The Leonia School of Illustration, c. 1915
From the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, the small town of Leonia, New Jersey was a noted art colony – home to more than 90 professional artists including Lynd Ward, Grant Reynard, Harvey Dunn, Charles Chapman, Howard McCormick, Clara Elsene Peck, Rutherford and Harriet Boyd, Harry Eaton, and Peter Newell. Barns and lofts were converted into studio space throughout the town. Creativity flourished in this community of photographers, writers, actors, illustrators and painters.
In 1919 a resident acting company began performing classic and original plays; the Player’s Guild of Leonia is New Jersey’s oldest continuing community theater group.
In 2000 a team of theater lovers within the community founded Summer Stage at Leonia, and offer musical productions each summer.
In 2006, Sculpture For Leonia began bringing public art to the townscape by exhibiting a changing display of outdoor sculpture.
Officially organized in 2009, The Leonia Chamber Musicians began in 1973 when a small group of professional musicians who lived in Leonia joined together to give chamber music concerts in their town.
Leonia has been home to notable performing artists including: Pat Boone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Buddy Hackett, Alan Alda, and Al B. Sure. Performing artists continue to call Leonia home while working on Broadway stages and theatrical, film and television productions. Many professional musicians live in Leonia and perform with orchestras in New York City as well as teach and perform throughout the metro area and the state of New Jersey.
The Leonia Public Library is an artistic hub for children and adults in the community, presenting book readings, poetry slams, open mike nights, maker events, art classes and exhibitions. Art is a vibrant and vital part of life in Leonia.
With visual and performing artists, writers, artisans, and designers in residence, creativity continues to flourish in this small town. Leonia Arts strives to honor Leonia’s rich artistic heritage and inspire its artistic future by supporting the community of artists today
“Leonia, N.J.: A Suburb of Artists, in Easy Reach of Manhattan” New York Times, May 5, 2019
The Leonia Shakespeare Club, c. 1915 in a performance of ‘A Winter’s Tale’
Presbyterian Church Operetta, c. 1930 production of ‘Cherry Blossom’