Ocean Star: Puzzle Art Project Comes to Belmar, Gives Locals a Voice

Tim Kelly, 37, an artist and owner of CreativeSeven, a design boutique specializing in branding, creative development and production management, recently quoted Deepak Chopra when describing the importance of the Puzzle Art Project currently underway and on display at Surf Taco, in Belmar.

“There are no extra pieces in the universe,” he said, quoting the acclaimed author. “Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”

Mr. Kelly is also an art instructor for Art is Good, a series of beginner art classes offered by The David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center located at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. The classes are geared towards children and teens whose parents or immediate family members have either been diagnosed with, or have passed away from, a brain tumor.

Mr. Kelly believes that art is an essential part of everyday life, an outlet for self expression which should not be overlooked at any cost.

Mr. Kelly also believes that those in government who are reducing endowments to the arts because they deem the arts to be non-essential need only walk through Surf Taco and glimpse one of the puzzle pieces on display to witness the innate power of one voice depicted in the scribblings of a Sharpie marker or the flick of a paint brush.

The Puzzle Art Project, which started out as a puzzle installation and collaborative project during the 2009 Teen Arts Festival at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, has since become a collaborative jigsaw puzzle art project, in which local children and adults, eager to make their voices heard through art, design oversized puzzle pieces which then interconnect to form a jigsaw mural of larger-than-life proportions.

Mr. Kelly and Sandy Taylor, Monmouth County Arts Council [MCAC] member, first came up with the idea for the first installation which was featured at Brookdale Community College.

Mr. Kelly decided to continue the project at Surf Taco, where he teachers Art is Good courses to local children. With the help of the Belmar Arts Council, members of the MCAC, and volunteers from the Art is Good program, Mr. Kelly organized the first Puzzle Art Project workshop last Thursday evening, in which artists, both novice and accomplished, young and old, designed puzzle pieces for the project at Belmar’s Surf Taco location.

Surf Taco and the MCAC are now co-sponsoring the project, which Mr. Kelly hopes will only grow in grandeur as the summer season gets underway.

Over 100 puzzle pieces were on hand for artists to choose from last Thursday evening, along with essential art supplies, such as paints and brushes.

A small donation of $10 was required to participate, of which $5 went to benefit the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center and the remaining $5 went to continuing the puzzle project and the purchasing of art supplies.

The workshop raised $150 for the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center, Mr. Kelly said, adding that last Thursday was the first workshop in a series of workshops to raise funds for the center and continue the project.

A second workshop will be held at Surf Taco, in Belmar, on Sunday, July 26, from 4 to 7 p.m. Puzzle pieces will be handed out on a first come, first served basis.

Those interested in adding their voice to the project can e-mail Mr. Kelly at tk@timkellyartist.com, www.surftaco.com or www.puzzleartproject.com.

Those who wish to design a puzzle piece but choose not to attend the workshop can request a puzzle piece at the counter of Belmar’s Surf Taco branch. The pieces must be returned and will be put on display in the jigsaw puzzle the following week.

Mr. Kelly stressed that there are absolutely “zero rules” when designing a puzzle piece, with the exception that the pieces not be made too heavy to hang.

Mr. Kelly shared one additional piece of advice, “Don’t just make something. Make something meaningful to you.”

Mr. Kelly thanked Ms. Taylor, with whom he came up with the Puzzle Art Project idea; Rob Nagel, owner of Surf Taco, Belmar, and Chris Quinlivan, manager of Surf Taco, Belmar, for all of their support with the Puzzle Art Project and the Art is Good program; and Jessie Chism, artist assistant and educator, whom Mr. Kelly stated has done a “tremendous amount of work” on the Puzzle Art Project; and members of the Belmar Arts Council, for their continued encouragement and support.

By Kelly Skellinger