Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Haddonfield Reveals an Artist in Bloom

If you love art and you delight in making new discoveries, New Jersey’s Markeim Arts Center is where you will want to be on the evening of April 16th. Art lovers from across the region will gather in historic Haddonfield that eve to see the work of an artist revealed for the first time. 

During a catered cocktail reception that will serve as a fundraiser for both the Markeim and the Rotary Club of Haddonfield, guests will have the opportunity to meet artist Mike Bloom and see first-hand how retirement from a successful career in architecture has translated for him into a creative storm of dynamic design in wood, stone, metal and on canvas.

From Retirement to Renewal

Mike Bloom creates daily with the same passion he brought to designing large-scale buildings during his 40 years as an architect. Off a quiet street near Haddonfield, only moments away from traffic lights and parking lots, he works in a sanctuary of art, color and light where sun streams in from every window and jazz fills the air.

“I’m retired - that means instead of working 15 hours a day I now work 10 hours a day. Well, lately more like eight,” Mike says with a smile and a shrug.

Evidence of his dedicated approach to creating is everywhere in his bright studio. Paintings line the walls and floor. Jewelry in the making rests on a table. Sculptures stand throughout the space. Asked how many creations he has made over the past five years he says, “If you count, you lose. I rather not know.” 

A visitor in his studio reaches for a miniature sculpture he has just crafted out of stone. “Aha, if you reach for it, I’ve won! It’s tactile!” It turns out the piece is an abstract representation of birds made to be experienced by anyone blind or vision impaired.  

His architectural skills allowed him to reconfigure an entire house to suit his needs for a large work space. 

He opened up walls, slanted ceilings and added skylights of his own invention: his “Sun Tubes” magnify daylight and work in conjunction with a circle of LED lights that power up when natural light is weak. The fact that these tubes now also illuminate schools in blighted areas in New Jersey is a source of great satisfaction for him. 

Architect to Artist 

When he first began painting only five years ago he says, “I didn’t know anything.” Reading, observation and repetition brought him to the point where he is now - receiving accolades and being asked to show his work.

“Landscapes are literature - they tell you all you need to know,” he says, explaining why he prefers abstraction to something more straightforward in his work. “Abstracts give you questions and reach inside your mind.”

His art reflects a layered sensibility. Walk the exhibit at the Markeim (on now through April 30th) and what you will discover are bold landscapes depicted in vibrant colors contrasting with canvases covered with shadowy figures expressed in subtle hues. You will find joyful, swirling creations in wood alternating with jagged works in stone and metal that seem to communicate loss. 

“This whole thing is an out-of-body experience for me - the upcoming exhibit, realizing how many pieces I’ve made over the past few years, being interviewed…all of it.”

Art for Peace 

Before he ever thought about dedicating serious time to art, Mike created his first public work - a powerful anti-Iraq War display in front of his Haddonfield office: he added one American Flag to a display for every soldier killed in battle overseas. The number of dead, he says, were not being accurately reported. He was so committed to the project that he called Dover Military Base every week to get a count of the caskets that arrived. He had military support for his project but not necessarily local support - his display was torn down. A general from Fort Dix flew to Haddonfield to help restore it. 

Considering how self-deprecating Mike is, it’s no surprise that the item he treasures most in his studio was made by someone other than him. It’s a collage of his anti-Iraq War project that a supporter created then dropped off anonymously at his office one day while he was out.

Life as Art

“Are we just mean?” he wonders about humans in general as he points out “The Homecoming” - a sculpture he created with no arms, no legs and “totally maimed, like our soldiers.” 

Mike’s focus on suffering coexists with a lively sense of humor and an interest in ideas that range from philosophy and physiology to quantum physics - topics he discusses among friends during the salon he has been holding weekly at his studio for seven years. 

Always thinking, contributing, creating - that is how Mike Bloom has chosen to move through life. That approach is now the signature of his retirement. After decades woking in “an art form of constraints,” as he describes architecture, this 52-years-married, 40-year active member of the Rotary Club of Haddonfield is designing freely - crafting a new life for himself as a talented, prolific artist and creating new experiences for those few people who have already encountered his work.

Be among the first to discover the Art of Mike Bloom. Visit the Markeim Arts Center on April 16th, 7-10 PM, when his creations will be officially presented to the public for the first time. The catered cocktail reception will feature open bar. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Rotary Club of Haddonfield and the Markeim Arts Center. 

