In the early 1980s, it was not uncommon for New York Times art critic Vivien Raynor to travel to Plainfield for an exhibit at Tweed Gallery, an ambitious enterprise of artists Kim Blackburn and Maria Mijares.
In this 1983 review, Raynor also delves into a controversial (and ultimately failed) plan to move the gallery from its Front Street location to the main train station building on North Avenue. Its final location before disbanding was a second-story space on Watchung Avenue.
My daughter, her roommate and my future son-in-law were all involved in Tweed Gallery. It was exciting when a new show opened, but behind the scenes there was the ongoing challenge to raise money, schedule gallery sitters, garner publicity and broaden support from the community.
My entry into local reporting began with art reviews in Plainfield Today, a weekly newspaper created by Jan and Henry Johnson. It had offices on North Avenue in two storefronts, one of which later became an art gallery. I think it was the same location as the pop-up gallery at 144 North Avenue that just opened Friday and will continue through May 19.
Another new gallery is Obras Art Gallery at 107 Park Avenue, a venture of developer Mario Camino.
These are all good signs for Plainfield's cultural life.
Through all the changes, Swain Galleries has been a constant, now at Watchung Avenue and East Seventh Street but also with beginnings downtown. Its history dates back to 1868 and spans four generations. Newcomers especially should get to know it.
Creativity has always been a prime family value in our household, and Plainfield abounds with creators of art, music, literature, design and more. Those who lovingly restore its architectural treasures pay homage to the original creators. It's heartening to see new support for artistic creation emerging now.
Both Union County's Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs and Plainfield's own Cultural And Heritage Commission are resources for those involved in creative work. Partner up!