Straube Center in the News

Art in the business or the business of Art?

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Win and Hildegard Straube admire "The Shower", a sculpture by Carole A. Feuerman, on loan to the Straube Center Aug. 26, 2010. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

by Alexandra Yearly

The Hopewell Express Vol.2, No. 1 of September 2010

A stroll through the Straube Center is not typical of most office settings — unless a typical office environment features rotating fine art exhibits in the hallways and sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.

When Win and Hildegard Straube moved their business from Manhattan to Pennington, they already had a passion for merging business and the arts. They have continued to mix the art business with the business world since they purchased their current facilities, in Pennington, in 1974.

Fine art in an office building serve two purposes, Win Straube said. The first is to give tenants and businesses the opportunity to be exposed to the art.

“And they love it!” Straube said.

Their second purpose is to give artists an opportunity to display and sell their art. Many of the artists’ whose work is displayed at the Straube Center are just beginning to establish themselves in the art world. An art exhibit, even one scattered throughout an office building, is an achievement an artist can put on a resumé. Not just any art is displayed in these facilities.

“We’re very critical,” said Straube. “We want to have really top of the line art.”

Some very famous and accomplished artists have their work on display there as well, including Carole Feuerman, whose sculpture, “Shower,” can be seen outside the management office building.

Every two months, a new show with a different theme is set up. The next exhibition, set to start showing on Sept. 3, is called “Illustrious.” The show will feature a variety of works ranging from illustration to fine art.

Alisandra Wederich, the curator at the Straube Center, explained that the definitions of an illustration and fine art are mostly subjective, and that is a big part of “Illustrious.”

“It’s sort of up to personal opinion,” said Wederich about the difference between the two art forms. “The line is really a gray area for a lot of people.” However, Wederich did provide a standard definition of the two types of art as well. Illustration is typically a visualization of form, in any kind of medium, whose purpose is to dictate essential information. It tends to be very graphic and often simplified, because it aims to tell a story.

In contrast, fine art is developed aesthetically and focuses on a concept, using a lot more detail rather than practicality. Wederich said that typically, people look at fine art for beauty and meaningfulness, and that the “fine” in fine art is used to distinguish the purity and the discipline involved in the artwork.

That does not mean that fine art cannot be graphic, or that illustrations do not require detail and skill—that is why the line between these styles can be so blurred. The aim of “Illustrious” is to display art that fits into either or both of these styles.

“It is meant to question. Where do you draw the line between illustrations and real artwork?” Wederich said. The show will feature artists Sweta Prasad, Nikki Addeo, Lynnette Shelley, Carl Frankel, Lauren Smith, and sculptures by Katherine Stanek and Don Campbell.

Painter and sketch artist Carl Frankel had his artwork displayed at the Straube Center last year. He said he is excited to return with new pieces this year.

The Monroe resident said some of his new pieces show his interest in architecture and has captured images of sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Philadelphia skyline.

“I’ve been working very hard for the past several months,” Frankel said. “I’m very upbeat about it.” He said his art fits into the theme of the show because he feels his art does cover both mainstream styles.

Lynnette Shelley said she looks forward to her first show in New Jersey.

“My work definitely has an illustrative slant to it,” said the Philadelphia-based artist. “Some of my pieces were even based off of Alice in Wonderland.” Shelley will have about 30 pieces of artwork on display at the Straube Center, which will be her largest show to date.

The Straube Center does not only house business tenants, but has also incorporated the Straube Foundation, Inc. since 1995.

The foundation’s purpose is to develop, assemble, distribute, teach, and make available the use of interactive educational materials. It aims to bring the highest quality educational presentations from the world’s best minds to more people. Just this summer, the foundation has organized learning programs for middle and high school children in areas such as robotics, and digital photography and manipulation programs, both of which take place in the art-filled conference rooms that double as classrooms or meeting rooms.

Tenants also do their part to promote fine art in the business environment. Wederich said businesses often purchase or lease artwork to display in their own facilities, or will sometimes volunteer to display artwork if the Straube Center requests.

Much of the art in the exhibits is available for purchase. Prices are at the discretion of the artist, and the Straube Center receives no commission. Pieces have sold for less than $100 and as much as $5,000.

Wederich, who has been the curator since October 2009, said sometimes tenants grow attached to pieces on display near their office space.

“Someone will fall in love with a piece across the hall and say, I have to have that!” she said. “The employees in the Comprehensive Mental Health Services office have always been great appreciators of the art.”

Some of their recent purchases came from a collection of beach and floral scenes done by an 80-year-old artist who had recently begun painting again, she said.

The Straube Center hosts opening nights for each exhibit, with food, wine, and tours of the new exhibits. As many as 100 people have attended the opening nights, where artists often discuss their work with patrons or even negotiate to sell pieces.

“What otherwise would be simple hallways are now art galleries, and in some cases are even better,” said Win Straube. “We’re serving as a facility for artists to supply art to the public.”

“Illustrious” is set to open on Sept. 3 and will run through Oct. 29. The opening reception is scheduled for Sept. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m.. The galleries are located on the second floor of the 100 building and I-108 building and are open to the public from 10 AM-4 PM daily, and 12 PM to 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The facilities are located on Straube Center Boulevard at Route 31 and W. Franklin Ave. in Pennington. For more information, call (609) 737-3322 or go online to www.straubecenter.com.

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