Pauline Jonas, 69, innovator who brought art and cultural events to Deptford, N.J.
"Art is food for the spirit," Ms. Jonas told the Inquirer in 2014. "People can't get enough of beauty. I think beauty is one of the things that will heal the planet."
Pauline Jonas, 69, of Thorofare, N.J., an innovator who created a public art gallery in the municipal building in Deptford Township and who worked to share other cultural programs and events with the township's residents, died Saturday, Nov. 25, of cancer at home.
In 2005, Ms. Jonas pioneered the Galleria Deptford, a unique display space for the work of local artists and photographers on the inside walls of the municipal building on Cooper Street. She became interested in art and music while growing up in Brooklyn.
"This art gallery was Pauline's heart and soul," said her daughter, Sachi Wohlrab. Over the years, Ms. Jonas hung between four and five exhibits every 12 months, and she encouraged many artists to seize the opportunity to showcase their work.
"Art is food for the spirit," Ms. Jonas told the Inquirer's Kevin Riordan in 2014. "People can't get enough of beauty. I think beauty is one of the things that will heal the planet."
In 2016, Galleria Deptford was voted 'best retail gallery in Gloucester County' by county residents in an annual competition sponsored by the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce and two corporations. (TD Bank, and N.J. Advance Media/South Jersey Times)
If Ms. Jonas's passion was to bring the arts to the Deptford community, her corresponding mission was to help residents take advantage of cultural events in other cities, her daughter said.
Starting in the late 1990s, Ms. Jonas created a group called the Living Arts Club. The club went on 10 field trips a year to take in spectacles such as Philadelphia's Barnes Museum and the Pennsylvania Ballet. The excursion buses frequently sold out.
The club went as far afield as New York and Washington to explore museums, with Ms. Jonas acting as tour guide. Her final group trip in October was to the New York Botanical Gardens to see the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
Jan Narducci, a fellow friend of the arts, remembered that day fondly. "The last time I saw Pauline Jonas was at the last living arts trip to the botanical gardens. I will always remember how she greeted everyone with a hug and a huge smile," Narducci wrote online.
In the early 2000s, Ms. Jonas created an event called Artists and Poets Among Us. She transformed the Deptford Municipal Court Room into a Cafe of the Arts, and invited poets, singers, and dancers to perform there. The event was so successful that residents of nearby Paulsboro mimicked the idea to create a cultural café of their own, said its hostess, Lynette Milanese.
"I shamelessly stole the idea from a dear friend in Deptford, Pauline Jonas, who hosted Artists and Poets Among Us in the Deptford courtroom for many years. I felt that Paulsboro was known for sports, but I didn't hear too much about the arts, and we wanted to do something about that," Milanese said in a 2010 NJ.com article.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ms. Jonas graduated from St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn.
She married Harold Jonas. The couple lived in various places in New Jersey and had four children before divorcing. He survives.
Ms. Jonas received a small municipal stipend for her work in creating the Galleria and guiding field trips. She also served as a volunteer member of the Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Deptford Recreation Committee, Gloucester County Art League, Old Pine Farm (a land trust), and the South Jersey Poet Society based in Paulsboro.
When not hanging a show or guiding a tour, Ms. Jonas enjoyed theater and the beach.
Her family said she would be remembered for "her contagious smile, laugh, sweet demeanor, piercing blue eyes, unconditional love, and favorite exclamations of surprise such as, "What? Are you kidding me?"
Besides her daughter, she is survived by children Ariella, Jonathan, and Kristen; three brothers; and three sisters.
Ms. Jonas had an art exhibit scheduled for early December, and her children worked with the artists to hang the show in her honor. A celebration-of life memorial service and a viewing of the show will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Deptford Municipal Building, 1011 Cooper St. Burial will be private.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Living Arts Club. Checks should be made out to the Township of Deptford for the Living Arts Club, Deptford Municipal Building, 1011 Cooper St., Deptford Township, N.J. 08096. The donations will be used to purchase art for the municipal building.