Mercer County was the first county government in New Jersey to recognize the importance of being a patron of the arts. In 1971 the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission instituted a program that would give recognition to outstanding Mercer County artists. The Commission sponsored a juried exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture to be held annually at what was then Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey. Additional recognition to the exhibiting artists was given through the presentation of purchase and merit awards. The jurors selected the merit awards and the Commission, with the consultation of the jurors, selected the purchase awards. This year’s purchase award recipients are listed below.

The original exhibition has expanded to include a biennial photography exhibition that is open to all residents of the County. The Commission co-sponsors the annual Mercer County Artists’ Exhibition at Mercer County Community College. Both shows are open to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in the County.

In 1987, Commissioner Dr. Howard Goldstein stated, “The best way to support and recognize artists was through the purchase of their works and that living with good original art would contribute to expanding the aesthetic sensitivities of the public; hence, the creation of the Mercer County Art Collection.” The County government has now funded this collection for the past 40 years.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders created the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission on March 17, 1970 to serve as an advisory board to the Division of Culture and Heritage. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Commission, ArtWorks Gallery hosted The First Forty … an exhibition of works selected from the Mercer County Art Collection from July 9 through July 31, 2010. The list of artists featured in the exhibition is available in More Information on the right.
2012 Mercer County Artists’ Purchase Awards
Al Aronson - Waterfall - acrylic on canvas
Arlene Gale Milgram - Treasure Error - mixed media on paper
Mary Waltham - Updike Farm, Princeton - oil on canvas
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2011 Mercer County Artists’ Purchase Awards
Susan Winter - On the wall - oil painting
Bill Plank - Exiles - watercolor painting
Larry Chestnut - Autumn Transition #2 - oil painting
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