A Tribute to
Seward Johnson Atelier
One chilly evening in November of 2016 we traveled to Rat’s Restaurant at the Grounds For Sculpture to join in a “Sing-A-Long” that we understood was being hosted by Seward Johnson. As the evening progressed we waited until just the right moment to yell out a page number for the next song that we and our fellow amateur vocalists would sing. Accompanied by Phillip Orr on piano, Mr. Johnson looked up as we approached him as we belted out “All of Me” at the top of our lungs. When the Sing-A-Long was over, we told Mr. Johnson that we were opening a museum on Hollow Road in Skillman for the purpose of commemorating the African American presence in the Sourland Mountain region. We asked for his advice about a sculpture we wished to include in our museum. Mr. Johnson listened patiently and offered a contact name and number. By this time it was time for him to go with his lovely wife, Cecelia, who had been patiently waiting for him.
From time-to-time we would occasionally run into the Johnsons at the Hopewell Bistro. They were always pleasant and gracious when we greeted them. When our book was finished we were excited to share our good news and was as equally excited when we were able to use the East Gallery for our book launch at the Grounds For Sculpture. The evening was a night we’ll never forget as we gazed upon a room filled with well wishers that included the Johnsons. The following week imagine our surprise when we received a call that Mr. Johnson wished to order 60 books that he planned to gift to friends. And for the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, The Grounds For Sculpture was pleased to donate exhibition cases and furniture to get us started. Additionally, the Grounds For Sculpture became a partner to support the work of the William Trent House, the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, 1804 Consultants and the NJ Historical Society that comprised the Sankofa Collaborative formed to host symposiums to assist schools, museums, libraries and historic sites on how to discuss difficult topics associated with African American History.
There is so much we would like to say and merely saying “thank you” doesn’t seem adequate. His unique voice and impact in the world of sculpture has left an indelible mark that will be hard to replicate. Seward Johnson was a visionary who brought art and beauty to this part of New Jersey that had never been touched in such a glorious way.
We send our sincerest condolences to Cecelia and the Johnson family. We are honored to have met a man with the foresight to create The Johnson Atelier and the Grounds For Sculpture which is a legacy that has touched the lives of thousands and will continue for generations to come.
Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck
Founders of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum