For the last six years, the South Orange Performing Arts Center has presented the INSPIRED MINDS: Young Artist Exhibition as a celebration of Essex County young artists in the Herb + Milly Iris Gallery with an opening reception that draws over 100 attendees. The Center is now temporarily closed, but creativity knows no bounds as we’ve surely seen during this pandemic. Musicians are performing virtual concerts, teachers are giving online classes and some galleries are staging virtual exhibitions, and Director of Education Linda Beard and Gallery Curator Jeremy Moss have come up with a creative solution of their own to display these budding artists’ artwork during this time of social distancing.

“This year, students are missing out on so much; no end-of-year celebrations, no graduation ceremonies and no art exhibits. These moments can never to be replaced,” said Moss. “The Gallery has an online presence, but I wanted to do something different for these students. I wanted to give them something to remember.”

Prints of the student’s pieces will be mounted in the large glass windows on the façade of the South Orange Performing Arts Center May 14 – August 17, and a celebratory “drive-through” opening at the iconic performing arts center is planned for May 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Family, friends, and the public are invited to enjoy the exhibition safely as they drive slowly around the traffic circle, maybe more than once, in front of the building.

This year’s exhibition was in serious jeopardy due to the COVID-19 crisis. “We wondered how we would be able to preserve this beloved exhibition while still celebrating the students’ accomplishments in a meaningful way,” said Linda Beard. “We feel we have come up with a wonderful alternative. I am particularly delighted that graduating seniors will still have this celebration even though many of their momentous events have been cut. We are delighted to host the first drive-through gallery in South Orange, Essex County and beyond. It’s certainly a unique and special format for these students to present their work.”

INSPIRED MINDS is sponsored by the Iris Family. Framing for all exhibition artwork purchased is generously donated by the South Orange Frame Shop. Some of the artwork is offered for sale and can be viewed on online on Flickr at

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the South Orange Performing Arts Center.