Borough Hall Gallery Exhibits Discussed at Council Meeting


Monday night's Borough Council meeting discussed a varied group of issues related to town but the most spirited of the talks was elicited by the proposal of Linda Vonderschmidt-LaStella of Earthsongs Studio, a Metuchen fine artist, who, with the help of the Cultural Arts Commission, is devising a revolving gallery of town-created art to be put into the downstairs gallery at Borough Hall (the Rotunda) in the coming months. The gallery would encompass 12 pieces of art from a single artist or from individual members of a group to provide a changing exhibit that would be open to public viewing.

The Mayor voiced fears about the security of the pieces as well as the physical hanging implements that would hold the artworks in place. Councilman Dyas had many questions about the nature of the exhibits, what would be considered appropriate and what subject matters would not. Ms. Vonderschmidt-LaStella responded to his concerns by allowing that nudity, violent subject matter and artwork that could not fit into the alloted space would not be considered. Councilman Morrison and Councilman Weber were the most vocal of the supporters, but the entire Council determined that a resolution spelling out the numerous restrictions and guidelines for the works of art should be devised as soon as possible, allowing, among other things, for the Borough Administrator, William Boerth, to have some say in the creation of the gallery and for Council Attorney Frizell to have legal say in the operation of said gallery.


And who is going to pick the art that they say should make them less cranky. What is this 1984?

Yes, the Cultural Arts Commission meets at Borough Hall. I agree, we should start there.

Does the cultural art commission have a location? Maybe that would be a great place to start.

I've seen plenty of art that is not at all appealing. Gotta stop going to the Guggenheim.

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions (Wikipedia 2009). Maybe some people in this town will be a less cranky if they have free art to look at. Thus, we all benefit.

How does the whole town benefit?

Art in boro hall will not fail if nobody buys, is will not close, but the whole town benefits from having a viewing place of the work of local artists. Don't you love the sculpture work in the post office on Main? Give this a chance.

We had a place just like that, but people didn't support it, and it closed.

Our society does not have enough knowledge of the past and of history. The historic photographs and maps are educational.

We are talking about art, and not just for the lucky people visiting boro hall to pay parking tickets. This could be place for all to step off the street and see something that someone else took the time to create. If you want to support the arts, buy a piece. If you don't want to participate, keep on walking.

Make them Free speech walls and let the free speech laws govern.

How would you determine what the people want on the walls?

No Censorship. Let the people who pay taxes put what they want on the walls.

I would like to respond to a number of the comments made...again, noting my enthusiasm for ART and its placement to be a topic of genuine interest and discussion among us!
First, let me comment about the historical photographs in Borough Hall. I am personally interested in the very rich history of Metuchen...I delight in the weekly Marty's Musings in the Crit; I personally purchased the History of Metuchen on sale at the library when it first came out. And I enjoy those historical photos and believe they certainly have a place in the building.
But they are THE PAST; to be able to view the work of living artists currently working speaks to both NOW and the FUTURE: which is the real work of that building, to shape the public life of our town now and for the future.
Furthermore, government at its best is so inclusive of the arts. Our own Post Office was a recipient of work done through the WPA in the '30's which incorporated art into all public structures. Even during WWII, VISUAL ARTISTS, YES ARTISTS--painters, illustrators--were sent overseas AS ARTISTS to create work out of their experiences. They had no responsiblity other than that. This was not to be photographic documentation or news gathering--but as ARTISTS. (I was really shocked to find that out, but it actually did happen.) So as a country, we have a genuine history of being supportive and inclusive and aware of what the arts can do in some very creative ways.
Finally, while yes, to use the currently empty Main Street buildings as gallery spaces could be effective...and there are other towns across the country doing that very thing...they are privately-owned spaces, and would, at best, and hopefully, provide a very temporary home.
What Cultural Arts is proposing is a much more permanent opportunity for all of our residents to regularly come in face-to-face contact with images created by live, working artists. It will be a statement of inclusion in our public life, not of merely "relegating" the work of artists to some "semi-permanent" space that's "here to day; gone tomorrow." Artwork exhibited in empty stores is long as that is not our ONLY placement of it.

The majority of people who go to boro hall are there to fight traffic tickets. They don't care what's on the walls.

Currently, there are several empty store fronts in downtown Metuchen. If the goal is to increase art awareness and appreciation in the town as well as bring people to the downtown of Metuchen to support town and business..Why not open temporary art spaces in the empty stores until they are rented...Similar to a "moving gallery"...This is helpful to property owners (get to show the space often when people are seeing art they are also seeing the place), it is good for our downtown (we wont have the look of empty stores), and it is good for the artists (get to show their art in a prime location (at least for several weeks), and it is good foot traffic (extra funds for other business).

