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South Avenue Arts

The former Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall in Garwood is nearly unrecognizable since its transformation into a 3,000-square-foot creative, cooperative community art space. Founded by Sharon Reed, an award-winning oil painter and daughter of an art teacher, South Avenue Arts, which opened in September 2016, includes two semi-private studios and a large shared co-working studio to rent, art classes for all ages - adults and kids, summer camp for kids, and a gallery selling local art, jewelry and gifts.

Reed, who has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember, did not initially pursue a career in art, but instead followed a more conventional career in business. After she earned her MBA from Rutgers and launched her career, Reed realized she longed for more fulfilling pursuits. She left her job, and while studying at the New York School of Interior Design, returned to her creative endeavors and began painting professionally.

When Reed enrolled in Entrepreneurship 101, a six-week workshop for small business startups available through a partnership between the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and UCEDC, a nonprofit economic development corporation, she was already well on her way toward realizing her dream of starting a creative art space. Armed with a vision of a community-oriented location where she could offer art lessons, studio rentals and exhibitions, but struggling with a detailed plan for operating a sustainable business, Reed attended Entrepreneurship 101 in the fall of 2015.

In less than a year, South Avenue Arts has grown to employ five instructors in addition to Reed, and has expanded its offerings to include classes in anime and manga, a Japanese style of cartooning popular with teens and children.

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