Squeezing light and air into an unforgiving space, JCC MetroWest unveiled a gleaming new art gallery at its flagship center in West Orange.
The Gaelen Gallery East, dedicated at a reopening reception on June 30, is a sleek, cantilevered, 825-square-foot display space suspended over the JCC lobby.
The renovation of the former Gaelen gallery took 4,500 pounds of glass, 10 tons of steel, and 10 tons of concrete to create what benefactor Norbert Gaelen called “a work of art in itself, possibly one of the most beautiful galleries in New Jersey.”
Or as his wife Audrey Gaelen put it: “This is the most beautiful facility the community could have, created where there was just air.”
Architect Stephen Schwartz, who designed the gallery, said it was “perhaps the single most satisfying project” he has ever been involved with. Working with JCC CEO Alan Feldman, the JCC staff, the Gaelens, and contractors Allan Betau, Jason Scharfstein, and Bryan Macarthur, he came up with the concept earlier this year. It was completed in just three months.
Feldman explained that with various changes underway in the center, it had become necessary to re-purpose the existing gallery space. “Although this building is big, we actually had very little usable space available,” Feldman said. “We had to rethink how to use what we had.”
Addressing the opening audience, Feldman said the JCC, a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, welcomes 2,000 people a day, offering a wide spectrum of programs and services. “The arts hold it together,” he said. “They are the universal language.”
Added Norbert Gaelen: “It will enhance the JCC in magnificent ways, and it makes our art look even better!”
The first exhibition in the new space is of work from the Gaelens’ own collection, assembled over the past 50 years. It will be on display through August.
Artist Julie Levine, a member of the Gaelen Juried Art Show and Sale committee, described how the Gaelens — through the JCC gallery and the Gaelen Gallery West in Whippany — helped inspire her at a difficult time in her life.
“This beautiful new space is not just for viewers,” she said. “The Gaelen Gallery East will continue to provide artists with even more opportunities than ever before. And it will change lives — as it did mine.”
Gallery hours are Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.