The Manasquan River Group of artists was formed in 1938. Mrs. Ida Wells Stroud, a prominent artist and teacher in the School of Fine Arts in Newark at that time, resided each summer in Herbertsville with her daughter, Clara, also an accomplished painter. Ida held outdoor painting classes on the banks of the Manasquan River. To support American Art Week, the first week in November, the Strouds put together a small group of artist friends and students, to hold an art event in the town of Manasquan. Clara’s own notes describe it best: “Merchants on both sides of Main St. were signed up for paintings for their store windows. We decided to have a window walk and talk. When the appointed day came, we started off from the Woman’s Club down one side of the street and up the other – a crowd of us with friends and automobiles following – the occupants of which leaning far out of their windows. Each picture was viewed and commented upon... We returned to the Woman’s Club for tea.”
The artists decided to band together for the purpose of promoting art in the community. At first, meetings were held in members’ homes. With much interest shown by members and friends, officers were elected and the group decided it should be more active. “Clothesline” exhibitions were held in neighboring towns and membership was extended to include artists from a wider area. As the group grew, meetings were moved to the Spring Lake Community House, then the Manasquan Woman’s Club, and finally to the Curtis House in Brielle, where a guest artist demonstration or workshop is often featured. MRGA currently has more than one hundred members.
The goal of its founders is still honored by the MRGA today. The artists exhibited at Point Pleasant Hospital for many years, also illustrating two editions of the Hospital Guild’s cookbook. In 2011, the group worked with Ocean Medical Center to host the “Art for the Heart” benefit. Very popular is the program of painting classes, open to the public, given by MRGA members at the Sea Girt Lighthouse September through May. Each year a scholarship is awarded to a promising high school senior. The group’s yearly schedule includes exhibits at the Brielle, Wall, and Pt. Pleasant Beach Libraries, and summer shows outdoors in Sea Girt, Bay Head, Spring Lake, Avon, Manasquan, and Brielle.