My neighbor the renowned painter Mel Leipzig

My neighbor the renowned painter Mel Leipzig

January 28, 2011 – By Eric Schultz

Mel is a renowned realist painter. His works can be found at the Whitney Museum in New York, the White House and in private collections around the world.

Mel Leipzig Painting Michael Graves

Mel Leipzig Painting Michael Graves

He is also my neighbor in the Glen Afton section of Trenton.

I don’t usually appear in the programs I produce. I am much happier behind the camera. But, in this case, I just had to make an exception.

After filming a number of interviews, gallery openings and sittings with Mel painting friends, fellow artists and famous architects, Mel decided he wanted to paint me playing my cello. It seems he would hear me through the upstairs window practicing when he walked his dog.

Let’s face it, an invitation to be painted by a famous artist is flattering and completely irresistible.

Shortly before I was to be painted, I met my old friend and cello player Lynne Beiler at Fred Oster’s rare violin shop in Philadelphia. We were trying out cellos and Fred brought out the cello that Thomas Eakins had painted in 1896. I had seen the painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art many times.

Knowing that Mel revered Thomas Eakins, one of America’s most famous 19th Century painters, we borrowed the cello for my sitting.  Mel was blown away.

Producer Eric Schultz painted by Mel Leipzig

Producer Eric Schultz painted by Mel Leipzig

"The Cellist" by Thomas Eakins, 1896

“The Cellist” by Thomas Eakins, 1896

Director of Photography and Narrator Aubrey Kauffman and his wife Michele painted by Mel Leipzig

Director of Photography and Narrator Aubrey Kauffman and his wife Michele painted by Mel Leipzig

Mel’s old friend of thirty years Aubrey J. Kauffman, my colleague here at NJN, served as director of photography and narrator for the documentary.  Mel painted Aubrey and his wife Michele a few years ago.

This project has been a 3-year labor of love for both Aubrey and me.

Viewers will not know about our connections to Mel, but we hope they sense the warmth and care with which we labored.

Photo by Helen M. Stummer

Risking Life and Lens

Helen M. Stummer is a photographer, a visual sociologist, and a woman who speaks her mind, lets you know her politics, and perseveres no matter what. She’s taken pictures of people in their environment in New York’s Lower East Side, rural Maine, and Guatemala. And she spent over 30 years in Newark’s Central Ward.  Her new memoir, Risking Life and Lens, tells the stories of her forays into poor and sometimes dangerous neighborhoods. Helen also tells the story of her own childhood. She describes it as emotionally impoverished although, outwardly, comfortably suburban.

The caption for the photograph above is Quinzel, Cornelius, and Hasan 1998. Helen always asks permission, and often gets to know the people she photographs.

Click here to view Benjamin Genocchio’s moving slideshow and review of Rest in Peace, an exhibition of Helen M. Stummer’s work held at Aljira in 2008. The review appeared in the New York Times.

Our story on Helen M. Stummer, Newark native, Kean University graduate, and Metuchen, New Jersey resident will air on the March 19, 2017 episode of State of the Arts. An exhibit of Helen’s photographs will be on display at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark from April 8 through June 24, 2017.

Helen M. Stummer, East 6th Street, NYC (1977-80)

Helen M. Stummer, East 6th Street, NYC (1977-81)


The Trenton Show

Think you know Trenton? Look again.
State of the Arts goes on location to explore the cultural life of the historic capital of New Jersey. Outdoor concerts, graffiti festivals, punk rock flea markets, cutting edge theater, destination restaurants, an amazing community of artists, and big plans for a new downtown arts district are making Trenton a center for cultural activity that is growing fast. Coming up in December on State of the Arts – and if you want to be invited to the special preview party in Trenton, make sure to subscribe to our e-news list!


Aviator, Writer, Feminist featured in new documentary

This picture of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh was taken in 1929 in New Mexico, where they had flown in to explore the cliff dwellings. They flew everywhere – landing in Japan, China, Stockholm, Maine, the Virgin Islands, and all along the coasts of Africa and South America. Anne was Charles’ co-pilot, as well as radio operator and navigator – she could plot their course through the skies by the stars. But she was first and foremost a writer. From a bookish family, she embraced the adventure of her life with Charles, writing about it in her letters, diaries, and best-selling books. Her style was lyrical, deeply influenced by poetry and the new, stream of consciousness modernists of the 1920s and ’30s, especially Virginia Woolf.  In September 2016, a new State of the Arts documentary about Anne Morrow Lindbergh will premiere. Until then, visit Morven Museum & Garden to see Couple of an Age: Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, featured in this State of the Arts story.

Randy James On Telling Stories Through Dance

We recently dropped in on rehearsal for the world premiere of the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the classic story, told through dance. Choreographer Randy James has created a modern interpretation of C. S. Lewis’s tale of children leaving World War Two-era England for the magical and mythic world of Narnia, which is accessible through a mysterious wardrobe in the country home of a relative. In Narnia, they meet many characters – from Aslan the lion to the evil White Witch. For this project, which James has been developing since 1998, he recruited beyond his all-male group 10 Hairy Legs. Dancer Monica Gonzalez (pictured below) plays the role of Lucy – the young hero of the story.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs this weekend at NJPAC.

