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Gallery owner creates bridge between business and art worlds


The walls of Bruce White’s insurance office in Newtown are filled with vibrant pop art, abstract works, conceptual pieces, and more, giving it the appearance of an art gallery as much as a place to work.

The selections are the work of seven area artists curated by Ashara Shapiro, owner of ArtWRKD in Newtown. White had just had the walls of Johnson Kendall & Johnson repainted when he met the owner of the new art consortium offering workshops, art education, artist interaction, a curated artist boutique and exhibitions.

“Because there’s not a lot of creative spaces in Newtown, he was really interested in what I was doing,” said Shapiro. “We had this great connection.”

The result of that connection was an office filled with nontraditional artwork, and the first Corporate Founding Membership at ArtWRKD. The artwork styles include Pop Art, Graffiti, Abstract, Conceptual, and Realism. Work media includes mixed media, encaustic, acrylic and spray paint, wood and hosiery/textile.

Shapiro said she suggested helping White find art for his independent insurance brokerage and risk management firm, but the Corporate Founding Membership was his idea. He does a lot of work for the community, she said, and he wanted to support both the space for emerging artists, which opened in September 2022 — and local artists.

While Bucks County is known for its talented traditional artists, there are many that “don’t fall under that umbrella,” Shapiro said.

White asked Shapiro to bring him a proposal, and she did, for work from three artists — Jae Martin, a self-taught pop artist from Philadelphia; Danielle Sapienza, a mixed-media artist from Doylestown who White said had introduced them; and Michael Palladino, a photographer and woodworker from Easton.

“He loved them all,” Shapiro said.

In the end, White purchased a total of 28 pieces of art from the three artists. After that, works by four other artists — from Bucks County and Flemington, N.J., — were added, for a total of 36 pieces in all.

Those artists are self-taught abstract painter Kevin Von Holtermann; Lucine Kaplan, who utilizes the unconventional medium of pantyhose; sculptor Mayfield Williams and painter Bonnie Pakman.

“It was this wonderful opportunity to showcase what our local artists are doing,” Shapiro said. “I hung the whole show myself.”

Every piece has a tag, she said, “so it’s really hung like a gallery.” And there is a book in the office, a catalog of sorts, with photographs and artists’ biographies. “It’s just this lovely thing that he gets to keep and share,” Shapiro said. It’s available for viewing by anyone who might be interested.

Pop artist Jae Martin said it was “an amazing feeling” to have his artwork selected by JKJ and to have the opportunity to create a feature wall. “I never thought my art would be selected to be in an office environment,” he said.

Thus far, White is the only corporate sponsor whose office has been curated by Shapiro. A second corporate supporter has a virtual office.

An important part of this endeavor, for Shapiro, is making connections between artists and their patrons. “I’m trying to help facilitate that,” she said. “How do we as a community understand how important that person is and what they’re giving to the community, and how do we support them,” she says of artists.

Shapiro said her collaboration with White “shows what’s possible.”

White, the CEO of JKJ, which has been located in Newtown for nearly 70 years, said, “ArtWRKD’s commitment to providing a place for established and budding local artists as well as those who are simply interested in art as a hobby resonated with me. Support for the arts is so important, especially for our youth.”

When it came to redecorating the office, he said, he wasn’t looking for anything specific.

“I enjoy different types of art and wanted to fill the office with interesting pieces that provoke thought and inspiration for employees and visitors. Our office had become dated and most of the artwork in the building was mass-produced and uninteresting,” he said.

“After meeting Ashara, I decided the best way to decorate the office and simultaneously support our local community was to fill it with pieces created by local artists. …I hope other companies follow our lead and support the local art community.”

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