It was a brisk winter’s day recently when I went out to meet my childhood classmate and friend, renowned local photographer, C.a. Shofed, or Craig, to those of us of a certain age and relation. The sky was bright blue and all semblance of that warm December we just enjoyed was quickly retreating to memory as I greeted him at my office, a.k.a, Starbucks.
A toothy grin and affable manner belied the photographic prowess that I was eager to coax out from just beneath the surface. I was curious about what stirred deep within him that allowed him to consistently capture images of natural beauty, often against the backdrop of man-made constructs, that dwell in the momentary or the mundane…things we often miss. If you have the privilege to view a C.a. Shofed piece, some of the subjects you may recognize but never quite looked at before will now capture and seduce you with angles, colors, and unaccepted beauty that demands to be acknowledged, indulged, tasted.
Shofed’s passion for art is easily stirred in conversation. It is something that is never far from his heart, mind and his lips, and is something this Hopewell native is determined to share in as many venues as possible, not solely his own art, but also that of others.
It is that desire that gave birth to a yearly exhibit he created and curates at the Hopewell Valley Vineyards called “Common Threads.” This year is the fourth such presentation and, for the first time, Shofed is attaching a theme to the show: “The Power of Women.”
Shofed’s efforts in Trenton’s art community have not gone unnoticed. Councilwoman Marge Caldwell Wilson issued a proclamation after Common Threads’ second exhibit, praising Shofed’s efforts in furthering the arts in Trenton and his influence in creating a vibrant and thriving community. His own artistic creations sit in the homes of Princeton professors, corporate atriums and foyers, as well as in the homes of avid, seasoned collectors or even those just starting out in their love of art.
“Art plays every place,” is a statement that Shofed emphatically endorses and in that spirit, he naturally believes that every artist, regardless of gender, should have equal opportunities to be seen and appreciated.
“Women are underserved in the arts, in general,” said Shofed incredulously. “I live in Trenton and I can throw a stone and hit women artists in several different mediums.”
After listening to a program on NPR that addressed the issue, he was shocked at the inequities abundant in various facets of the art world, from showings at galleries, to marketing, to being taken seriously.
“Financially, women are paid less than men. If art is free why should any one group, sex, race be categorized and denied?”
And yet it is, and this is the impetus for Shofed choosing to showcase women artists for this year’s Common Threads 4 exhibit. Having experienced being shut out of the Hopewell art scene early on in his career, Shofed is well aware of how important it is to make opportunities available to everyone.
“Women have colored and shaped my life. From my mother (singer Wenona Brooks), and my grandmother, to my aunts, my sisters (one sister is singer Danielia Cotton), my wife and lifelong friends.”
The realization that many women are not given equal access in galleries and other areas, where art occupies a central and influential space, is what makes this particular installment of Common Threads noteworthy.
“Everything is woman-centered this year. From the artists, except myself and one other person, to the vendors and my production team. Even the venue, Hopewell Valley Vineyards, is owned by a woman.”
This year represents an expansion of the Common Threads vision. Not only is there a theme, “The Power of Women,” but this year CT4 is looking for sponsors for the artists and the show. As a Trenton resident, Shofed is excited to be highlighting the talent that is abundant in our capitol city among so many, but particularly among women.
“There will be so many different kinds of art, different mediums. Some photography, paintings, mixed textiles, impressionists, avant-garde, sculpture and illustrators,” said Shofed.
Most of these artists are from Trenton, with a few from the surrounding areas and one or two from far off, but no matter where these women are coming from, this year’s CT4 is about exposure, opportunity and inspiration.
“We are hoping to get as many sponsors as we can, even now,” Shofed added.
Getting people to see the importance of art and its availability is paramount for any successful artist. Good art does not have to hang in a museum or cost thousands. Sponsorships for Common Threads 4 start at as little as $100 dollars, and all of them include a piece from the artist of your choice.
Mark your calendars and share in your communities that Common Threads 4: The Power of Women will be held at the Hopewell Valley Vineyard, February 6th 12pm -5pm. Please come out to support and patronize women artists who are expressing their visions and passion in our capitol city and worldwide. Have a gourmet brick oven pizza, a vineyard specialty, with a glass of award winning wine produced locally by Violetta Neri of the Hopewell Valley Vineyards.
Please visit www.commonthreads4pow.com to view artist bios and sponsor the artists.