June 27, 2018

“Airing Out the Attic” At Trenton City Museum

“PORTRAIT OF BEN WHITMIRE”: Elizabeth Ruggles’ painting is featured in “Airing Out the Attic,” an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park. It runs July 11 through September 9, with an opening reception on Saturday, July 14 from 7 to 9 p.m.

When the Trenton City Museum opened its doors to the public in 1978, it had already acquired a small collection of decorative art and historical objects, and a few pieces of fine art. Over the last 40 years, the collection has grown to comprise nearly six thousand objects including more than 250 works of fine art, both donated and purchased.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the museum’s opening, the Trenton Museum Society (TMS) is “Airing Out the Attic” and putting on display more than 80 works from its fine arts collection. The exhibition runs July 11 to September 9, with a public opening reception on Saturday, July 14 from 7 to 9 p.m.

For the first 20 years of Ellarslie Mansion operating as a museum, the Trenton Museum Society relied on the generosity of its donors for additions to the fine arts collection. In those years, pieces sculpted and painted by Trenton artists like Frank Applegate, George Bradshaw, and Henry MacGinnis, instructors at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts, were accessioned into the collection. Occasionally, a well-known Trenton artist like Thomas Malloy, Marge Chavooshian, or Robert Sakson, whose work had been on display in a small group or solo show at Ellarslie, would donate a piece to the collection. As the museum society concentrated on developing its collections of Trenton-made porcelain and historical objects, fine arts took a backseat.

But with the support of the Trenton City Museum, and especially director Ben Whitmire, the Trenton arts scene was growing from the ’70s through the ’90s. In 2002, the Collections Committee of the Trenton Museum Society realized that it had a responsibility to collect the work of the Trenton area’s many talented contemporary artists. That year, TMS purchased The Puritan by Paul Matthews from Ellarslie Open XX, and so began a tradition of purchases every year from the annual juried show.

During July and August, the first major exhibition, comprised solely of fine art from the museum’s collection, will be on display. According to curator and longtime TWS trustee Carolyn Stetson, “Although many of the pieces have been on display for various exhibits over the years, this is the first time our audience will be able to see all these works together. It has been a lot of fun collecting the pieces from their behind-the-scenes storage spaces, including the attic, and putting them together in a cohesive exhibit that tells the story of the Trenton arts scene from the late 1800s to the present day.”

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie is located in Cadwalader Park, Trenton. For more information, call (609) 989-3632 or visit www.ellarslie.org.