Fifty years of art, and going strong

Guild of Creative Art has renaissance in Shrewsbury


There is a new energy at the Guild of Creative Art in Shrewsbury, and the catalyst is Debbie Redden, who has been the president of the guild’s Board of Trustees for the past two-and-a-half years.

The Guild of Creative Art, 620 Broad St. (Route 35), Shrewsbury. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m., with evening hours Thursday until 7 p.m. For more information, call 732-741-1441 or visit The Guild of Creative Art, 620 Broad St. (Route 35), Shrewsbury. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m., with evening hours Thursday until 7 p.m. For more information, call 732-741-1441 or visit Redden, who retired after 18 years on the faculty at Monmouth University as professor of Methods of Teaching Elementary and Secondary Art, said that when she became president of the board, the arts organization was in a period of decline.

“The physical plant was deteriorating rapidly, there were financial problems, and the Board of Trustees was discouraged and tired, as many of them had been serving on the board for over 15 years,” she said. “It was the general feeling that the guild would not exist much longer.”

Redden formed an advisory committee of area business people to give the board advice and counsel. The advisory committee offered business and legal expertise and suggested policy that would provide direction and keep the guild solvent, she said.

“We prepared an extensive all-member survey and collated the results. We then spent months writing a five-year strategic plan that would reflect the members’ needs and suggestions,” she said, adding that during that planning time, the board did a SWOT, which assesses an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and possible threats to the five-year plan.

Threats, she said, means anything that could happen in the community or economy that would threaten the organization. For example, if another guild/gallery moved in next door or across the street, that would threaten the continued viability of the guild. Opportunity means that when the guild’s strengths or weaknesses are examined, an opportunity may present itself.

“For example, we have 500 members, many of whom are talented in many areas that could benefit the guild, such as lawyers, accountants, financial advisers as well as artists in diverse areas,” she explained.

Redden noted that it is sound business to conduct a SWOT and said it really helps the organization focus.

“I met four times with the Monmouth County Arts Council for advice and support. I talked at length to other nonprofit arts organizations for comparable facts and advice.”

In addition, she said, the guild held a volunteer fair to enlist more volunteers.

“We now have a huge volunteer group working in our newly formed committees, something that had been completely lacking before,” she said.

“The Board of Trustees has been completely replaced with new officers and members for a complete transformation of our administration. They hired more staff, including a bookkeeper, and purchased computers and software to put finances and member records online. In addition, there is a new webmaster and a new technology support committee. The Web site is now active and up-to-date and is currently under complete revision once again to give the gallery a more professional look,” Redden said.

In addition to the internal changes in the organization, the board also completed a renovation project that expanded and maximized use of the gallery space.

Board member Lucy Kalian was instrumental in getting the renovations done, and guild member John Hanson was the contractor.

“We have completely renovated the building, giving us more room for teaching, workshops and exhibits. The outside has been painted, and new windows added for more light and for more roadside visibility. We got rid of termites, replaced our airconditioner units and replaced a good part of our roof,” she said.

Redden has also expanded the teaching programs, which now have more diverse classes.

“I have set up a ‘Celebrity Series’ and have scheduled seven nationally known artists to come to the guild to offer weeklong workshops in diverse media,” she continued. “There is nothing of this type in our area. We have hired a new coordinator of educational services and now offer bus trips, lectures and demonstrations to the community.”

Redden said all of the changes have been a major undertaking for the organization.

“Now after this time of renaissance and transformation, we are on sound financial ground, have increased our membership and have changed our image in the community. Once thought to be a stodgy club, we are now a respected gallery where the community can experience and appreciate high-quality, original artwork, and an arts education center where people of all ages can receive quality instruction in a variety of media.”

The guild has been a part of the history of the local arts community for almost 50 years.

In 2010, the guild will celebrate 50 years of service as the oldest and largest art community in New Jersey.

According to the guild’s written history, its founder, Yvonne Aubert, was a tireless visionary who purchased a five-car garage at the guild’s present location at 620 Broad St., Shrewsbury, in 1960.

Aubert converted the garage to a studio and exhibition hall and encouraged some of Monmouth County’s most notable artists to become charter members. At the time, local painters and sculptors had few venues to exhibit their work and no opportunities for study, so Aubert’s inspired idea soon became central to the artistic community of Monmouth County.

The guild today is twice the size of the original building and membership has expanded to 500 artists. Located 1 mile south of Red Bank, the guild is a member of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts and the Monmouth County Arts Council.

A nonprofit organization, the guild is dedicated to advancing excellence in the visual arts through teaching, exhibits, workshops and special events. To this end, the gallery operates as a cooperative in which all members — general, associate and exhibiting — volunteer assistance and become involved in the guild’s administration. It survives on donations from members, proceeds from workshops and classes, commissions from the sale of artwork, fundraising events and dues.

Redden said, “I feel strongly that we need to do all we can to keep the guild going strong into the future. Each month in my president’s message in our newsletter, I put in an inspirational quote. My favorite is attributed to Walt Disney, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’We’ve done it!”