Great Bay Gallery in Somers Point expanded the focus of its annual hometown-themed summer show this year to include its sister city, Ocean City.

"We usually focus on our corner of the shore, but with the opening of the new Route 52 Causeway, the two cities are now closer than ever," said Kathleen Arleth, the art gallery's owner and artistic director.

The causeway, which was completed at the end of last year, makes it easier to travel between the two cities and provides a fresh backdrop for local artists to use as inspiration.

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"The revitalization of the intersection, the Somers Mansion and Route 52 presented new vistas of both communities," Arleth said. "There are special aspects of both communities that provide the artists and poets with interesting and appealing views and are a cause for celebration."

The title of the summer show is "Celebrating Exit 30: Here and Now." Exit 30 is the Ocean City/Somers Point exit on the southbound Garden State Parkway. The show opens today, July 24, and will run through Aug. 31. The exhibition includes artwork by 17 locals artists and five poets, many of whom are residents of either Ocean City or Somers Point.

The artists were able to focus on any element of either city but were encouraged to stick to the newer parts.

Arleth, a resident of Somers Point, represented her hometown by painting two watercolor scenes for the show, one of a street scene of Bay Avenue, and the other, a street scene of Shore Road looking north from the newly renovated, scenic overlook near the Somers Mansion, which was upgraded as part of the causeway project.

"It's a new way of looking at the Somers Mansion, one I've never painted before," she said.

The poets wrote, and will recite, poetry during the Meet the Artists and Poets Reception, which is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2. They've also created works of art to accentuate their poetry.

Bud Cole, a poet from Ocean City, created a chapbook and wrote a poem titled, "Come Home to Somers Point."

"It's like a travel log for Somers Point," he said. "(The poets) take it further than the spoken word by creating these semi-elaborate constructions in a decorative way.

"We aim to complement the work of the visual artists, not compete with them. I'm anxious to see what my fellow poets have come up with."

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If you go

Great Bay Gallery's 2013 Summer Exhibition, 'Celebrating Exit 30: Here and Now' runs today, July 24 through Aug. 31.

The gallery is located at 829 Bay Ave., Somers Point. 609-653-4991.

A Meet the Artists and Poets reception will be held at Great Bay Gallery from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2. Poetry reading will be held in the driveway at 6 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public.

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