I also support the train station idea because it is an ideal spot to promote community.

Art in boro hall will add class to our town. I still don't understand one reason why people are against this. If you don't like art don't look. I think the idea is refreshing and gives extra spark to the town.

Train station is a good idea. I think having events at your train station is one of the things that make you a Transit Village. Aren't we supposed to be a Transit Village?

I am excited about the forum being revitalized! Will be there! is great but not in Hall..Speak to owners of coffee shops, bookstore..

A great place to do a gallery will be brew awakening....great wall space and tons of people there weekends. How about inside the train station? Great place for commuters to see art

What do you people have against art? The town puts a lot into the Junebug festival, should we stop doing that too?

Coffee shops and schools should be utilized for this not Borough Hall. The only art in Borough Hall should be related to our town or historical photographs. Borough Hall is not a gallery...there are many more places in town that could be great for a gallery

The coffee shops should be utilized for this not the Borough Hall. The only art should be related to our town or historical photographs.


I misspelled censor, and put period where it should be a ?.

I think the rotunda should be a free speech area. Any resident that pays taxes should be able to post what they want in the rotunda. We are all paying for this space. Why just let it be open to a select few and on top of it give them the power to sensor what is displayed.

I want to see some young chicks.

Maybe because it sounds like carpetbaggers?

My sources say he is 41.

Why does "teabaggers" seem like such a dirty term?

I am pretty sure Waldron is 39. Wasn't he 38 when ran?

"Young guys?" Manley is the only one under forty, and Dyas is the only one over 50. How about some chicks?

I think they are talking about the Mayor, not Obama.

Because he's the antichrist right? Thats what the teabaggers are saying

"Still waiting for all the promised change...

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

Why are you down on Obama?

The national party platforms really don't have much to do with local government. Only die hard partisans care about that.

No way am I going to waste perfectly good tea bags.

You mean "hard to get anything accomplished when you have no new ideas"

Oh wait, they do have no ideas, tea baggin!

Does Will have a plane? Why does he need props? LOL

The same old guy is still doing the budget. The Dems still have 4 votes. Hard to get anything accomplished when you're in the minority.

Will's da bomb

Hey, give Will some props here, not just Justin and Chris. Will try's hard too.

The thing I like most about these guys is that they listen. You see they listen. They listen at the meetings, they listen to the citizens of Metuchen. You can talk to them about something and they actually consider what you are saying. They may or may not agree with what you are saying and they may be right in not agreeing with you, but at least they listen and consider what you have to say.

As long as that continues, I will vote for them. It is nice that politicians will actually listen to the people they are supposed to represent, instead of the usual "you elected me on my vision and now go away" attitude you see in so many politicians.

Still waiting for all the promised change...

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Oh wait, thats right, no more leaf bags, whoopee!

Ah here it comes...don't let GW Bush ruin Metuchen. When that doesn't work they'll drag up Susan Marshall from 1992. When that doesn't stick I suppose they'll have to go after Nixon.

What on earth does Republican versus Democrat really mean in Metuchen? I've watched the work each side is doing right here and now in 2009. In the Repubs you've got a bunch of young guys who think our town could and should do better. They want to open up government, make it work for us and have it be as efficient and cheap as possible. The little change we've seen in two years is because these guys are beating their heads against a wall and giving the entrenched Dems no choice but to act. You can label them fascist for all I care and I will vote for them. I can only imagine how hard they'll work if they have the votes.

Im not talking about our country. I'm talking about a single community.
I am not comparing Bush to O'Brian or Vallhalla but when change is needed it must and should be done.

Which is why we have a sociali...excuse me Democrat as President now.

I am an Independent voter who wants what is best for the community.

You guys are so boring anyway, "Democrats are Socialists!!" Really?

Yes, Republicans are so successful at leading in our country...



Democrats are Socialists!!

Losing the last 2 could not happen soon enough for me! Let the Republicans take over, we've seen how the Democrats have fared. Or rather not fared. Tax increases, dead downtown with 17 stores for rent, negligible street repairs and on and on. It's time for change. Sound familiar?

One almost down and two to go. Dyas is not seeking reelection in November. If the town elects a Republican to replace him then Morrison, Waldron, Manley and the new person would be in charge and I am certain they'd make changes. I hope it happens and since Morrison and Waldron will be up the year after that the people could make a change back if we don't like what we see. Having watched the 3 Reps so far this year I am very confident they will do a great job. I suppose technically Weber could lose his seat too but don't see that happening in a Dem town like Metuchen.

Where I used to live they had art in the City Hall and Openings. One thought - If they have openings for each new show they could draw people to the businesses downtown, i.e. dinner afterward.

