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Fearsome fables event part of Flemington DIY’s success story


Artful boos are all about boosters of art at Flemington DIY, which is hosting the ultimate in ghost writing. "Scared You, Didn’t I?" is a Halloween-themed benefit of frightening fables and fearsome storytelling frolics at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Stangl Factory, its home base in Flemington, N.J.

With such major storytellers as Mike Albo, David Lee White, Joey Novick and Tracy Rowland, all emceed by eminent raconteur Michaela Murphy, the real star of the show has to be the organization itself.

So, what's the story, the FYI on DYI, which has been A-OK since its founding in 2014 (except the two years when it was MIA because of the pandemic)?

A capital idea of providing a free/low-fee forum for artists — visual and performing — in the area to showcase and shine the light on their works, DIY has proved to be a selfless self-starter, building a base for area talent.

In a statement, board member Ellen Gallos noted how the group puts its money where its art is: “Income should not be a barrier to participation in the arts. Our doors are open to everyone to participate in our events and programs, regardless of how much they can pay."

It certainly has paid off for the community and cohort of area artists. And no one can be happier about its overall success than Jeff Hersch, Flemington DIY's executive director.

Do it yourself? No, contends Hersch, it took a village — and a vision — to get the group started almost a decade ago. And now? "Financially, we had the best year on record in eight years."

And that record spins a success story with momentum. "We pride ourselves on having events," such as concerts, exhibits and screenings, "that are easily accessible, and we never turn people away. This all started as a collaborative effort and remains so."

The payoffs have been plentiful, in a more vibrant arts scene and thriving community.

How's the house doing? The Stangl Factory has factored in as a major plus and thumbs up for DIY, since its relocation there two years ago from a temporary home, which was provided through a big boost from the Flemington Business Improvement Office.

Not even the best of storytellers could possibly improve on the ongoing tale of talent that delivers successful ventures to DIY, whose motto is followed by all those working the workspace. Hersch, like all of the 50-60 DIY members, does it himself: "We're all volunteers," he says with pride.

Not that Hersch doesn't have other gigs going: A pharmaceutical editor, and collage artist as well as a musician, he serves both science and art: "A good mix," he concedes.

Hersch's heart has always been in community; he grew up in Flemington and now lives in Highland Park, NJ, with his folks and many of his friends still in Flemington. Even the name of his band brands the bonhomie that boosts his communal commitment: Civic Mimic.

His DIY is the real deal, he allows. And if there's anything that scares him in light of the benefit's "Scared You, Didn't I?" theme, "it's the thought of a community without the arts."

No problem in Flemington these days, which truly benefits from Saturday’s event. "Our goal is to pay the bills," says Hersch of what the funds go toward, with possible prospects of any excess profits from future benefits also "providing funds for indigenous and Black and brown artists."

In the meantime, he is all ready to say hello to Halloween alongside a verbal storyboard offered up by great storytellers. And, surely, by now he must know what outfit he'll be wearing for the candy-coated holiday. Custom-designed costume? In a way, he laughs: "I'll be going as an executive director."

Michael Elkin is a playwright, theater critic and novelist who lives in Abington. He writes columns about theater and the arts.

If You Go

"Scared You, Didn't I?" a performance by prominent area and national storytellers, with Michaela Murphy as host, will serve as a benefit for Flemington DIY, the arts organization that helps provide space and staging for regional artists. The benefit is set Oct. 28, at the Stangl Factory, 50 Stangl Road, in Flemington NJ.

For tickets and information, go to:

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