Les Malamut Art Gallery celebrates area artists

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UNION, NJ  — It is a gem right in the heart of Union, a celebration of art and artists.

Located on the lower level of Union’s public library, the Les Malamut Art Gallery was created by art enthusiasts Lester and Shirley Malamut, longtime Union residents who felt an appropriate venue was needed to showcase local and area talent.

Shirley Malamut, who opened the gallery in 1988 with her husband, said that it was the beautiful artwork she saw in Union’s schools that inspired the gallery. “I saw artwork in the schools done by parents and children and I realized that there was no place to display it,” said Malamut. “So I said, ‘Let’s create one.’”

Malamut set to work, and soon she had formed a group of people dedicated to providing access to original works of art to Union’s residents. The library trustees agreed to provide the space, a gallery committee was formed, and the group went on to raise money through grants and donations to install an elevator that provided access to the lower level of the library.

Barbara Wirkus, the gallery’s vice president, treasurer, and public relations representative, who is also a talented photographer, said that the gallery holds approximately eight shows a year across a variety of artistic disciplines including oil paintings, lithographs, photography, and sculpture. “It’s a marvelous venue,” said Wirkus. “You can’t get any better than this. The space, the lighting is really conducive to an art show.”

Malamut, who has lived in Union since 1954 and who taught in Union schools for 30 years, continued to run the gallery after her husband’s passing and has remained dedicated to the gallery’s mission.

Malamut believes that the gallery provides a much-needed venue as the arts are being eliminated in schools. “It bothers me that the schools are eliminating art and music,” said Malamut. “Art is a way that you express feelings.”

Wirkus said that prospective artists are invited to submit samples of their work to members of the gallery’s committee and that once an artist is invited to exhibit, a reception is held at the gallery.

There are also special events in the gallery that tie into a current exhibit such as demonstrations of encaustic technique, photographing ice, digital publishing, and digital art.

Currently on exhibit is Union’s Youngest Artists, an annual exhibit produced by students attending Hannah Caldwell and Livingston elementary schools.

Malamut said that she hopes that people will come celebrate Union’s young and talented artists. “People should come and appreciate what the children are doing and share in their efforts,” said Malamut. “It’s good for any age group. Everyone is welcome to come and bring their artwork.”

For more information visit www.lesmalamutartgallery.wordpress.com.