“Before I had a family, my studio was always in my home. Now that the kids are grown and on their own, I dream of having that work space in my home again,” says Lambertville artist Kelly Sullivan, whose dream is about to come true.
Kelly is currently renovating the old Strand Theatre at 12 Coryell Street in Lambertville into an innovative, multi-use center for the arts, complete with studio, performance and living spaces. Scheduled to open in 2023, she envisions the future Strand Arts as a welcoming venue whose mission is to inspire “bold and collaborative artistic experiences.”
Reimagining a historic theatre into a community art house is, in many ways, a culmination of Kelly’s life work and passions. The fine art painter and collaborative arts pioneer has been bringing people together through art for the past 25 years.
In addition to painting, teaching and speaking, she continues to work with corporate clients to create large-scale, custom works of commemorative art called FingerSmears®. Each FingerSmears painting is made up of thousands of individual “smears” of paint, made by hundreds of people. Over the years, some of those people have included the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Harrison Ford and other celebrities. She will be selling the Rolling Stones piece, titled “Rock and Roll Voodoo,” later this year to help support the renovation and programming of the Strand.
Somehow, Kelly manages to find the time to create beautiful artwork and even explore new mediums. Although she is best known for her fine art oil paintings, she has recently taken to mixed media and “would love to pick up sculpture again and play around with stained glass, too.”
“When you are working in mixed media, you might be shredding things and adding piles of colors and textures; it sent my imagination and creativity into overdrive. It’s been really interesting and fun,” she says.
Kelly is also working on a painting of the footbridge in Washington Crossing. “Lately I have been hiking there and it is crazy beautiful,” she continues. “I am painting on wood that has been treated with plaster and water. The color catches (on the wood) in ways you wouldn’t expect.” This creates a really nice play on colors and interesting textures, she notes.
“I learned this technique, and so much more, from one of my teachers Simon Kogan, who is a brilliant sculptor, painter, and friend,” she adds.
Since COVID began, Kelly has sold quite a few paintings from her popular Storybook Village series, which have helped to move the Stand project forward. This series features familiar scenes and places in Lambertville and employs the same technique she learned from Simon. “These are also painted on this textured wood. Most have already sold, but I am painting more,” she says. “I have always thought of Lambertville as one of the prettiest places I have ever been to, with the river and the canal path and the wonderful old architecture.”
It’s not a coincidence that the Strand is located within a few blocks of the river and canal path in Lambertville. “Years ago, I produced a paint-out in Lambertville. Artists gathered and painted outside for the day, and then brought their art back for a show at the old Cafe Galleria location” she recalls. “That is the kind of environment I want to create at the Strand. Collaborative, supportive and full of energy.”