Straube Center in the News

Straube Center hosts WAMPP arts and charity event

By R. Kurt Osenlund, Pennington Post

The weekend festival was the second for the Wine Art Music Poetry Project, a new nonprofit devoted to supporting area artists and performers, and benefiting congenital heart failure research.

On Saturday, Aug. 21, the Straube Center in Pennington played host to the Wine Art Music Poetry Project (WAMPP), an up-and-coming, nonprofit festival set to be held in various spots throughout New Jersey.

Designed to support local artists, musicians, poets, playwrights, authors and wine connoisseurs who may not have another outlet with which to share their passions, WAMPP also raises funds for congenital heart failure research.

“WAMPP is a charity fundraiser that I’ve been wanting to do for years now,” says Elizabeth Stelling, founder of the festival. Ten years ago, Stelling lost her 14-year-old daughter, Anelisa, to heart disease. After going through a serious grief period, Stelling – a writer, artist, performer and chef who moved from Texas to St. Louis then finally to Jersey – was in desperate need of a creative outlet, and wanted to find a way to marry it to a good cause.

Stelling discussed her plans over the years with her artist friends, many of whom she knew through the open mic nights she organized in Princeton.

“They said, ‘when you’re ready, we’ll participate,” Stelling recalls.

And so they have. Saturday’s event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., boasted a full roster of performances, along with a smattering of artists and vendors. Set up through the parking lot and onto the lawn between the Straube Center’s two main buildings, the all-day affair featured a stage at either end, one devoted to music and the other to poetry and book readings.

Among the performers were C.J. Barna, an R&B rock musician who entertained the crowd around 3:30 p.m.; Phil Southard, a singer/songwriter who hit the stage at 4 p.m.; and Ed Hines, a poet-turned-musician who serenaded guests at around 1:30 p.m.

At the poetry stage, local poet and author Phoebe Wilcox read an excerpt from “Recidivist,” her published collection of original poems. Wilcox also mentioned that her new novel, “Angels Carry the Sun,” is due out Sept. 15.

The vendors who lined the path between the stages included Amalthea Cellars of Atco, N.J. (the “official winery” of WAMPP, which hosted the project’s debut event on July 31, and will host its Harvest Event on Oct. 23); a face-painting booth, where Christina Miller of Hightstown drew mini-masterpieces on children’s cheeks; Jeanine DeNitto, a mixed media artist selling quirky, handmade dolls; and Randi Millstein, whose company, Randi’s Gourmet Foods, is especially known for its artisanal biscotti.

“This is totally a volunteer event,” Stelling said. “Nobody’s being paid to do this. They help me and I help them. I like helping the little guy. A lot of these performers were playing in bars and in their living rooms. This gives them a way to bring it out and share it.”

And, of course, it also gives them a way to be part of something that can help sick kids in need. All of the money raised at WAMPP events – which typically advertise a $5 suggested donation – goes toward congenital heart disease foundations and children’s heart camps. Proceeds from Saturday’s event were donated to the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation.

Stelling says she has big ambitions to bring WAMPP to many locations, and she has targets like New Hope and Lambertville in mind.

“I don’t just want to limit it to music; I want it to be all genres together,” Stelling says. “I want to bring the spirit of open mic – this element of art and music and poetry and wine – all over.”

One Straube Center Blvd • Pennington, NJ 08534 • Phone: 609-737-3322 • E-mail:
Straube Center Boulevard surrounded by Route 31, West Franklin Ave., Knowles Ave.-Bixby’s Way, and Broemel Place