Art of the matter
Gallery: Newark Arts [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
By PAM GEORGE
As a child, Linda Majewski couldn’t stay away from packets of construction paper and a roll of Scotch tape. In her hometown of Flint, Mich., she would happily walk by a toy store to enter Carlton Stationery, the paper purveyor in those pre-Staples days.
“There were colored pencils and art pads – oh, my gosh!” she recalled with a reverent voice.
Majewski, who now lives just outside the Newark city limits, is still fascinated by paint, paper, pencils and pastels. But now she can just poke her head outside of her office for inspiration. In January, she became the executive director of the Newark Arts Alliance in downtown Newark.
On a Monday afternoon, she was busy giving three women a quick tour of the space, which includes a store for members’ artwork and a gallery with changing exhibits. It was the first time the friends had entered the Arts Alliance, which is tucked away just off Main Street near Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen.
Karen Jesse of Wilmington was impressed. “The Newark Arts Alliance delighted me with their diversity – colorful and wonderful exhibits in a variety of mediums stretched from professional artists to children dreaming of becoming one,” she said. “There was a smile and surprise around every corner.”
The gregarious Majewski has a warm welcome for anyone who enters the Arts Alliance, including a member who wanted to show his art in the store. “We could see that she was a ‘people person,’ and that is important in a volunteer-based organization,” said Carole Fox, president of the board.
Majewski has held a variety of jobs, all of which have prepared her for her role at the non-profit arts organization, which started in 1993.
Born in Flint, Majewski was one of four children. (One brother has since died.) Her mother was a medical receptionist, and her father was a mechanical contractor.
The budding artist used construction paper to make 3D animals, a technique that she developed on her own. As an elementary school student, she attended a summer program at the Flint Institute of Arts. But she put art aside when she entered middle school, where she was in choir, the jazz ensemble and singing groups.
Her father had a case of wanderlust, which his youngest daughter would later inherit, and the family began a series of moves when she was 16. Majewski later landed in Delaware because her sister is in Dover. While living in Delaware’s capital, she completed her psychology degree at Wesley College and worked for the Delaware’s State Office of Volunteerism, which organizes the annual Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards and Governor's Youth Volunteer Service Awards. She also worked with the Kent County Theater Guild, where she gained more experience working with volunteers.
It was in Dover that she met her husband-to-be, Jason. In 2004, she was a single mom with a 4-year-old. She made a list of everything that she wanted to accomplish, one of which was learning to play the cello.
She used her tax refund to purchase a cello online from a seller in Wisconsin and called the Music School of Delaware for lessons. Her teacher was Jason Majewski, and the two struck up a friendship. Then she moved to Nevada to help her father care for her mother. When her father died, she returned to Newark in 2008 with her mother and rekindled her relationship with Jason. They married in late 2009.
Majewski, who has been a school photographer and worked in a hospital, became familiar with the Arts Alliance when her daughter, Grace, wanted to take lessons. Members get a discount.
At the time, she was working in Wilmington at the Fair Trade Federation, a non-profit industry organization for fair trade retailers and wholesalers in the United States and Canada. She had a new husband and her mother lived with the family. It was a stressful time.
A friend suggested a hobby. Majewski returned to her first love, paper. Inspired by pages on Pinterest, she started making floral arrangements out of hand-painted paper.
“The only way you can kill it is to water it,” she said, pulling a tiny pot from the shelf above her desk and showing it to a visitor. Her business, Paper Home & Garden, is on Facebook. She also sells items at art shows, including those organized by the Newark Arts Alliance.
Majewski’s background in volunteer program administration, non-profit management, special events management and disability-inclusion advocacy appealed to the Arts Alliance board when they were looking to replace outgoing executive director Dennis Lawson. “Besides the many skill sets that Linda had to offer, it was clear that she was familiar with our organization and felt strongly about our mission,” said Fox, the board president.
One of her Majewski’s first priorities at the Newark Arts Alliance is to strengthen the volunteer program. No matter the non-profit, 20 percent of the volunteers often do 80 percent of the work, said Majewski, a graduate of the University of Delaware’s non-profit management certificate course. The organization needs to swiftly incorporate those who express an interest in volunteering and move them through the ranks.
Majewski also wants to do a better job of promoting the store. “Where else can you get one-of-a-kind local artists’ pieces around Newark?” she asked. She’s not interested in adding events, which put a strain on volunteer resources and her time.
Majewski, who works 25 hours a week, also spearheads the effort to secure grants. Currently, the non-profit receives a large part of its funding from the Delaware Division of the Arts. Smaller grants help support Camp Imagine, a two-week summer camp that’s attracted so many children that it has moved to the First Presbyterian Church in Newark. The Arts Alliance offers a scholarship.
Because she knows first-hand how challenging it can be for an artist to run a business, Majewski is considering some classes on such topics as pricing. “A lot of artists completely under-price their work,” she said.
Between her home life, her art and her work life, she’s clearly busy. So much so that she hasn’t reviewed that bucket list in some time.
“I'm happy doing a lot of things,” she said. “I'm excited about the job. My daughter is doing well. My husband is dong well. My mom is doing well.
In short, she says, “I’m living my bucket list.”