This is a photo I took of Art Smith standing in front of one of his beautiful paintings of the old Morris Canal. Art was an incredibly talented artist.
Remembering Art Smith
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Art Smith was one of the most talented artists for whom I have had the great honor to know. Most of Art’s paintings were of the old Morris Canal. His paintings were exhibited in museums throughout all of northern New Jersey. Many of his paintings were featured in the Morris Canal Museum in Waterloo Village. But the proud home of the majority of Art’s paintings was the Lincoln Park Museum.
From about 1988 till 2003, my dad and I were members of the Beavertown (Lincoln Park) Historical Society. Art was a charter member of this fine association. I will never forget the grand and glorious entries Art would make when he had a new painting in his car. Our meetings used to start at seven-thirty in the evening. They were held the first Monday of the month. Art would come to the door of the little museum at about quarter after seven. Most of the members arrived early.
Art would open the door and say something like, “hey fellas, I need help carrying in one of my paintings. I just finished it up this weekend. Maybe one of you fellas could help me carry it in.”
Then everyone would make a fuss about Art’s new painting. Most of the time, I was the “fella” who held the high honor of helping Art carry his new painting into the museum. Helping Art meant that I carried his painting from his car to the museum front door and Art would open the door for me. I would place Art’s new painting on the table against the wall, so that it could lean against the wall.
“It’s not one of my best paintings, but I guess it’s okay,” Art would say. In reality, he would be fishing for compliments.
Then my dad would say something like, “come on Art! Not one of your best? You’ve got to be kidding, you’ve outdone yourself with this one!”
“Oh, I don’t know, you think so?” Art would shyly ask.
Then a few other members would give their opinions, all to the effect that it was a great painting. Art would smile from ear to ear.
Art was a bit eccentric. He was direct and tough at times. But all in all, he had a heart of gold. And, when it came to his paintings, he didn’t object to everyone telling him how great they were. In many ways, he was a kid at heart.
Art wasn’t always easy to get along with. He was strongly opinionated and was tough-minded. He wasn’t always the most diplomatic person when we had visitors come to the museum. But that was just the way Art was. And, as I look back, it was part of his charm. As strange as that may sound, his occasional cranky disposition really was part of his charm.
In regard to my writing, Art was one of my toughest critics. But he did tell me that I was a “pretty good writer,” in one of my last face-to-face conversations with him. Coming from Art, that was an incredibly high compliment.
When my dad passed away in 2006, Art called us and offered his sympathies. Art followed Dad, Home to Heaven, shortly thereafter in 2007. Art was a good man and a talented artist. I miss him dearly.
Peace and harmony,