those individual pieces,” said Kele.

While hundreds of photographs were submitted from across the state, only 40 were chosen to be part of the exhibit.  The photographs range from color to black and white and include digital composites, snapshots and studio work -- all representing the spirit and splendor of New Jersey. One such composite was Gietka”s piece, filled with warm brown and cream tones reminiscent of sepia photos from the turn of the century.

While the photograph seems to reference Christ on the cross, Gietka refused to limit it to one vision.  She is always interested to hear how other people interpret it, she stated on Thursday night, during the opening reception.  The inspiration for much of her work, she said, comes from ideas or struggles she is working through on her own, making the process both creative and cathartic at the same time.  Depending on what viewers see is how they infer the meaning of her work, making the richly detailed and planned photographs a blank canvas of sorts.

Many of the photographs had New Jersey references and themes, including two that focused on cranberry workers in the bogs and fields.  Another photograph featured a uniquely New Jersey shot -- a Wildwood lifeguard rowing into a wave, clad in a small red bathing suit, every muscle strained to force the boat through the water.  Susan Allen’s honorable mention winning photograph “Horseshoe Crab Tagging,” showed children seeking horseshoe crabs on a South Jersey beach-- all by the last light of a fading moon.

Last year’s winner, Glynnis Reed, of Hammonton, had another photograph included in the 2014 exhibit.  It shows a strong portrait of a young woman, with an overlay of texture that transforms the woman’s face into a pattern of scarring.  Aptly titled “Woman Warrior,” it is a digital collage and archival pigment print.  The young woman stares directly into the eye of the camera -- and consequently the eye of the viewer.

Another photograph that includes a subject looking directly at the camera is “Hub City 3,” a digital print by Stephanie Cortazzo, which captures the urban vibe of New Jersey’s many metro cities.  The photograph plays with the gender fluid qualities of the Millennial Generation in a way that speaks to the audacity and rawness of New Jersey and its abundance of city dwellers.

The exhibit runs through February 8, 2015 and can be viewed for free, Monday through Friday, 8:30-5 pm, at Kramer Hall, 30 Front Street, Hammonton.  For more information or a listing of the purchasing prices of the photographs, check out or call (609) 626-3840.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Women’s Service Organization Ahead of its Time

Maryanne Foley, longtime Charity League member and past president, displays handmade, sequined stockings at a recent Christmas Mart.

When The Charity League of Atlantic County started over 80 years in 1932, it began as an organization invested in supporting women and children in the Atlantic City area.

Today, it is still an organization focused on raising money in Atlantic County and keeping that money in Atlantic County, all for….women and children.

How is it done?  With sequins, felt and beads.  Lots of sequins, felt and beads.

Despite a name that embodies “do-gooders” from a bygone era, The Charity League is a women’s service organization with progressive roots -- help provided to women by women, focusing on raising and keeping the funds in the community.  

“Who would have better understood the needs of women in the community in 1932, other than other women?” said Dot Johnson of Margate, member since 1972.

Every year for the past several years, this organization has raised over $150,000 by designing, producing and selling sequined pins, ornaments, tree skirts and stockings.  Most of the money is raised through The Annual Christmas Mart, an event held for the past decade at The Greate Bay Country Club.  

Who is buying all these handmade holiday items?  Women, often at $20-$25 for pins and ornaments, and sometimes anywhere from $90-$250 for the sequined felt card holders, table runners and tree skirts.  Many of these items are ordered one year in advance to provide the members of The League with the opportunity to painstakingly hand sew hundreds of sequins to each item.

In the past seven years, The League has donated over $1 million to seven nonprofits, in addition to the ALS Foundation.  While ALS is not one of their main local nonprofits, a member’s husband was diagnosed with the disease as a young father and the membership felt this was something they could do to support the family.

“Tom Cittrone died last year from complications of ALS, and The Charity League was proud to have raised thousands of dollars on behalf of his family,” stated Andrea Worrall, President.

The organization helped to found two nonprofits along the way, which are still supported with major contributions to their operating budgets -- Child Federation in Pleasantville and Atlantic City Day Nursery in Atlantic City.  These are agencies that are vital to bolstering families in the community, according to Worrall.

“Child Federation provides immunization and health referrals to services for many young children in the area,” she said.  “The Day Nursery is one of the first child care centers in Atlantic City, and definitely the oldest still in operation.  They working families of Atlantic City rely on it for affordable and high quality child care.”

Many people know about The Charity League because of the Mart, which has occurred every year since 1946.  It is also recognized as the organization that every year produces a uniquely different, limited-edition Christmas pin.  But not everyone realizes where that money goes, and how it is leveraged to support women and children in Atlantic County.

“The Charity League  has supported us with hundreds of thousands of dollars through the last 15-20 years that they have provided the agency with grants,” said Beverly Gilbert, past executive director of The Women’s Center, “TWC uses that money to support women returning to the workforce with job readiness training, interview clothes, and resume preparation.”

