As a cancer survivor, Susan Axler knows how help from the community can get people through a stressful time.

"I had breast cancer at age 41, now I'm in my 60s. It came back twice," said the retired teacher. The last thing people need to worry about is paying the bills, she said.

So she and Susanne Peterson, both of Brigantine, are co-chairing a "Spring for Hope" art event at the Noyes Museum of Art in Galloway Township, to raise money for the South Jersey Cancer Fund. The fund helps soften the financial impact of cancer, by paying for medicines, medical supplies, food supplements, transportation, and even household bills.

More than 20 exhibited artists and photographers have donated artwork for a silent auction, and there will be a performance by prominent pastel artists.

"We'll have three artists doing painting in-the-round," Axler said. They will each start one pastel work, then after a certain amount of time will move to the next easel, then the third. So each artist will have a hand in each piece. At the end, the works will carry all three signatures, and those pieces will be auctioned, too.

The artists participating in the performance are Sister Celeste Mokrzycki, of Brigantine; Stan Sperlak, of Cape May; and Rae Smith, of Galloway, president of The Pastel Society of America.

Sperlak said he, too, has a personal reason for participating.

"My father passed away from lung cancer, and my mother from brain cancer," said the well-known artist and art teacher.

He hasn't been in one before but has seen a painting-in-the-round.

"People followed their favorite artist around the room as he kept adding and changing (other canvases)," Sperlak said. "At the end, you see a bit of flavor of the original art, and see how others have added to it."

He said he won't try to make each person's piece look like his.

"We're going to make three really really good, exciting paintings," he said. Sperlak, known for marsh and beach landscapes, added as a joke, "They'd better not screw up my painting!"

Peterson said caricaturist Buddy Jacobs, who runs the galleries at Atlantic Cape Community College, will do comic portraits of those in attendance for a donation to SJCF. Food is being donated by area restaurants, and jazz music by John Mulhern, of Ventnor.

Peterson, Axler and Sophia Bartucci, also of Brigantine, call themselves the fund's Renaissance Committee. They have held many events over the years to raise money, including continuing the Stephanie Burke Beach Run and Walk, held each June for more than a decade.

Burke, who died of Hodgkin's disease at age 32 in 2005, was the daughter of Sharon E. Schulman, 64, special assistant to the president for external affairs at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The young mother started the run with friends in 1999, two years after she had been diagnosed, to help other cancer patients.

Sperlak, who runs Crow Creek Studio and Gallery in Cape May Court House, recently returned from five weeks of teaching painting in Australia. He said this event at the Noyes will be followed by his 25th career solo show - his first solo show in a museum - at the Noyes Museum starting June 8. Called "Into the Night," it will include more than 30 paintings that deal with his favorite time of day, twilight.

Smith's paintings have been exhibited throughout the US as well as Japan, China, France, Italy, Russia, Taiwan and Canada.

Sister Celeste Mokrzycki is a Roman Catholic nun who believes that painting is another ministry. She is a full-time pastoral associate at St. Thomas in Brigantine. She works in both watercolor and pastels, and her paintings have appeared in several galleries throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She is currently featured in the Atlantic City Cape Community College Gallery, "Life Filled with Light/Pastels and Watercolors."

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:


Art event

'Spring for Hope: An Evening to Awaken the Senses' 5 to 8 p.m. April 1 at the Noyes Museum of Art, 733 Lily Lake Road, Galloway Township. Tickets are $50 per person and include museum entry, food, wine, and silent auction. Call Susanne at 609-266-0524 or Susan 609-264-0425. Donations may be made to South Jersey Cancer Fund, P.O. Box 1084, Brigantine, NJ 08203.

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