Purchase tickets online at markeimartscenter.org, by calling 856-429-8585 or by contacting Gerry Nanos of the Rotary Club of Haddonfield at hgnanos@gmail.com. Price: $30 each or $50 per pair.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rugged, Restful, Golden

The next time you plan a trip to Colorado, be sure to put the city of Golden at the top of your travel itinerary. Golden surrounds you with rugged beauty and Western hospitality only 30 minutes from Denver International Airport.

It’s where you will find the best of Old West culture and outdoor adventuring in a low-key, authentic setting.

There's a reason why so many people from Denver pour into this town the moment great weather rolls in. It’s a historic destination (founded during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush) that rewards its visitors with relaxation - if that’s what they need -  or adventure - if that’s what they crave. 

Look all around you in Golden and what you discover is a place that honors it’s history, celebrates its artists and preserves its architecture. It is a pleasure to explore with unique, locally-owned businesses, small museums and bronze sculptures throughout the town. The streets are impeccably clean. The overall feeling is one of calm and well being. 

Maybe it’s the wide open skies above this low-profile town (most  buildings are four stories and under) but sound seems muted here. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself speaking in a softer voice during your stay to protect the rare quiet you will find in this town.

What do you hear most in Golden? On a walk recently it was the breeze, lots of wind chimes and the sound of geese calling to each other. The air hinted that it had just been to the mountains. 

Keep your eyes up while you're here - the panorama changes continuously with the colors and shadows cast by the sun.

Clear Creek, at the center of town, offers an inviting place to get acclimated to the area. Along its paved path is where you will find people exercising, walking their dogs, fishing and just generally engaging with the beautiful surroundings.

Walk in one direction and you will be headed toward hiking trails that lead up to Lookout Mountain. At the very top is The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave and Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve.

If you rather not hike to enjoy Lookout Mountain's scenery you can drive up to some of its best overlook spots or you can do like the fittest do - bike the 7%-grade, 4 1/2-mile winding road, hairpins and all, to the top.

After taking in what you came for - the big sky views, sunset, moon rise, stars or twinkling lights of Denver in the distance - you may want to add a thrill to the ride back towards town. Not satisfied with the pull of gravity, many bikers choose to pedal all the way to Golden, eager for greater speed. (Some adrenaline junkies prefer to make the return trip even more daring - they cruise it on longboards.) 

Walk along Clear Creek in the opposite direction and you will find yourself meandering toward the Coors distillery where tours and tastings take place daily. 

If real adventure is what you're after, there's plenty of opportunity for that in Golden. The landscape that surrounds Golden draws avid kayakers, hang gliders, hikers and mountain bikers to the area. Rock climbers who are serious about their pursuit also make their way into town - it's home to the American Mountaineering Center. Go for a hike at sunset and you are likely to spot groups of them coming off the trails - muddied, tired and grinning - to tailgate with a cold, local brew.  

One of the most pleasurable yet easygoing ways to enjoy Golden is to just walk the town. There is so much variety and whimsy to the shops and architecture that you can expect a surprise around every corner. At the top of a hill there is a colorful structure - a replica of a Nepalese Sherpa house - that serves as both a restaurant and cultural center.

On a side street there is a large building made entirely of river rock. Expect to see vibrant murals along building exteriors - each one is the handiwork of artist, Jesse Crock.

There are two practical reasons to add Golden to your Colorado travel plans - the town’s central location puts you within easy driving distance to Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and multiple ski areas. Also, at 5,675 feet above sea level, the town provides your body with a relatively gentle adjustment to the reduced air pressure and lower oxygen found at greater elevations. That’s right - the next time you travel to Colorado you can kick off your vacation with little to no altitude sickness.

When plans bring you to the Denver area, remember Golden - a town that glows with the spirit of the Old West.

All photos - © 2016 Maria Gorshin


* Consider making your reservations at The Golden Hotel - a warm, welcoming place to stay. The look is Western Contemporary, the location is ideal (along Clear Creek and steps to all of the town's attractions), and the restaurant serves up excellent dishes breakfast through dinner. (Wild game meatloaf and hearty soups are among guest favorites.) The atmosphere throughout is one of genuine comfort. 

* Pack layers to take you through chilly mornings, warm afternoons and cold nights. Remember to bring all of your outdoor gear plus hiking boots and sturdy walking shoes - pack for adventure.

* Try not to miss a single sunrise or sunset. 

* Visit the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum and take the Coors distillery tour. (The shorter version is shortcut to beer and small-batch craft brews that are available only in Golden.) 

* Grab snacks, breakfast burritos and baked goods at The Windy Saddle and coffee at Pangea. Order spicy, steaming soups at Sherpa House and enjoy the unique interior of the space. If you have special dietary requirements, you can pick up everything you need at Golden's Safeway or at the Whole Foods minutes from town.