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Front PageJuly 10, 2003 

Local gallery plays host
to student art exhibition
By jennifer dome
Staff Writer

FARRAH MAFFAI Michael Chan, owner of the River Mill Art Gallery in South River, in front of Debora Dias' "La Femme," part of the student art exhibition.

SOUTH RIVER - Framing artwork makes all the difference, according to River Mill Art Gallery owner Michael Chan.

"If you pick one piece and frame it, itís just going to be treasured," Chan said.

With this thought in mind, Chan opened a student art exhibition in his store on Main Street June 14. Art teachers in Milltown, East Brunswick and South River chose works from various students, which Chan framed, free of charge.

The art work, which includes a range of subjects done in oils, pencil and marker, among other mediums, will be on display through Aug. 9.

FARRAH MAFFAI A work by Gunter Temeck on display at the River Mill Art Gallery.

"We love to support the artists. Weíre artists ourselves and we know how hard it is to get recognition," Chan said, noting that his wife, Yi Yin, is also an artist.

Yinís work, including a portrait of her father and a charcoal drawing of a ballerina, hangs on the gallery wall opposite the student art. While some of the professional and student pieces are for sale, others are tagged with the initials "NFS," meaning "not for sale."

Luckily, some students have sold their work, and others have gained requests out of the exhibition at Chanís gallery.

One customer saw the work of an eighth-grade South River Middle School student, Anna Kiriakou ó who took half of a magazine photo of the rap artist Eminem and sketched the other half of his face with pencil ó and asked Kiriakou for a similar sketch of a picture of Marilyn Monroe, Chan said.

Chan said he is extremely pleased to display the work of artists, even when he cannot guarantee a sale.

Chan and his wife opened the River Mill Art Gallery about four years ago, replacing a former newspaper distribution center. He said that while the borough has a wonderful Main Street, drawing customers into the store is a challenge.

"I feel like a pioneer in the West," Chan said about his desire to forge a hold on the areaís artistic taste.

Chanís family moved from Hong Kong to Chinatown in New York City when he was 12 years old. Since then, he has lived in Queens, N.Y., and, after attending New York Cityís Fashion Institute of Technology, he opened a photography studio in the city. After more than a decade of working and living in New York City, Chan said he and Yi decided to move to Milltown because rent prices were too high.

Chan, Yi and their daughter Florence, 10, and son, Christopher, 11, have lived in Milltown for about five years, Chan said. Both children attend school there, and some students from their school have pieces displayed at the gallery. Florence also has a piece, titled "This Drawing is Crazy," hung on a gallery wall.

"Our shop is different than most," Chan said.

Besides continuing his framing work for corporations in New York City, including the calligraphy company Coyle & Co., Chan continues to do some photography work of his own and frames work for local artists.

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