Gallery explores connections with African American artists

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RAHWAY, NJ — The current exhibit at The Gallery Space, 1670 Irving St., Rahway, called “Cultural Connections: The Fifth Annual Celebration of African American Artists,” has been open since Sunday, Feb. 12, and is set to run through Friday, March 10. For Lawrence Cappiello, the assistant administrator for Cultural and Heritage Affairs for the city of Rahway, this is another example of the work to which he has been dedicating the last 25 years of his life.

“I founded a non-profit in 1997 that the mayor at the time, James Kennedy, called the Arts Guild of Rahway originally and then it became Arts Guild of New Jersey,” said Cappiello in an interview with LocalSource on Monday, Feb. 20. “We told people you don’t have to be from Rahway to attend, to enjoy. Mayor Kennedy wanted to create an arts system in the downtown area and he wanted us to be a second anchor with the Union County Performing Arts Center, which is about a block away from us.”

Cappiello said a series of art exhibits are put on throughout the year at The Gallery Space, except for during the summer, because the building is not air conditioned.

“One of the things the city requested is something on Black History Month,” he said. “This is our fifth year doing that. I do six shows a year and I’m probably showing 70 artists a year. Most shows are 8-10 artists. When I was running the Arts Guild, I was showing 100 artists a year. The Arts Guild had to close in 2016. Since then, I’ve been asked to run the art exhibits and they are being provided through The Gallery Space.”

The following artists, as part of “Cultural Connections: The Fifth Annual Celebration of African American Artists,” will have their work displayed: Mikel Elam, Aaron Fisher, Donchellee Fulwood, Yazmine Graham, Jamarr Neyland, Oscar Peterson, Matryce Roach and Amira Rogers.

In addition to artwork, the city has been branching out to include musical performances.

“We do jazz shows, too, maybe four to five concerts a year,” Cappiello said. “I’ve had people here that have performed all over the world. They play all over Asia, South America and the United States. A lot of them have been in the business for 30 or 40 years.”

“We’re doing art classes for kids or adults that are very affordable,” he continued. “I have excellent instructors. Several instructors have advanced degrees in arts. A lot have been New Jersey certified art teachers. We have painting and drawing and stained glass for adults, and drawings and sculpture and cartoons for kids. The spring classes are open for registration at It’s open to residents and nonresidents.”

Choosing artists for a particular display is always a process, he said, depending on the specifics of the display and the artists themselves.

“When I choose artists for this one in particular, I’m looking for art that represents their life and black history in particular,” Cappiello said. “Their connection to family and friends, social and political issues in particular, that express how they see things. Most of the shows have a theme to them. The next is called ‘The Touch of a Woman’ and it’s on the theme of the roles a woman has had in the world around them. For that, I looked for photographs that expressed different facets of female behavior or mores on the world around them.”

The gallery is open 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by appointment, but it is closed on weekends.

Photos by David VanDeventer