Great Bay Art Gallery on Bay Avenue in Somers Point is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its iconic neighbor, Smitty's Clam Bar, by hosting an art show in its honor.
"It's an iconic piece of Bay Avenue and Somers Point," said Kathy Arleth, whose art gallery at 829 Bay Ave. is just a stone's throw from Smitty's, 910 Bay Ave. "People from all over come to the Clam Bar for a nice summer meal."
The art show, "Happy Birthday Smitty's, aka the Clam Bar," opens today, June 26, and runs through July 20 at the gallery. It includes an eclectic display of artwork created by 15 local artists in various styles and media, from pastels to watercolors and oils, representing "all things the Clam Bar," from exterior paintings to snapshot scenes of its interior.
"Anybody who has been to the Clam Bar, works at the Clam Bar or has worked at the Clam Bar will enjoy this show," Arleth said, adding that she has created two watercolor paintings for it, "one of a fella shucking clams and another of two servers waiting at the line to pick up their orders to serve to the tables."
Linwood artist Nancy Palermo created an acrylic painting of the Clam Bar's exterior landscape as it is in the evening hours.
"I tried to make my painting very atmospheric and evocative," Palermo said. "I really wanted to capture the feeling of when you're there at night."
Arleth said she came up with the idea for the Clam Bar show last year while talking to one of its owners, Patrice Popovic, who had mentioned the upcoming milestone year.
"I thought this might be a nice, interesting and fun exhibit," she said. "To me, there's a lot of history behind the Clam Bar. We all have memories of it. I have memories of it. The Clam Bar was the first piece I did for my Somers Point black and white series back in the '80s (a pen and ink series on iconic Somers Point landmarks). Also, my dad, who passed away 2½ years ago, loved it there, so whenever we'd get together, that's where we'd go, and whenever I have family or friends visiting, the Clam Bar is always on our itinerary. People really love the atmosphere. You're really treated as family."
Popovic, who began working at Smitty's Clam Bar at the age of 18 as a waitress, then owned by Bill "Smitty" and Claudia Smith, said she attributes the business' 40 years of success to its loyal staff and customers. She now co-owns the Clam Bar with her husband, Pete, whom she met at the restaurant as a co-worker, Angela DeRosa and Todd Simpson.
"We're blessed to have been able to change along as the times have changed. We have great staff and many great, loyal customers. I've watched many families grow up here," she said. "This 40-year celebration is as much theirs as it is ours."
Smitty's Clam Bar will celebrate its 40th anniversary through the summer, presenting guests with random free giveaways and hosting a clam shucking contest Sept. 14, which will be open to the public.
Popovic said she also is looking forward to viewing the art show.
"Artists have been coming in and taking pictures, so I'm very interested to see what they make of it," she said.
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
Art Exhibit, 'Happy Birthday Smitty's, aka the Clam Bar.'
The group exhibit opens June 26 and continues through July 20. A free Meet the Artists reception takes place 5-8 p.m. June 28.
Great Bay Gallery, 829 Bay Ave., Somers Point.
All work will be for sale, includes originals and prints. Call 609-653-4991.