|The Art of Dan Fenelon, photo credit Ally Blumenfeld|
Inside the new Firehouse Gallery and Artist Lofts, very few vestiges of the 1905 Forest Street Firehouse remain. In fact, it is quite hard to imagine that the building was once populated with firemen, fire trucks, and an ever-present sense of urgency. Now, it is mostly quiet inside the walls of the gallery, but it is certainly not without energy.
On Friday night the firehouse was transformed yet again, this time into the world of artist Dan Fenelon. 'The Art of Dan Fenelon' opened to an impressed and excited crowd who had the pleasure of mingling with Richard T. Bryant and Patrick Morrissy, executive directors of ValleyArts and H.A.N.D.S. respectively, and Fenelon himself. The hardwood floors, exposed brick, and freshly painted white walls were the perfect canvas for Fenelon's colorful and intriguing work. It wasn't your typical four-wall gallery, however, as artwork hung not only on the walls but on stands, from poles, and from the rails of the large white garage door – perhaps the only clue to the previous career of this beautifully renovated building.
Many of Fenelon's pieces were, much like the gallery that housed it, repurposed. There were tables, shelves, hangers, a wheel, a television, a bass, and a toy truck – all now art. One of Fenelon's many talents seems to be turning the ordinary into the extraordinary: taking a “non-art” item, and by using color and imagination, transforming it into something creative. It became clear that this exhibit mirrors the vision of at-the-helm organizations ValleyArts and H.A.N.D.S. in its insistence on finding art in new places, and creating where others may not see space for creation.
This is exactly what is happening in the ValleyArts District. About halfway through the opening, Bryant, Morrissy, and Fenelon spoke to a captive audience of community members, friends, art aficionados, and supporters. Morrisy explained that their vision for bringing art to the Valley is not “chardonnay and expensive paintings” – it's about creating: creating an arts district, creating a strong community, and most importantly, creating opportunities for expression for those whose voices are not always heard. So far in the Valley, thirty-nine artist spaces have been built and occupied, seven are just opening (including the Firehouse), and fifteen are currently under construction. Their wish is to build 100 spaces where local artists can live, work, share, and create with the community of Orange. As an artist, Fenelon is also a part of this creation. He often includes community members – mainly those who are not artists – in the creation of his public projects and murals. He has said that it is important for locals to have a chance to take ownership in his work, which is an ideal way to truly bring arts into the Orange community.
'The Art of Dan Fenelon' is the perfect exhibit to open the new Firehouse Gallery because, like Fenelon's incredible art itself, the ValleyArts District consists of old spaces becoming new, the archaic becoming the accessible, and the “non-art” becoming art. Just as a blank canvas emblazoned with Fenelon's signature designs becomes a piece of artwork, so too does a previously abandoned firehouse, with a black and white mural signed by Dan Fenelon on the facade, become a place for art.
|Outside the ValleyArts Firehouse, photo credit Ally Blumenfeld|
'The Art of Dan Fenelon' is not to be missed. Open through Sunday, January 6 at the Firehouse Gallery and Artist Lofts, 580 Forest Street, Orange NJ 07050.