An Interview with Catherine Delett
I have noticed in the last year the social media presence of the Valley Arts District has grown. I am not the only person using the #valleyartsdistrict hashtag. Other people have joined in on getting the word out about the ever growing Valley Arts District.
I met a visual artist, Catherine last year during the 10th anniversary celebration for ValleyArts, inc last summer. She was the current exhibiting artist in the Hat City Kitchen orbiting gallery. I wanted to do a story on her, but time got the better of us. And now a year later, it is now the right time.
Catherine is not only a very nice person and talented artist. Like me, she is passionate about getting the word out about the arts movement in New Jersey. Her site and informative newsletter, Arts in SoMa and the Valley gives you all the events, exhibits and more going on in South Orange, Maplewood, and the Valley Arts District. And ever since we figured out that we were the faces behind our sites, we have been finding ways to collaborate.
First, let us get to know the artist a little better:
P.R.: What brought you to the Valley arts District specifically?
I lived in West Orange, not far from Hat City Kitchen, for 10 years. I remember when HCK opened and all the excitement around the new things happening in the neighborhood. I haven’t lost that feeling of excitement about the growth of the arts community there – all the energy and creativity!
How did Arts in SoMa and the Valley come to be?
Basically, the idea was born from wanting to hit people over the head with how great this area is for the arts. Valley Arts District, South Orange, and Maplewood have this amazing arts scene. I’m not sure where else in NJ you can find such a concentration of creativity of all kinds. It’s NJ’s best kept secret – but being secret isn’t really a good thing for artists, musicians, and performers. I want to tell people what’s happening here – one email each month, delivered to your inbox – no work for you, no social media algorithms deciding what you see, just everything happening in one place, easy to refer back to all month.
How have you seen it bring exposure to South orange, Maplewood, and the valley?
My mission is to spread the word both inside and outside our community about the local arts scene by listing all the art, music, and performance events happening in South Orange, Maplewood, and the Valley Arts District in one place in a way that is super easy for people to access and refer back to throughout the month.
I hope I’m helping to bring exposure to SO, Maplewood, and the valley. My subscriber list has just about tripled since I started in October, and I’d like to think I list events that people might not have heard about otherwise. Venues, artists, and musicians have thanked me for promoting events – hopefully, they are seeing some new faces at events. Eight months isn’t that long, so I’ll just keep going and growing! I’m looking forward to working with you and Masconsumption to get the word out.
Now about your art, which exhibitions have you exhibited in the Valley Arts District?
I am thrilled to be part of Open Orange for the second year in a row. It’s such an amazing show. I exhibited at Hat City Kitchen last summer, and in two shows at the West Orange Arts Council (WOAC). WOAC also has a member show coming up in June at the Firehouse Gallery where I will have work.
What is your favorite subject to paint/photograph? Why?
My favorite subjects to paint are people and animals. My work is very narrative; I’m always telling a story.
How did you feel about being in a group show with other local artists?
Are you asking about Open Orange specifically? It’s an honor to be part of such a talented group of artists and to have my work hanging on walls with other artists I know and admire.
Talk about having your work exhibited at Hat City Kitchen
I have to confess I’m a big HCK fan so it was such a great experience to see my Birds and Words series hanging in the dining room. I met a lot of interesting people – artists and art lovers – through that show as well. It really solidified my affinity for the Valley Arts District.
Where do you reside? And how has that enhanced your career as an artist?
Currently, I live in Maplewood and before that, I was in West Orange. I’ve lived in many places, but this is the first place where I’ve really connected with a community of artists and other creative people. I think creativity breeds creativity, plus there are many opportunities to show and share work, so living here has really helped me grow as an artist.
Talk about your journey as a photographer/visual artist
I’ve always spent time drawing and painting, even as a child. But my career path took me away (sometimes very far away) from my creative side. But, as artists of all kinds know, everything informs your art. I wouldn’t be creating the way I do know – both in media and subject matter – if it wasn’t for the path I took to get here.
If you were not a visual artist, what would you be doing?
The times when I didn’t have creativity in my life were very hard. At this point, I can’t imagine not being a visual artist.
How do you want your work to make an impact on the world?
As an artist, my work is very narrative. If someone can see and connect to the story I’m telling, can be drawn into a place they recognize, and feel something – whether it’s joy, sadness, longing, or laughter – then I’ve made an impact.
What is the most important aspect of being an artist? Why?
This is a tough one. Art can be commentary on society, it can beautify, it can be deeply personal or very public. There are many, many reasons to have art in the world, but every artist’s goals and journey are different.
For me, one of the most important aspects of being an artist is helping everyone experience the act of creating art. Art is very therapeutic and art is for everyone. It doesn’t have to be a critical success or hang in a gallery to have value. Sometimes the value in art is inherent in the process of creating it.
Tell us about any future projects, exhibitions you have coming up
I will be part of the SOMa Artists Studio Tour on June 5, and the WOAC Member Show at the Firehouse Gallery opening June 16. In July, I will be traveling to Ireland with The Art of Travel to paint and photograph, so I’m sure I will have new work from that come Art Walk time in September.
How do you hope to work with Masconsumption in the future?
There is such a synergy between what we are both doing, I hope that we can continue to mutually support each other. I think a show featuring young artists at the Firehouse Gallery would be amazing and I’d love to support that effort however I could.
Where do you see the Valley Arts District in 10 years?
I see it as a destination for people both inside and outside this area for art, music, and good food, without losing its inherent character and personality.
What mostly inspires your art?
Storytelling, humor, memories.
How has social media helped Arts in SoMa and the Valley?
So valuable in spreading the word. I like having a more direct connection with people – I’ve met some great and interesting people via Instagram and Facebook and I like the conversation and feedback that happens.
Where can people signup for the Arts in SoMa and the Valley newsletter?
Visit, https://artsinsomaandthevalley.com/ and sign up!
Photograph by Gregory Burrus