By Jillian Risberg
They want it, chase it, crave it — the explosive creativity of the authors and artists who call Mount Olive home gives them life.
“Mount Olive is a part of who I am. Our kids go to school here. We’ve made friends here. We’ve experienced loss here and gone through personal growth here. We love Mount Olive, and look forward to when we can all get together as a community again,” says Christopher Nevoso, of Mr. Chris Entertainment (formerly known as Archie Cobblespot).
According to the ‘professional balloon artist, physical comedian and nincompoop,’ balloons make everything seem more whimsical.
“How can you be in a bad mood when you’re surrounded by balloons,” Nevoso says, adding that he decided early on not to be the guy twisting easy one-balloon dogs and swords, so he dove deeply into what was possible.
“Crazy thing is, anything is possible. I enjoy working with balloons so much they’ve become the cornerstone of my business. It’s a balancing act to stay true to your clown character while essentially being a living balloon factory, but I think I’m able to tie them both together pretty nicely.”
In these pandemic times, though — the artist says performances are scarce.
“I know plenty of people who have gotten into Zoom performances, but it’s just not for me,” says Nevoso. “It’s very hard to feel a connection through a camera, and for me the connection is absolutely vital. The audience is my energy.”
Currently, he is accepting small, socially distanced balloon events that follow COVID protocols, making sure to talk in detail to clients before accepting the booking.
“I wear a mask, and I expect everyone else to as well,” the artist says. “I also keep hand sanitizer nearby to use in between each balloon sculpture. I want the world to get back up and running as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of anyone’s health.”
According to Nevoso, his contact-free balloon drop offs are a nice addition to any event or holiday.
“And I am in the early stages of planning some online balloon twisting classes,” he says.
When it comes to vaudeville, the artist had always heard of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and as a young guy doing all he could to break into the industry, figured it was high time he looked into them.
“I was blown away by how someone could make you feel, react, and laugh all without words,” he says. “It was truly clowning, physical comedy, at its finest. I became hooked, and everything I thought I had figured out about my clown character went right out the window.”
And he fell in love with silent comedy, moving in the embellished manor that those guys use in their movies.
“I can always tell when a clown or performer is ‘performing,’” says Nevoso. “When you believe it to be genuine, that’s when the good stuff happens. I look at a guy like Bill Irwin (Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street), who helped ring in the new era of vaudeville, and everything he does seems so effortlessly real, so honest. It’s a thing of beauty to witness.”
He had the opportunity to headline with Irwin, talk to him and get pointers, which the physical comedian says is still the greatest feeling in the world to know he performed for one of his heroes.
“And he actually thought I was funny,” Nevoso says, adding that as a young boy he figured out his life’s calling on a family trip to the circus, where he was part of the pre-show festivities.
“I quickly learned that making a group of people laugh is one of the best feelings in the world, and you immediately want to be able to do it again,” he says. “I remember watching the rest of the show from my seat and thinking, ‘that was awesome. I want to do this when I grow up.’ And many years later, I did.”
To be able to bring this form of entertainment to the masses means the world.
“Clowns get a really bad and unfair rap, and to a degree I get it,” says Nevoso. “The movies have done us no justice, and there isn’t any test or license you have to take, so there can be a lot of bad or unprofessional clowns out there.”
He says all it takes is one negative experience, and a person will never look at clowns as a whole the same way again.
“But to be able to make someone laugh who may be dealing with one of life’s rough patches or give a child — dealing with bullies, a sick parent, or any one of countless problems a kid can be dealing with — an amazing balloon sculpture and make them smile; it’s really the most powerful thing I can think of,” the artist says.
According to Nevoso, clowns have the power to make people forget their problems, even for just a minute.
“It’s an incredible honor and a privilege, and one I don’t take lightly,” he says.
Braydon Adkins’ three-legged senior dog, Mabel, inspired the 10-year-old to pen his first work — “The Adventures of Mamma Mabel – Everyone deserves to be loved,” to teach kids not to judge a book by its cover, and to look deeper.
“Sometimes, people don’t apply that to dogs because they think, ‘dogs don’t have feelings’ but what most people don’t know is, they really do,” says the first-time Mount Olive author.
After some COVID delays, Adkins now says he is hoping to go to print in March.
“We are currently waiting for a release date, but ordered our first proof and it will be out soon,” he says.
The fifth-grader loves writing children’s stories because he says teaching them lessons early is the best way for them to succeed later in life.
And it’s important for children to develop a love of reading.
“So they don’t have to be exposed to the toxicity and hoaxes of the internet,” Adkins says.
His rescue dog has been such a source of inspiration.
“She was supposed to be a hospice foster, but has been living with us for three years now and is doing great,” says Adkins.
Channeling that affection for Mabel, going forward the young author plans to write more.
