Sunday, June 10, 2018

Veteran Opens Art Gallery in Dunellen, NJ

Inspire Art Gallery

By Rachel Appleton

WHERE: 129 N. Washington Avenue in Dunellen

During Memorial Day Weekend 2018, Inspire Art Gallery opened its doors for the first time, and I had the opportunity to interview Hal Vandermark, veteran, artist, art curator and manager of the newly opened Gallery.

Inspire Art Gallery opened to the public on Friday, May 25. The first show consisted of impressive art from the Dunellen High School spring collection. Art on display comprised landscapes, portraits, abstract and realism paintings.

The spacious and well-designed location will serve the public as an art gallery, an educational and creative art-maker space, and a hub for community development.

Inspire Art Gallery will offer paint classes, monthly art exhibits, and a rentable space for artists and businesses.

Vandermark is looking to attract veterans and students to the gallery, in hopes that they will find a passion for art and a productive method for relieving stress.

I believe that everyone can enjoy and create art, he says. I want to reach out to local veterans and show them that art can serve as therapy for mental illness. Having experienced military induced PTSD, I know that art can heal.

The art curator painted during his time in the public-school system until he joined the Navy. Honorably serving for 4 years, he specialized in launch and recovery of airplanes, a dangerous but rewarding career. He traveled the world and you’ll see that in his paintings.

Vandermark and his family moved to Dunellen in hopes of enjoying a close-knit neighborhood. Since his move in 1987, Vandermark developed a vision for the one-square-mile town. “If artists come here, we will make Dunellen the place to be,” Vandermark says. “There’s opportunity here.”

This vision aligns with the Dunellen Arts and Culture Commission’s mission closely. The Commission was founded by Dunellen Councilman Jason Cilento in April 2016 and aims to grow and develop Dunellen economy by sponsoring and creating art programming opportunities for the public.

“Arts create a venue to build community. They are the purest form of expression and a social network,” says Councilman Cilento. “They are not just simply a form of quality of life, but can have a significant impact on a local economy.”

Inspire Art Gallery will attract individuals to our great borough and inspire those who already live here to join our growing arts community, Councilman Cilento adds.

“Inspire Art Gallery has the potential to play a pivotal role in shaping the artistic and creative fabric of the community,” said Julie Grof, Dunellen Arts and Culture Commissioner.

“Hal has demonstrated a real commitment to the Dunellen community by extending a hand to potential collaborators, such as the Dunellen High School art program and the Dunellen Arts and Culture Commission, in efforts to make a real difference in the cultivation of local talents,” Grof said.

Inspire Art Gallery will have an impact on the community in large waves.

Upcoming shows include Off the Easel in June “and Through the Lens in August. The studio will be open 6 days a week at varying hours. Students and veterans are welcome to the space for free. Supplies will be available for purchase. Keep a look out for painting classes!

Inspire Art Gallery is currently open and invites you to stop by to discover your next hobby.

OPEN CALL FOR ART: There is a call for artists for the June show titled Off the Easel.

Just remember to get inspired, and create art©.

For more information about Inspire Art Gallery, visit, email, or call 732 762-7000.

The Dunellen Arts and Culture Commission

The Dunellen Arts and Culture Commission (DACC) was founded in April 2016 and serves to provide and encourage programs which afford the public greater opportunities to experience arts and culture in Dunellen. The commission is a government run organization under the control of the Recreation Department. DACC sponsors the Dunellen Summer Art Camp, Music in the Park, and the Founders Day Annual Celebration. For more information about DACC, visit or

Rachel Appleton is a journalist and serves on the Dunellen Arts and Culture Commission. Contact her at for questions and comments.