Dontae Muse is the first artist for our Art in the Park Series. Since 2016, Dontae has been the co-owner of Above Art Studios located in New Brunswick, NJ and best-selling author of Tripping Over Canvases: How To Open Your Own Art Gallery With No Prior Experience. The gallery has won many awards and Dontae has found himself as an advisor or on the boards of the New Jersey Art Adminstrators of Color, Institute of Music For Children, New Brunswick HeART festival, New Brunswick NAACP, and has become an Artrepreneur coach and an advocate for fair payment to artists for artistic services.
Joan Conway began her career in the Piscataway School district teaching art at the middle school level and later she branched out to other grade levels as she took on a supervisory role for the district. Her career advanced to district supervisor for the visual arts and later developed into the District Director for the Visual Practical and Performing Arts. Joan was an integral in advancing arts education in the Piscataway community as well as the state. She served several years in leadership capacities for the Art Administrators of New Jersey as President, Vice-President, Secretary and Student Achievement Award Chairperson while being active with the NJ Department of Education initiatives such as: NJDOE New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, Assessment and Evaluations. She was named Supervisor of the Year in 2002 by the NJ Principal Supervisor Association and worked on the State Advisory Committee on Professional Development for School Leaders as the NJPSA representative. Joan holds a BA and MA in Fine Arts with a K-12 education certificate as well as a MA in Educational Administration from Kean College.
After retiring from the Piscataway School District, Joan continued to pursue her commitment to arts education by teaching for the Middlesex and Monmouth County Arts and Education Center, by volunteering as a docent for the Rutgers Zimmerli Art Museum and becoming an adjunct professor teaching and supervising student interns for New Jersey City University. Other artistic interests pursued included the appointment of Commissioner to the Middlesex County Cultural Heritage Commission. She has adjudicated several art shows including the Student Congressional Award. With fond memories of remembering Piscataway students enjoying their time at the Middlesex County Teen Arts Festival, Joan sought out individuals who saw the worth for the teen students to celebrate their talents and learn from others by bringing back the Middlesex County Teen Arts Festival in 2019.
After moving from Edison, Joan moved to South Amboy where she was challenged with a way to get families into the town to enjoy an event. That event turned into 2011Artsfest. Presently, Joan is the Director for the SA Arts Gallery and Vice-President of the South Amboy Arts Alliance and is busy planning 2021 Artsfest.
Inspire Art Gallery & Studio, a Dunellen-NJ-based nonprofit, has transformed a downtown garage into a gallery and studio space. Originally founded in Spring 2018 by US Navy veteran Hal VanDermark, Inspire Art Gallery serves both artists and art-lovers young and old by providing monthly curated shows, educational programs, and community-oriented events. New this year, Inspire is offering yearly memberships as an initiative for art consumers and artists to save as they engage.
VanDermark has a plan for the gallery that includes poetry nights, open mic nights, paint & sip parties, adult classes and children’s programming. But he also has a vision for Dunellen. “I’d like to see this town become a hub for the arts, like New Brunswick.”
When he’s painting, VanDermark’s mind goes where the brush goes. “Until the brush stops on the canvas, and the painting is complete, there’s nothing that goes on in my head.” Inspired by his late mother who passed away early in his life, VanDermark often immerses himself in landscape art, while indulging in abstract and mixed use projects.
Anyone can be an artist, he says. “Everyone has talent. You just have to harvest it. It’s like a job. It takes practice, it’s not something that you’re just born with. You have to put the work and time in to develop your craft.”
To find out more about the gallery, memberships and opening shows, visit www.inspireartgalleryandstudio.com.