January 5, 2022

Art, Energy, and Enthusiasm Come Together At the New Princeton Makes Artist Cooperative

“ARTIST’S LIFE”: “Art needs to be out in the world, interacting with people. When you bring a work of art into your home, you are allowing a new spirit to become part of your life,” says artist Jessie Krause, a member of Princeton Makes Artist Cooperative. Shown is one of her acrylic paintings, a cyclist in front of East Pyne Hall on the Princeton University campus.

By Jean Stratton

We are a community of artists from all over the world, all of whom have an artistic vision, and work in varying styles. There is a group dynamic here that enhances the creative process.

“You hear the sound of creativity, the sound of community, the sound of making things together. You’ll hear a sewing machine, a potter’s wheel, and all in a workshop environment. We’re like an art market. We are very accessible with a whole range of art and a wide range of prices. Art is affordable here. And the public can come in and see real people making real things in their studio. We’re part of the real world.”

Artist Jessie Krause is very proud of Princeton Makes, the Artist Cooperative in the Princeton Shopping Center. An organization of 30 artists, the cooperative offers them the opportunity both to showcase and sell their artwork and also to have studio space for their creative endeavors.

Opened in September, it was founded by stained glass artist Jim Levine, former interim director of the Arts Council of Princeton.

Hat Tip

“I was personally looking for studio space,” explains Levine, “and I recalled that when I was at the Arts Council, I had heard of a number of other people with a similar need. I also knew that throughout the pandemic, many artists were very isolated. The thought of creating a community of artists was an attempt to address that situation. I approached the Shopping Center about the possibilities for a studio and retail space for artists, and they were very receptive to the idea.”

“Our name is a hat tip to the Trenton Makes bridge,” he adds, “and it reflects the fact that it is artists local to the Princeton area that are the ‘makers.’”

As Krause noted, the artists are from around the world, including India, Israel, and Brazil, among other locations, who now live in the Princeton area. “These are very talented people, and their work ranges from painting, prints, and drawings to stained glass and sculpture to jewelry and textiles.”

Visitors to the co-op will find custom-made greeting cards, stained glass lamps and window hangings, photographs, ceramics, clocks, felt novelty creations, hats, colorful wall hangings, boxes in a myriad of sizes and shapes, and much more.

The spacious location near McCaffrey’s Food Market is a perfect place for the artists’ purposes, reports Krause, who was born and brought up in Princeton.

“There is room for 12 artists to have studio work space, and more room up front for others to display their work. The light is wonderful. The windows have a gorgeous western exposure.”

Creative Energy

In fact, the entire arrangement is very beneficial for the artists, who range in age from 20 to 70-plus. Each artist must commit to working four days a week at the co-op in order to help customers and to keep costs down (there are no employees). The co-op receives 25 percent of all sales.

“It’s so special that we’re in a shopping center,” points out Krause. “As a center of creative energy, we’re the last thing you’d expect in a commercial setting. It is very unusual. And it’s great that people can come to McCaffrey’s or a restaurant for food, and then come to us for food for the soul!”

Krause loved art and painting from the time she was a young girl, and was inspired and encouraged by her mother, artist Sylvette de Aldrey Krause. After a stint as a set designer and painter for the stage, she focused on painting — working in watercolors, acrylics, pastels, and oil — and had galleries in New Hope and Frenchtown. She also has had a thriving greeting card business for many years. Her cards, many of which are reproductions of her paintings, are available in various Barnes & Noble stores, museum and gift shops, and currently in Labyrinth Books.

As she says, “Twenty years ago, I had set up my easel and was painting outside in Gramercy Park in Manhattan. A woman stopped by and said, ‘I can’t afford a painting, but could you make a card of that?’ She was from Colorado, and that got me started with greeting cards, which has been very successful.”

Now with the establishment of Princeton Makes, she feels her artistic life has reached a matchless moment — a pinnacle actually.

“This is such wonderful place to create. I have become a better artist since I’ve been here. I am exposed to so many different forms of art, and we are all so supportive of each other. It is definitely non-competitive. The enthusiasm is contagious, as we encourage each other, and visitors are also engaged and encouraged to come in and watch us work.

True Self

“I love the community and the inspiration here,” she continues. “I started a whole new style of painting, and I’ve really been reborn in this environment. There is growth and creativity. It’s like an incubator here. You are more willing to take risks and move out of your comfort zone. The co-op is the portal to my true self as an artist. You never stop learning as an artist.”

Or as a spectator, one could add. As you walk through the spacious quarters of the co-op — and it will take more than one visit to absorb all that is there — you see an amazing array of artistic talent.

Jewelry, in many designs and sizes, from delicate to dramatic and bold necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, is a big customer favorite, and visitors never tire of viewing the tremendous variety of artwork. Paintings — including portraits, landscapes, seascapes, abstract and free-form — are all there. As Krause points out, “A painting, whether it’s a portrait, abstract, landscape, etc., is really a series of brush strokes on canvas.”

But what it evokes in the viewer can be magic. One piece can have different meanings, a different story to tell for everyone who looks at it, determined, too, by the experiences they bring to it.

The co-op is a wonderful example of interaction among the artists with each other and among the artists and the public, which has the added experience of seeing work in progress as well as the finished product on the wall.

As Jim Levine points out, “The public has an opportunity to see art being made, talk with the artists making the items they see, support the local arts community, and find one-of-a-kind works of art. For the artists, there is the attraction of studio space for those who need it, a retail outlet for the work of all the artists with administration being handled centrally, and the opportunity to be part of a community of artists. All of this is provided for the artists at very low cost.“

Sign of Hope

“We really are a special destination,“ adds Krause. “We look forward to even more people finding us. It excites me and the other artists to be here. Artists pave the way in society, and we feel our cooperative is a sign of hope for the future. We are really here to stay.

“I am fortunate that my paintings are all over the world. It gives me a sense that a part of me is there as well, and my spirit has become a part of other people’s lives. That’s what keeps me painting.”

She also notes, “Occasionally there is a painting that I need to hold on to. It could be because it evokes a seminal event in my life, or I might have been experimenting with a new style of brush stroke or color palette, and I want to take the time to be with it. On the other hand, there are paintings of which I am very proud that I am thrilled to sell right off the easel!”

Intriguingly, she notes, one of her paintings is in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, not on exhibit in the museum itself, but on the wall in the office of one of the museum’s officials.

Prices at Princeton Makes cover a wide spectrum. One-of-a-kind bracelets are available at $20, greeting cards are $5, prints from $35, and paintings anywhere from $200 to $1,000.

The cooperative is open Thursday to Sunday,10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For further information, visit the website at princetonmakes.com or email princetonmakes@gmail.com.