WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 130 people converged at the Masker’s Barn in the Deserted Village in Watchung Reservation Friday for the Westfield Art Association's exhibition and sale to celebrate its 95th Anniversary.

Participants enjoyed warm weather and the spacious renovated barn, which is sought for many catered events. There they could explore and purchase artwork created by Art Association members, who were entitled to retain proceeds from sales. Prices ranged from $25 to triple digits. Michael Endy, president of WAA, reported that five pieces were sold during the event, which ran from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Prices reflected the goals of WAA to appeal to both professional and nonprofessional artists, allowing seasoned professional members interact and exchange ideas with newcomers to artistic pursuits.

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“WAA is really a lively group of artists who love to celebrate the joy of creativity and to inspire, uplift and unite the community,” event chair Laura Brown said.

Karen Dunning, a member from Rahway, was standing near her watercolor when she was asked how long she'd been painting.

“This is only the second watercolor I've ever done,” she confessed with a broad smile. Dunning been taking lessons at a senior citizen facility in Rahway where she caught the painting “bug.” She said how much she enjoys being a member of WAA, where so many members inspire and increase her newfound passion, just as Brown promised.

Paul Frederico, a board member who handles publicity for WAA, explained what motivated his portrait of a baker sporting a tray of freshly baked doughnuts on his shoulder in Hacklebarney State Park. Whipping out his camera, Frederico snapped a shot of the baker, which he transformed into a painting back in his studio. The frame, which he made himself, was from “some old wood in the garage.”  He managed to create a rustic soft blue surface to coordinate with the mood and color of the piece. (Federico's painting was one of those that sold.)

In another area, several patrons were gaping at a wall sculpture of jazz instruments thatappeared to be heavy metal. Not so, as the artist, Barbara Wallace, explained.  Already well-known for her significant work on the casting of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, she knew exactly what she was doing when she created her circular sculpture incorporating several jazz instruments. This was no accidental grouping.  Wallace's son, James Bally, 14, plays piano, vibes and alto sax while his older brother Ray, 20, and a Cornell student, plays bass and trombone.  She immortalized their talents with her own in her sculpture.

One admirer asked Wallace if it was okay to touch her sculpture.  “Sure,” she said without telling him it is actually made of paper. Wallace, a professor who teaches Introduction to the Arts and Visual Thinking at Kean University, revealed, “The paper looks like metal because I applied a faux bronze finish to it.”

An elaborate buffet included wraps, flaky Greek appetizers, dips, stuffed grape leaves, traditional finger sandwiches and fruit, all “lovingly prepared and managed by Avi Kiriakitis,” Brown said, adding that the desserts were donated by WAA's Board of Directors.

Once guests were wined and dined, president Endy introduced the speaker, Priscilla Hayes, a preservationist who discussed the enormous murals hidden for decades under wallpaper in the antiquated cabins. In the 1920s, artist Diego Rivera arranged for struggling artists to live in the abandoned cabins, gratis.  It took a while before glimpses of the paintings were noticed.  

“Wallpaper paste wears off,” Hayes said, which explained why the paintings were subsequently discovered and ultimately uncovered.

Because the deserted village’s cabins are barely standing, guests were not permitted inside for safety reasons. The paintings, intact and amazingly still radiating color, were displayed prominently in the barn out of reach but not out of sight, hanging high on the wall over the buffet table, generating many “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.

“What a wonderful evening of art, music and nice conversation,” said Kassandra Arnes. “It’s so rare an opportunity to help a worthwhile organization and have fun.”

Learn more about the WAA by emailing westfieldartassociation@gmail.com.