Studio Montclair Inc. is a non-profit organization of exhibiting professional and emerging artists and others interested in the visual arts. The mission of the organization is to promote culture and education in the visual arts.
SMI has grown to over 350 members from NJ and throughout the country. SMI offers an array of opportunities for artists to bring their work to the public and network with other artists. SMI has collaborated with other organizations such as the Montclair Art Museum, Aljira, Watchung Art Center, William Paterson University, The George Segal Gallery & Greenwood Gardens. SMI’s annual events include an Open Juried Exhibition that has achieved international scope, an annual Members’ Exhibition and 4 curated Exhibits at our Academy Square galleries. SMI sponsors 2 innovative community programs at the Montclair Public Library where member artists exhibit work in a month‐long event. SMI participates twice yearly in the Montclair Center Gallery Walks; facilitates art critique groups which meet throughout the year; holds artist development workshops on topics ranging from new photographic techniques to social media and presents a variety of lectures and talks related to the SMI exhibits for the benefit of artists and the public.
SMI’s history stretches back to the summer of 1996, when five Montclair artists felt the need to mount an exhibit echoing the famous Salon des Refusés in Paris of 1863. The focus of the organizers was to showcase the work of local artists who were not included in the February 1997 Montclair Art Museum’s “The Montclair Art Colony Past and Present” exhibit. The five organizers felt their grassroots exhibit would truly represent the depth and diversity of Montclair’s visual art community.
The exhibit was titled “The Rest Of The Colony, A Creative Response to the Montclair Art Museum’s ‘Colony’ Exhibition” (February 2 – March 4, 1997). The five organizing artists were Virginia Schaffer Block, Jean Kawecki, Charlee Swanson, Sarah Teofanov and Joan Anne Vaccaro, all expressing a collective voice that “a grassroots approach for organizing the exhibit brought to light the genuine desire for artists to band together to achieve results greater than that of any one individual.”
The organizers reached out to both established and emerging local artists in the community by posting a call-for-artists in the local Montclair Times. The call produced over 60 responses from artists living and/or maintaining a studio within the township.
The works of forty-five artists were exhibited in four local galleries in Montclair center. The participating galleries were Midland Gallery, The House of Brata, The Colonnades Gallery, and Makeready Press. All were in walking distance of one another and the museum. The opening reception was held two hours prior to the Museum’s opening and garnered an over-whelming response with over 1,000 people in attendance, causing one block of Midland Avenue to be closed to vehicular traffic and adding to the festive atmosphere.
At the close of the exhibition many of the participating artists had acquired affiliations with the galleries and formed like-minded artist friendships. The overall consensus that followed was a desire to continue as a group. Several of the exhibiting artists joined the five organizers to discuss plans for going forward as an independent artist-run organization. A large number of the exhibitors became the inaugural members of SMI and many remain active members today.
During the immediate months that followed the exhibit an early offshoot was formed. Spearheaded by the five exhibition organizers and calling themselves Art Five with a mission of bringing professional artists into the Montclair High School art program. The program consisted of established and emerging artists giving a slide presentation of their work and speaking with the AP students about the aspects of choosing art as a career path. The group was short-lived; however, their mission planted the seeds for the educational components of SMI’s mission.
Word began to spread about our newly formed group and artists from surrounding communities began to inquire about joining.
In September of 1997, the newly formed group took over the management of the annual town-wide Open Studios Tour, which was previously organized by MACA. The group continued to organize the tour for the next six years through 2002. Studio Montclair Inc. was officially incorporated on July 31st 1998.
In December 2000, SMI received a Montclair Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award given in recognition to individuals, businesses, or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the spirit of Montclair, while concurrently having a positive effect on the local business climate.
Virginia Schaffer Block, President
Alice Bryant Cubicciotti, Treasurer
Jean Kawecki, Vice President
Joan A. Vaccaro, Secretary
Original exhibiting artists
Virginia Schaffer Block
Ralph D. Caparulo
Alice Bryant Cubicciotti
Lori Nelson Field
Hortense A. Jacobs
Lancelott (Edmund Pease)
Mary Louise Long
William C. McCreath
Gloria F. Nolan
Joan Anne Vaccaro