Not content to only provide grants to local nonprofits, each agency must agree to have a member of The League sit on their Board of Directors as a condition of receiving the monies.  This ensures that the organizations’ missions are in alignment with The League, and also gives members an opportunity to be part of the solution in the community.

“We have members who sit on the Boards of The Covenant House of Atlantic City, The Atlantic City Rescue Mission, Family Service Association and The Donny Fund,” said Worrall, in addition to The Women’s Center, Child Federation and Atlantic City Day Nursery.  Worrall is a board member of Family Service Association of Absecon.

All of this money is raised and donated through 100% volunteer hours -- there are no paid staff of The Charity League of Atlantic County.  Instead, The League relies on the hard work and innovative talents of members.  

“There are over 50 actively engaged members,” said Vice President Karen Clark.  “Plus another 50 or so ‘retired’ members who still support the work we do.  Every hour they provide, every dollar they raise is put back into the communities we live in.”

For more information about The Charity League of Atlantic County, visit or follow them on Facebook at Charity League of Atlantic City.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

ATLANTIC CITIZENS Commentary between Citizens inside Atlantic City & Environs

Commentary between Citizens inside Atlantic City & Environs

A Conversation with 
SCOTT EVANS, Deputy Chief of the Atlantic City Fire Department & former Mayor of Atlantic City
GEORGE LOZA, Architect & Citizens Campaign City Storyteller, Atlantic City Bureau

By George C. Loza//;

George:  Talking with you in the past, I sense your strong attachment and caring concern about Atlantic City and the area.  I recall how you were animated about discussing the outcomes on Election Day in Brigantine.  With your broad-ranging civic interest and involvement, the intent of this inaugural conversation is to provide a context for the issues faced by our City, which we will be able to go into in greater depth in the future.  But we can't let talk show hosts have all the fun!  While this interview format is so much more literate and substantial when published compared to ephemeral banter, I hope we'll present insightful "scoops" that will provide a factor promoting greater dissemination of information on these fundamentally serious topics. 

When and why were you Mayor of Atlantic City, how long have you been with the AC Fire Department, and what part of Atlantic City do you reside in?

Scott:  I was Mayor from November 2007 to November 2008.  I replaced Bob Levy, who stepped down from office.  I then ran against Lorenzo Langford in the Democratic Primary, who became the Mayor.  I have been with the Fire Department for 26 years.  I live in the Venice Park neighborhood of Atlantic City.

George:  Some have said I bring up linkages where there are none: I tend to wish to foster wholeness.  In any case, your abrupt appointment as Mayor indirectly reminds me of the Brigantine City Council situation upcoming in January, where Republicans will propose replacements for the 1st Ward Councilman. 

I attended the Brigantine Republican Victory Party meeting.  From there it appeared that Jim Mackay may be one of those popularly proposed for 1st Ward Councilman.  Since then, he has spoken at the recent Brigantine Lions Club meeting, which I’ve noticed anoints candidates.  Along these lines, per songstress Adelle, "rumor has it" that Ed will be the Manager and Matt will return in the New Year.  It’s funny about rumors, I don’t know from where they stem.  More about  gossip as grist, at a future time!

Continuing with Brigantine for the moment, since you have an interest in Brigantine as well, in reference to past Brigantine events: while it was reasonable to appoint the Public Safety Director in an interim, it really was not viable to drag out the appointment of Chiefs indefinitely, whether or not there was to be a savings.  It also coalesced the opposition around an issue and thus thereafter.

Scott:  Yes, the Public Safety Director was the death of the Brigantine Democrats in this election!  Fire and Police Departments need continuity of the leadership, so chiefs should have been appointed sooner.  It is political will to have a Public Safety Director.  We do not have one in Atlantic City.  A Public Safety Director could be part-time in order to negotiate with the departments: the Police Department, the Fire Department, EMS (Emergency Medical Services), OEM (Office of Emergency Management), the Lifeguards, and Communications, as in Atlantic City.

George:  In reference to these negotiations of the Brigantine Police and Fire Department contracts, which have been going on for about 2 years, what of going to arbitration?  It appears there is something dreaded about it. While the exact outcome would be out of local control, I understand New Jersey Arbiters are required to instill a 2% raise cap, require a personal contribution into their Health Care Plans which hasn't been occurring  during negotiations, and are to take the economic conditions of the City into consideration.

Scott:  I believe Brigantine is a Title 40; Atlantic City is a Title 4A. [The procedure depends on the Statues and Codes].  In some Cities the Mayor is strong, or the Mayor is weak, or divided.  In Atlantic City the Mayor can hire/fire people and make policy.  In Atlantic City, City Council approves all expenditures.  The AC Mayor has his own administrative budget for operating costs, but the budget must be approved by Council.  The AC Mayor must work with City Council, but the Mayor does not sit on Council.  The Mayor does not typically attend AC Council meetings.