Our segment on the project will air Sunday, 2/21.

An Essay by Nell Painter


Artist and historian Nell Painter wrote this essay to accompany
“I Might Be Next: Jerry Gant & Bryant Lebron,”
an exhibit at the Criminal Justice Gallery,
part of the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University- Newark

Watch the State of the Arts story here.


Wonderful things about being black abound, from the physical to the cultural to the social.

Blackness is beautiful in the body, the skin, the vigor that shows in muscle and sinew. (Let us

here praise Serena Williams.) Beauty in the music and the poetry and the art. (Let us here

praise 2Pac and Duke Ellington and Elizabeth Alexander and Kara Walker and Stanley Whitney.)

And the beautifully almost un‐American sense of solidarity.

I want to talk about solidarity, as Bryant Lebron depicts it, and solidarity as Jerry Gant depicts

the sadness when it is missed.

That sense of community—of solidarity, of being connected over time and space and even

clashingly different experiences—distinguishes Americans of African descent from the

mainstream loudly proclaiming its individualism, stony, self‐reliant individualism. But we who

have been so persistently lumped together, discriminated against, even beaten as embodiments

of a group, have long embraced our group identity. Solidarity has been our talisman, our key to

sanity within an insane system of racial denigration. Where would we be without our peers to

reassure us that we were not insane? How to survive as an isolated individual, when

individualism would condemn a single person to insanity. No, individualism does not serve us

when we are mistreated as part of a group. Solidarity has saved the sanity of most of us, even

though legions have fallen victim to racism’s insanity.


In these times, the weekly drumbeat of murder turns solidarity into an endlessly renewed grief,

as a person is killed as each week goes by. We may be personally safe. But our solidarity

connects us, week by week, to each murdered black person. “That could have been me,” we

feel, we say, each time another loses her or his life senselessly. This cruelty stretches back

farther than Bryant Lebron says. In my mid‐twentieth‐century generation, it was the vicious

torture‐murder‐drowning of Emmett Till in 1955. Then it was the three young men in Freedom

Summer of 1964. The Black Panther Party for Self‐Defense began in 1966 to combat anti‐black

police brutality. Each of the urban uprisings of the twentieth‐century began with the fact or

rumor of police brutality. In each instance, we mourn the victims in racial solidarity and in the

knowledge that it could have been me. It could have been me, walking down the street in a

hoodie with Skittles in my hand. It could have been me avoiding the overgrown sidewalk. It

could have been me in the dark stairway or in the street selling loose cigarettes. It even could

have been me inviting the stranger into our prayer meeting. It could have been me changing

lanes without signaling and smoking in my car. Yes. In solidarity, I know it could have been me.


 Nell Painter, Newark, New Jersey, July 2015

Jim Toia: The Art of Uncertainty

Artist Jim Toia collaborates with mushrooms, woodpeckers, and jellyfish in his retrospective at the New Jersey State Museum – “From Here To Uncertainty”. We go with him on a mushroom hunt to create one of his signature “spore drawings.”

Cuban Flavors at Two River Theater

This year’s Crossing Borders Festival at Two River Theater Company had a timely theme: Cuba. Cuban and Cuban-American playwrights arrived in Red Bank for five days of readings by some of the most talented artists from “on and off the island.” It all began with a neighborhood party attended by Cubans from all over New Jersey, and featuring music by the award-winning musicians David Oquendo and Juan Wust. You may be able to catch them in person at Cubacan in nearby Asbury Park, where they play regularly. Tune in to the season premiere of State of the Arts on October 4, 2015, to hear more music, and to meet playwright Rugelio Martinez. Martinez arrived in America on the Mariel Boatlift when he was nine. Two River Theater presented a reading of his new play, Cocktail Time in Cuba.

Mermaids and Other Creatures

Mermaids 3  Donald Lokuta

Most years, photographer Donald Lokuta can be found at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Donald’s interests are varied, and his photographs reflect it – another one of his series is called “Plato’s Cave,” and features people pondering stark black skies (there’s philosophy to explore here!)  A new story premieres June 28 on State of the Arts NJ about Donald’s 16-year friendship with, and photographs of, the late sculptor George Segal. An exhibit of the photos is on view through July 31, 2015 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in New Brunswick, and they’ve published a book as well: George Segal in Black and White: Photographs by Donald Lokuta. Donald Lokuta is a professor at Kean University.



Coming Soon on State of the Arts

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has made NJPAC its second home. Molten glass airplanes and installations made with old bottles – artists explore ideas in a new show at Wheaton Arts. A photographer adds to her collection of deeply-personal self-portraits. And find out why New Jersey is the Poetry State.  (Premieres Sunday, 5/31.)

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