BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Saturday morning's reception for the 6th annual Bernards Township Community Art Show, to remain in place through April 23 at the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge, included the announcement of the Mayor's Arts Awards for 2017.

Art show open daily

The non-juried art show features multiple pieces from 14 township artists ages 16 and up, and will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Friday, April 14 and Sunday, April 16, at the EEC at 190 Lord Stirling Road. Admission is free to the show, organized by the Bernards Township Parks & Recreation department.

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The theme of this year's Community Art show is "Inspired by Nature."

The community art show is not connected to the annual Mayor's Arts Awards. However, it has become a recent tradition to announce the mayoral awards at the opening of each year's art show. Mayor Carolyn Gaziano was present on Saturday to present the awards to two of this year's three recipients who were available.

The Somerset County-owned EEC - which hosts the community art show each year - was also this year's recipient of the mayor's arts award in the "organization" category.

Lorrie Lane, a volunteer at the EEC, said she submitted the nomination back when the EEC was hosting the annual countywide "Nature Through A Child's Eye" exhibit. 

Throughout the year, the EEC hosts numerous arts and cultural programs and events, including Ridge High School Arts Shows, environmentally themed events, and more.

Owen McKenna and Alex Bigatti also win awards

The two other recipients of this year's Mayor's Arts Awards were Ridge High School senior Owen McKenna, who just recently appeared as Tevye in the school's production of "Fiddler on the Roof," and Alex Bigatti, an artist who has been active in bringing together the annual ARTsee tour of the home studios of artists in Basking Ridge and Bernardsville.

Bigatti's primary medium at an artist is paint, and her work has been shown in both juried and non-juried shows, as well as being held in private collections, according to information submitted with her nomination.

Last year, in an ARTsee Happening held at the Boudinot-Southard-Ross Farm, she constructed a community collaborative sculpture with a wooden outline of New Jersey with "birds" made from recycled plastic. The birds were painted by attendees at the event, and later hung from the framework to illustrate their migration through the state.

McKenna has been active in many community programs, but his arts involvement has included lead roles in Ridge High School productions of both "Fiddler on the Roof" and last year's "Addams Family," as well as involvement in other productions.

He has also performed with other area theater groups and programs, including the Somerset Hills Drama Club, Trilogy Repertory Co., Annie's Playhouse in Far Hills, Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church productions, and more.

McKenna also has been a swim team member at Ridge, and a member of the school's acapella choir. 

His many other activities include volunteering for community service groups, including the "Saturdays in Motion" program for kids with autism run at the Somerset Hills YMCA, and as a member for RAAD: Ridge Against Alcohol and Drugs. 

"The Ridge student award is near and dear to my heart," said Gaziano, who said she has spent much time volunteering in the township school system while her children passed through as students.

The recipients of the Mayor's Arts Awards are scheduled to be honored at the next Bernards Township Committee meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28, at the Bernards town hall, 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge.

Each year, Gaziano said, there are many township residents from whom to make a choice to receive the Mayor's Arts Awards.