New Artwork in Clara's Tunnel
Updated: Aug 17
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Borough of Rutherford
Local artist Alexandra Hanson-Harding discovered her artistic side at a very early age. Creative expression through art has been an important part of Alexandra's life for many years. Collages have become a focal point for Alexandra and this past month many of her collages are on display in the art cases in Clara's Tunnel. This is Rutherford spoke to Alexandra about her career as a writer and both of her lifelong passions; writing and art, as well as her current showcase in Rutherford.
TIR: Although you have always been interested in art, you also wanted to be a writer and you pursued that dream. What can you tell us about your career?
Alexandra Hanson-Harding: I moved to New York after graduating from the University of Massachusetts when I was 23 so I could get a job in publishing. I have kept journals since I was 14 and I now have more than 200 volumes of journals. I have always wanted to be a writer.
I spent most of my career as a writer and editor for young people. I really love writing for children because I was a huge reader when I was a kid. Writers of children's books helped me understand the world and understood me at a time when I felt very alone. These writers helped me believe that I would find my people. And I did. That’s why it felt like such an honor actually to become a writer for children when I grew up.
At the Children’s Express News Service, where I was Editor in Chief, I worked with a team of children to turn their interviews and roundtables into finished articles for national magazines. Then I moved on to Scholastic. I was Editor of the grades 5 and 6 versions of Scholastic News, where I supervised a team of three writers in putting out a weekly national newspaper for children in grades five and six. Next, I became Senior Editor for Junior Scholastic Magazine, where I wrote and edited articles about history, geography, and current events for sixth to eighth-graders. I worked at MacMillan/McGraw-Hill as a Senior Editor in textbook publishing, then as a book editor for Rosen Publishing, and for years, I freelanced.
TIR: Would you like to say any more about the published books that you wrote?
AHH: During that time, I wrote hundreds of articles and 30 books, mostly for kids. I wrote about all kinds of subjects—ancient Rome, Charles Darwin, matter, beekeeping, bullying, glaciers, win-win negotiating, the history of hula dancing, and more. Whenever I wrote a book or article, I would become a complete nerd on that subject. It was really fun to have an excuse to learn about all kinds of random things.
TIR: Your artwork that is currently displayed in Clara’s Tunnel is a collection of 3-dimensional collages. When did you become interested in creating these collages? What inspires you to create these pieces?
AHH: As much as I love writing, art is my first love. When I was a one-year-old, I was drawing on my crib sheets and the wall whenever I could get my hands on a pen. I have continued drawing in my journals as well as writing all of my life. In recent years, art has been taking over.
I love collage. Collages look easy and random, but they aren’t. I made hundreds of bad collages before I learned how to make a decent one. A good collage is composed but has surprises. What is left out is important is as important as what is left in.
I didn’t know how to make collages until I started taking a collage class at Montclair Museum of Art. Both my teacher and my talented fellow students inspired me. One of them, artist Roberta Polton, has become a kind of art partner—we meet every Friday, trade ideas, and make art together.
As far as how I make my three-dimensional collages, I have an art room that I practically live in. I'm always doing some kind of messy experiment in there with paint and dye and cardboard and fabric and beads and it’s always a disaster. But sometimes I’ll make something and think, “Oooh, nice!”
Suffice it to say the technique of creating these collages evolved in many small steps through these experiments. And through looking at what other artists do that I like. And looking at the world. And thinking. It still keeps changing. The process of using my hands to make something that surprises me is very pleasing.
TIR: Clara’s Tunnel is not the first place you’ve had art displayed. Your work has been on display in Nutley, the Montclair Art Museum, etc. Do you have plans to have your artwork exhibited anywhere else?
AHH: I expect to show my art in more venues soon. My husband, Brian, is great at looking for opportunities for me and urging me to apply for art shows. I appreciate this opportunity from the Borough Art Committee. Another wonderful organization that has helped me and many other local artists is the Artists Association of Rutherford. It helps its members to promote their work and to develop as artists. They can be reached at email@example.com.
TIR: How do you feel having your artwork displayed in the tunnel?
AHH: I’m really thrilled to have my artwork displayed in Clara’s Tunnel. It is such an appealing and creative use of what used to be a not-very-welcoming space. It means a lot to me to share my art with my fellow Rutherfordians, and I look forward to seeing other local artists’ pieces in the tunnel as well.