Nestled in historic Bordentown City is the Artful Deposit, a charming mini art gallery that exhibits fine art for purchase from nationally renowned artists.
The gallery is owned by Bordentown resident CJ Mugavero who has been trusted for curating and connecting collectors with fine art from different mediums for 33 years, including impressionism, vivid landscapes, portraits, surrealism and abstract art.
“Some people buy art as a full-time investment, and some people buy art just because they can’t live without it,” Mugavero says. “I am one of those people. My house looks like this,” she says, gesturing to the curated space around her.
A step into her 250-square-food shop is otherworldly. You’ll see an assortment of colors and hues with walls painted gold. All the original pieces she has curated are arranged in a decadent display of the small space her gallery occupies.
“A lot of these artists are incredibly talented and special people. They need me to be here to promote them and brag about them,” Mugavero says.
She represents over 20 artists that have earned regional, national and international acclaim. Some artists are local, such as Hamilton residents Thomas Kelly, whose work has roots in Expressionism, and Hanneke de Neve, an artist who moved here from the Netherlands.
Kelly says almost half of his 300 paintings have been sold through the gallery. He has been represented by Mugavero since 1998.
As times have changed over the past 33 years, Mugavero and her gallery have learned to change with it. The Artful Deposit has not always been located on Farnsworth Avenue. Mugavero recently downsized to her current location, moving from a larger gallery within Bordentown.
“When I had larger gallery space, I would take more artists on for continual representation. Now, this is considered a pocket gallery because my whole industry has changed considerably,” Mugavero says. “A lot of the conversations start with social media.”
Since Mugavero can now text an interested customer an image of an art piece before seeing it in person, she has found that she doesn’t need a massive space to display everything.
“If they’re out of the state, which is quite often, they’re going to be relying on social media as the first look as a piece,” Mugavero says.
She also discovers new art and is able to connect with artists over social media, which is how she began representing artist Maria Marino whose work she saw at a show in New York a few years ago. Then, she followed her on social media, eventually reaching out to her.
“We’ve been together ever since,” Mugavero says of the artist who works with pastels, oils, and watercolors.
Along with her gallery, Mugavero also curates pieces and displays them on the walls of the Inn at Fernbrook Farms in Bordentown.
This is where she holds an annual gala and a spring and summer Gallery Walk and Talks and Art Inspired Dinners series.
Over three decades ago, Mugavero’s gallery and all the relationships she has formed with artists came from unexpected beginnings. Before opening the Artful Deposit, she worked as a therapist in a facility for juvenile delinquents after receiving an art therapy degree from Trenton State College.
When the facility lost funding, though, Mugavero was let go, and she wound up working in finance through a temp agency.
After five years working there, Mugavero blended both her worlds of art and business and decided to open up her own art gallery at 26.
“I had no idea what I was doing but I had a lot of good fortune in my life and people believed in me,” she says. “I have some artists that are still with me like de Neve and Ken McIndoe, we kind of did this together.”
de Neve is an artist that Mugavero basically opened her doors with and is one of many artists that have remained with her for years.
Her work that varies between semi abstract, expressionist, and occasionally figurative paintings and mixed media can be found within Artful Deposit.
“Being with CJ is wonderful, it’s like family and has really worked for both of us,” de Neve says.
Painting is de Neve’s full time profession. She has lived in Hamilton for the last 20 years. She has international acclaim, often selling pieces in her home country the Netherlands where she will occasionally put on shows.
Mugavero and de Neve became acquainted after visiting the same doctor years ago. de Neve says she gifted her doctor with an etching, which caught Mugavero’s eye in the office.
Mugavero discovered de Neve’s name and gave her a call, and she has been represented by her ever since.
“She’s been representing me the longest,” de Neve says. “She’s a go-getter.”
Kelly says Mugavero’s gallery is also the one he has been represented at the longest.
“CJ has been a champion of my work since we got together,” Kelly says.
Kelly’s art depicts scenes that are open to the viewer’s interpretation
“It’s not really for everybody but CJ understood it right away and liked it,” Kelly says. “The first year she sold about 20 of my pieces and I thought…this is awesome.”
His paintings are narrative with different human figures and people that view his work bring their own story to it.
“The thing with gallery owners and curators is the trust factor, people trust them that it’s good and they don’t have to worry if it’s quality art or not, that’s the value added that the owners give to the public,” Kelly says.
Other artists local to the area that she represents include Louis Russomanno, a Hamilton resident who is a self-taught artist.
Mugavero also represents about six artists from other parts of the country, like the West Coast.
“We’re their East Coast representation, and I’ve gained a lot of notoriety on social media because of that,” she says. “People travel for fine art, it’s not like a deli, art is a very niche product. If people want to own Alan Fetterman’s work, they’re gonna find me and they’re going to hopefully find the piece or I will find the piece for them.”
Mugavero works hard to track down a specific piece a client wants, or she will ask them for a specific scene or style they want and will search for a piece that she believes they will love.
“I’m always delivering pieces,” she says.
She is constantly asking her artists to bring in more of their work, and will occasionally see if an artist will do a specific request.
“I am so thrilled to have been apart of all these artists’ stories. The working artist is truly doing what their lives calling is,” Mugavero says. “It’s important to support and honor their talent, art is about the beauty of life.”