George:  What do you think of an Emergency Manager for Atlantic City as brought up at the recent Summit by Governor Christie's people.

Scott:  There is already a State Manager in place.  There is a need for someone who has over-arching powers over the City, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), and (Atlantic) County.  Five areas were identified in the Hanson Report.  [Scott begins Oogling for the Report]  There is no one person looking into which Project that can be started first.  Susan Ney, who's stepping down from the CRDA, was a great asset to the City.  She had the vision and the trust of the citizenship.  With the right cooperation with the State and the CRDA, Mayor Guardian can handle it.

I like the title Czar better than Emergency Manager.  The Czar must choose one Project, must reach consensus and get shovels in the ground.  There is no time left. The schools are also important and the Board of Ed could be configured as an Abbott District to receive funding.

George:  One of the report’s recommendations is to cut back the AC Police & Fire Departments?

Scott:  There are a sizable number of people retiring in the Fire Department: 23 people, many of whom are middle managers.  This will be a significant return to the Fire Department.  Federal grants are paying for 50 firefighters, along with contributing grants.  The firefighters will be near compliance with the Hanson Report.  The City pays 183 firefighters and 50 are paid by grants, which equals 233 firefighters.  We had 261 firefighters; it will be 228 or 225 firefighters.  50 are paid by grant; AC will only pay for 180, as per the Hanson Report.

George:  Excuse my continued ignorance, but does the CRDA pay taxes to the City? How does or will the taxes from the casinos come back to AC?

Scott:  The Hanson Report redirects casino taxes, such as the luxury and parking tax, from the State to Atlantic City.  I agree with everything from the Hanson Report, but reports have come and gone.  The most important thing the Czar can do is get shovels in the ground.

George:  What can be done about crime in the City?

Scott:  The AC Police have made great improvements in policies and technology.  “Shot Spotter” and “TIP 411" texting are making a difference.  There is also community outreach: Pizza with Police; Coffee with Cops.  And Civic Associations are involved: The Venice Park Civic Association, The Westside Neighborhood Protective, and the 3rd Ward Civic Association. 

George:  I’ve wanted to attend certain of the Stop the Violence Marches, but I've often missed the notices.  I'll have to reach out

Scott:  That effort is by the Church groups.

George:  What of the cut backs to the AC Alliance?

Scott:  It may continue as a component of the CRDA, with responsibility assumed by the CRDA.  AC barely touches what Las Vegas spends on promotion.

George:  The Sunday free concerts on the beach appeared very successful; the boardwalk was jammed with people in cowboy boots afterwards.  The light show in front of Boardwalk Hall is entertaining and can be seen from inside the Ocean One Pier.
The art installations may have been derided, yet I’ve cut through that Art Park on Pacific Avenue several times on the way to the Boardwalk.  While the sculptures, that now have been returned, may have been somewhat controversial, I found the mounds and the lit-up words to be quite inspirational, personally.  While the route cutting through was a bit intentionally circuitous, I just read in a National Geographic how green spaces in cities, such as Paris and elsewhere, tend to cut down on area crime and there is less litter.  Also, people have mentioned to me that they enjoy the art installation on the Boardwalk at California Avenue, where they have the Zumba.  On a side note, that Bungalow Beach Bar at California Avenue is a blast.

Scott:  Yeah, that place is great!  Across Pacific Avenue from the Art Park are plans for a fresh food Market Place, like the Eataly in the Flatiron District in New York City.

George:  I thought you said Eatery, until you I looked it up; maybe this place should be called the Eatery.

Scott:  There are many projects being started.  The art installation you mentioned at California Avenue is being replaced with Boardwalk stores.  Then there is West Hall,  next to Boardwalk Hall by Toll Brothers.  The Boraie- Shaq Development may start just north of the Revel.

George:  How about the largest Art Gallery in the world: The David Holtzman Gallery, to be in the Claridge Hotel, that’s exciting!  And Bart Blatstein buying Ocean One Pier for a song.  That One Atlantic event space out at the end of the Pier is one of the most dramatic spaces I have been in with the views and all that white marble, fireplaces, and shimmering glass.  Bart Blatstein revitalized several neighborhoods in Philadelphia, where I was born and lived.  It had been my original plan to return and revitalize certain of those Philadelphia neighborhoods as well.  I must admit Bart revitalized certain neighborhoods where I was surprised as to the extent of his success, so I guess he will be able to do this in Atlantic City too!  I'll have to write him a letter!

Scott:  He will need the cooperation of Caesars.

George:  Oh, I believe he will get that cooperation.  While I do not gamble much myself, people often go gambling at the closest location after an event at that Atlantic One.  I really like the stores that are still there at Ocean One, such as Tommy Bahamas and especially Armani Exchange: the cut of the clothes actually fit me.

Scott:  There’s the Bass Pro Shops going up and we are to get a Cracker-barrel.  They say you’re not on the map until you get a Cracker-barrel!