“For all of our current dogs,” he says. “I have some ideas for our beagle, Ruby. She is funny and loves everyone she meets.”
Of 150 years of history in Mount Olive, a place where Adkins is happy to grow up — he loves playing for Mount Olive Baseball and ordering the omelets at Budd Lake Diner.
“I feel as if I really contributed to the celebration from this book and hope to inspire other kids in town to follow their dreams,” he says.
is an artist to the core of his being.
“I was always interested in something visual from the time I could pick up a pencil because that’s who I am,” Rush says. “There’s nothing I’d rather do more than draw, paint, create; a means of expression that flows with a sub conscious drive.”
Mount Olive has been an anchor, allowing interaction between fellow artists and students.
“I am grateful for that,” says the international artist, who started teaching at the Mount Olive Adult School 44 years ago to fill in a class or two and the next thing he knew was doing five classes a week.
Rush is always evolving, searching creative avenues, cultivating ideas, reflecting and continually growing.
“My main objective is to create beauty as long as I am able,” he says.
“I enjoy working in oil paint mostly; the feel, texture, look, the way it can be manipulated — all that cannot be found in other materials. Have experimented with most every medium there is and then eventually go back to oil.”
He studied at the Famous Artists school in Westport, Connecticut, attended the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art — and upon graduating returned there to teach.
Throughout his illustrious career, Rush’s work has been shown in four museums, and galleries both nationally and internationally.
He continues to paint, and fostering the next generation of Mount Olive artists makes his day.
“Seeing a student grow; plus the joy they have while being creative, the longevity of that is a wonderful exchange of ideas between some who have no experience,” says Rush. “It’s the best because they’re free to create unencumbered by rules and regulations.”
For author Martina Palladino, who was born in the Czech Republic, lived for a time in West Germany, then came to America— a culmination of experiences in grammar school set her on a different course.
“For me, going to school and not understanding or speaking English as a child made me a target for bullying,” Palladino says. “Kids would make fun of the way I spoke, how I pronounced words, not understanding slang, and my lack of humor as I did not comprehend the play on words.”
She says if you command a language, you are viewed as intelligent and strong. But if you have trouble communicating, that translates to inexperience and lack of knowledge.
“Yet, as I grew, things changed. Less people knew that I wasn’t ‘American,’ my accent faded and as a result, I was accepted without question,” says the author. “So, I believe that language is an immensely powerful tool.”
It may have been the catalyst that fueled her desire to master English and eventually become an author.
Discovering the wonderful community of people that is Mount Olive also helped.
“I feel grounded and at home here,” says Palladino. “I believe that if your mindset is positive and peaceful, it shows through your creativity. It not only shapes me as a writer, but as a person.”
Being able to share ‘Thru Eyes of REM’ with the public means everything to the author.
“In today’s world of uncertainty, distrust and anger, I strive to show readers that there is always hope, there is love, inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance,” she says. “I guide the story through a journey that not only displays deceit, despair, delusion and lust, but equally you follow the characters through their turmoil into loyalty, respect, empowerment, and love.”
“While fantasy fiction is entertaining, the underlying messages are real. What begins by alluding to a love story spanning centuries between two souls who dreamt of one another, continues as we follow their individual journeys and revelations.”
According to Palladino, she wants readers to realize that if fictional characters from diverse lands, backgrounds and experiences can learn to come together for a common goal, it is possible for all humanity.
“If we learn to tolerate, include and accept, as opposed to criticizing, singling out and shunning due to ignorance,” the author says, adding that the 150th anniversary is special because it solidifies that growth in the community and how far we’ve come.
The author has too, transcended time and place — and her book series is a work in progress.
“When all was shutdown last year due to COVID, I wrote book 4 in my series in less than a month, then started the publishing process for both versions of book 3,” Palladino says. “Once those two books were published, I started writing book 5. I’m almost done with that book; so, the question is… how many hours can it take to write a chapter — as little as four hours to as much as eight.”
That led to word-building.
“This aspect of writing is crucial for a fantasy fiction series because I want the reader to visualize and connect to the characters, as well as the scene, location, country,” says the author. “The first book in my series takes the reader to six different countries. I would love to visit the places I write about, especially Sardinia, Italy.”
She also takes the reader to Prague.
“That location inspired me to bring awareness to multiple countries and bring different types of people together,” Palladino says. “So, I’d say that Prague would be the origin of my pilgrimage.”
Whether you choose the Adult or New Adult censored version of the author’s series; each subsequent book directly relates to the previous one.
“What I enjoy most about fiction is that anything and everything is possible,” says Palladino. “The world is at your fingertips, allowing you to create believable, yet otherworldly characters and scenarios.”
And the future for Mount Olive is looking tremendous.
“Because the young people growing up in this community have shown a sense of togetherness and willingness to accept one another in a way past generations have struggled,” the author says.