It is hard to believe in this day and age there are still those ignorant individuals who want to censor the arts. The idea of putting a gallery into a cold structure such as borough hall, which was built with tax dollars and took longer to finish than the Sphinx in Egypt would be an asset to the community.
I think it's time for Mr. Dyas, Mr. Frizell and Mr. Boerth to retire and allow the smart young new council members with vision, such as Mr. Manley and Mr. Morrison, who I believe have the towns interest in mind, revitalize a borough that is simply going bankrupt, financially, in the downtown district as well as artistically.

First, I would like to thank whoever it was that posted the link to the website Art on Trial. That included some very interesting commentary.
Second, I find it really EXCITING that the Cultural Arts Commission has generated this kind of dialogue! While certainly some people have taken a position very different from my own, it is still energizing to know that people are interested enough to comment--one way or another--about our proposal...that it is not merely a "ho, hum, who cares" suggestion.
And finally, if I could respond to some of the concerns voiced above:
1. Visual art is very interesting as a commodity. It really is of its very nature unlike a shirt or a pair of shoes. While most serious artists, and certainly those who create art as their means of income, fully intend to sell their work, the work--unlike shirts and shoes--is more than the clay and glaze, or paint and canvas materials from which it is created. There is an element of spirit present in a work of art quite different from other "everyday objects"...that is one of the very reasons people choose to purchase handmade objects for everyday use--mugs, dinnerware, etc--to bring that heightened sense, that additional layer as it were, into the rhythm of ordinary living. It is definitely why people purchase a painting or is not because it is merely "pretty" but rather it adds a genuine life-force to the space.
And it is that "additional layer", that opportunity to offer free of charge(!), to share with all who come into a gallery space the vision, the spirit, the distinct energy of the artist who created the work that we would be offering should we choose to establish the gallery. Hence, I do believe the ones gaining would be all of us, the viewers, the people who have the opportunity to see the artwork displayed beautifully, professionally, appropriately in our public space.
And while Metuchen is notable in being home to a number of visual artists who do work full-time at their craft, many, many more have a "day job" and struggle to carve out moments to engage with their art.
Yes, if we choose to create the Rotunda Gallery we would surely be supporting our local artists. But I believe that support would be merely by saying we value your presence among us. You do help us see the world in new ways, expand our vision, create beauty and delight.
2. The Cultural Arts Commission was created nearly half a century ago to "promote appreciation and awareness" of the arts. This is the very thing the people of Metuchen called for in establishing this body. We are delighted to be actively engaged in that mission!

I don't get it? Iselin is quite a lively place right now.

We are so plain, we are turning into Iselin.

Strange, it sounded like a good idea when I first heard about it, but the more I hear about it, the less I like it.

Boro hall is a beautiful building? Really?

If it supports the local artists, then they can afford to live here and contribute back. If people come from other towns to look and buy the art, (boro hall is a beautiful building) they may stop for a drink,a meal, window shop and support our stores. Let;s not cut our nose to spite our face, the empty store fronts are not bringing in anybody, inexpensive art (and I hope photography) will.

So I guess Logan is similarly doomed then? Their prices were kinda scary when I went in there.

A good old ice cream headache would be more fun, though.

If the paintings or other works by the artists are for sale by the artists, isn't it advertising? It may be more subtle advertising, like those for sponsors of public television as compared to ads on commercial networks, but it is still advertising.

Metuchen Art works was very nice, but in a poor location. We should support local artists.

Rather take an icepick in the forehead than sit through a council meeting....

Advertising and putting art up on the wall. Talk about apples and oranges.

And two were newspaper reporters. I wonder why the Star Ledger was there?

If Metuchen was an "art town," Metuchen Art Works would not have folded.

Girl scouts and boy scouts are non-profit community service organizations, not businesses. Talk about apples and oranges.

You represent a new day in town, a new resident caring enough to attend the meeting, caring enough to get involved. You witnessed the old guard in action but the times are changing. You, the new residents in Franklin Square who are organized and involved, a new town square development, we'll get there. Don't give up on Metuchen. Hang in there. It doesn't belong to the old guard or the hangin-in-the-shadows critics. And I believe that there are members of the council sitting there waiting to implement new ideas. They might be held back right now but that will change too.
Thanks for caring enough to attend the meeting.

frustrated by our council...

yes, i walked out feeling frustrated, frustrated by what i saw and heard and frustrated by the seeming lack of interest by those in town. Not even fifteen people in the room--and two were representing the insurance comapnies vying for our dollars, two presenting the art concept-- a couple who walked in and out... while the council spoke to the cameras for everyone at home and on the web to see--that's actually more frustrating, the lack of active involvement.

maybe my expectations were a bit high, but it certainly felt and sounded just like any other meeting at work where one guy knows it all, one guy is going to question everything, two aren't going to care much but go along with what the boss says.

the discussion on insurance? Mr. Manley's questions were well thought out and his goal was clearly stated--save the borough some $30-50K a year.. the rest of the council for the most part was just content with the status quo..

