Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, is a world-renowned artist living and working in Camden. I stopped by his studio near Sacred Heart Church in the Waterfront South neighborhood to ask him about his art, his decision to move to Camden four years ago, the role of art in the pursuit of justice, and a current exhibition at Rutgers called “Visions of Camden,” which features his work.
The original plan was to transcribe the interview, but his passion, faith and humor come through so well that I decided to post it here as a podcast. If you can forgive the amateurish quality of the technology and interviewer, it’s worth a listen!
Brother Mickey describes how he came to Camden at the invitation of Fr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, who offered him studio space. A previously unoccupied house was remodeled and transformed into a mini gallery and workspace.
Searching for and creating beauty in a city in need of it, he has been inspired by those who work to make Camden a better place:
“I see so much good going on: like the Romero Center, Hopeworks. Right here at Sacred Heart – the Center for Transformation. Up at the Cathedral where three parishes have been merged together and the fact that they give out at least 450-500 sandwiches everyday. It’s just kind of amazing, the goodness of people who are out there trying to do good things and create beauty. And my way of adding to that beauty is through paint,” Mickey says.
“I have a deeper sense of ministry in terms of my artistic vocation than I have ever had before.”
In addition to painting his famous religious images, Brother Mickey has sketched the city since he arrived, inspired by the neighborhoods and people he encounters, especially on early-morning walks.
Many of these urban pieces are featured in the current “Visions of Camden” exhibition at Rutgers-Camden, which is open until March.
In the podcast, Mickey describes some of the memorable Camden moments that made their way into his art, including this image of a woman bringing her grandson to school at Sacred Heart in her motorized wheelchair, with his arms outstretched “like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.” It’s moments like these, he said, that give him hope for the city.
“Visions of Camden” is open through February 28 at Rutgers-Camden’s Stedman Gallery. The Stedman Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Complex on Third Street, between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the Rutgers-Camden campus. Admission is free to the gallery, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.