In 1989, painter Charles McVicker felt isolated. He had heard tales of the Impressionist painters meeting in the cafes of Paris, and the Abstract Expressionists having heated discussions at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village. But there was no such gathering place for the artists of Princeton. Hoping to change this situation, he asked four prominent local artists, Margaret Johnson, Marie Sturken, Jane Eccles, and Joanne Scott to meet for a brainstorming session. They all agreed that a working artists’ group would be a vital addition to the Princeton community.
But how to start? Each of these artists, who would go on to become the founding members of the Princeton Artists Alliance, started by making a list of fellow artists they admired. The lists were compared and compiled, and selected artists were asked if they’d be interested in joining such a group. The number 20 was thought to be manageable. And thus, in 1989, the Princeton Artists Alliance sprang into existence, with its first official meeting.
The new group included painters, sculptors, printmakers, and photographers, each having their own style and unique approach to the creation of art. Some were recognized nationally, others even internationally. What united them was the desire to enrich the Princeton community with talks, open studios, art demonstrations and exhibitions. As they started to meet more regularly – eventually monthly meetings were established. The artists also discovered that consistently discussing and critiquing each others’ work often inspired them to push their own creative boundaries even more.
The Alliance first had exhibits wherever they could: empty stores, model homes, and corporate galleries. Each artist showed their best work, and the art was exceedingly diverse, to say the least! Then one day, someone suggested a show based on a “theme”. Professor Robert Fagles, of Princeton University, had just published a highly regarded translation of Homer’s “Odyssey.” The group was inspired by the idea of using this classical text as the springboard for an exhibition. The beauty of this concept was that the artists would be free to express themselves entirely in their own way, but the “theme” unified the exhibit. This show was well received and from it’s original venue at the Bristol Myers Squibb Gallery, went on to The Newark Museum, several university galleries, The Lobby Gallery, Deutsche Bank, and The Foundation of Hellenic Culture, New York City.
Through the years, theme exhibits have been inspired by the Pine Barrens (at the Noyes Museum), the preservation of the Trenton Marsh, and, most recently, an exhibit at the D&R Greenway showing the havoc to our natural environment caused by hurricane Sandy. Several years ago, an exhibit at the State Museum in Trenton highlighted the collaboration between artists and poets. In 2013 members of the Artists Alliance exhibited in another show at the Museum entitled “America.”
Over the years, the membership of Princeton Artists Alliance has naturally evolved. As members leave the group, new artists are added. But what never changes is the organization’s dedication to high quality art exhibits. Lifelong friendships have been made in the Princeton Artists Alliance, and we look forward to continuing to encouraging each other, and the entire Princeton community, to be inspired by art.
Today the PAA is re-formed with new members to bring new voices across multiple media into our community. See our artist pages for more information.