Mr. Dyas? negative, negative.

as for the art--i'm all for it. the borough council should embrace it, the administrator should embrace it, heck the schools should get involved, unfortunately if it ends up happening at all, my guess is that it will be controlled by the administrator-- so we'll be subject to Mr. Boerth's taste in art whatever that may be.

Get a grip. The town is subsidizing an artist by putting up art? And to think I thought that Metuchen was for smarter than normal people. What do you have against art?

Funny thing is, I don't even like most "art" but I just can't understand how anyone could object to something like this.

I think the schools should from now on ban all groups coming in also. Why give them free advertising. No more free demonstrations, shows, anything. Oh, and boyscouts and girlscouts are private functions, our police and ems shouldn't give presentations anymore, why shouldn't they pay for our taxpayer funded services?

People lighten up. Metuchen is known as an art town, let's keep it that way.

Another issue is the decision as to what is or is not "appropriate." Who decides? What if an artist's work is turned down and they decide to obtain publicity by suing the town? Can the town insulate itself from liability by having an independent panel making these decisions, or is the town liable no matter what because it is a public building?

I've been there for meetings on nights there is court, and sometimes the lobby is full of people leaning on the walls. What if one person knocks a painting off the wall and it lands on another person's foot? Who's responsible?

Here's an interesting website that discusses art in public spaces.

Separation of church....I mean, art....and state.

I like art too, but I am one of those who don't understand why local artists should get any more support than other local businesses? All businesses are struggling. We had two art galleries in town, both of which closed.

Some people have a problem with the Forum seeking volunteers to help revive a for=profit theatre. That seems like a different issue, as people will choose whether or not to participate, just as they did with the Boro Hardware fire.

Here, all tax payers would be subsidizing a commercial display in a public building.

Those things should be there too, there are lots of walls there.

So using that logic should we also allow local carpenters, or fashion designers, or music teachers, or whatever to advertise their business in town hall?

The town should continue to allow the historic society to put up photos and maps. If you've been to local history day at the library, they seem to have an extensive supply. I'm sure they could find some more stuff to hang.

Or how about pictures of our school sports teams and the marching band and math team and drama club and information about their successes?

"I like the old pictures and maps from the historic society."

Me too!

Is it really that big an issue for you? What do you care if someone is getting free advertising for their artwork? Maybe the town should not allow that and go out and buy some artwork, would that make you happy? We could even remove the artists name so they couldn't get the advertising for that.

I guess just going with plain paint works for you. Lets make it as droll as possible. Of course, that would advertise Sherwin Williams or some other paint company. Lets go with plain sheet rock. Well, a company does that to and could gain from the free advertising. How about we cut down some trees (that is popular in Metuchen, we have residents willing to do that) and just stack them up against the walls so no product would ever receive advertising benefits from our public sites.

This would both provide attractive decoration for the Town Hall and supports local artists. For profit or not, I think it's a great idea.

The largest quantity of people going to town hall are there for court. Are they really in the mood to look at art?

I like the old pictures and maps from the historic society.

I think the issue that most concerns people is, why should artists be allowed to use a public building as free gallery space to display art that they most likely intend to sell. Even if there aren't prices on the paintings that hang in town hall, the main reason living artists display their work is they one day hope to sell it.

Art displayed in public buildings should be museum owned art, and not a "show" by artists trying to make a living.

Currently the library has art displays. Even when the art displayed is by children, there is a sign advertising the art school at which the children made the art. These schools charge for their classes. The question some taxpayers have is, why do these art schools get to use a public building to advertise their businesses?

It is not Mr. Boerth's building, it is the citizens of Metuchen's building. Boerth just works there. With an attitude like that, its good to hear that Dyas isn't running for council again.

"Frustrated", can you expand on your thoughts? Was it just Dyas who ticked you off or others as well?

Art is always a for profit effort, always.

No matter how noble it is to claim its not...

last night was my first council meeting and i had a chance to listen to all the council members on various topics.

Mr. Dyas's line of questioning was nearly out of line. Seemed like a cranky old man who only likes his way of doing things.

the fact is that public buildings belong to the public. As such, artwork can and should be displayed in public spaces. The way the resolution was being shaped up last night, it seemed Mr. Boerth would have final say because as Mr. Dyas indicated, it is his building.

Went home very frustrated as to some of the quality of elected officials in town.

I think the rotunda is on the first floor. Also while Ms. LaStella does have her own studio, she's working with AND for the Cultural Arts commission. She's an appointed member. This is not a for profit effort.

Can I run my business out of town hall too?

Care to elaborate?

The Dems are lucky that Dyas decided to retire from Council.

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