Joan Berkey is an architectural historian with more than 30 years’ experience researching and writing about historic buildings. Most of the buildings she has studied are in New Jersey, but she is also familiar with those in neighboring Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Berkey learned folk art from her mother, Ruth Berkey, a long-time member of the Historical Society of Early American Decoration, an avocation she set aside while raising her two children and working full-time with historic buildings. Now that her children are on their own, she has resumed her pursuit of American folk art.
Berkey learned false-graining, primitive painting, tin painting, and theorem painting from her mother and also took lessons in drawing and oil painting from several other instructors, focusing on the realistic style of such masters as John Singleton Copley and the Peale family. In her historical townscapes, she combines her love for folk art and architectural history.
Berkey lives with her husband, Scott Smith, and cats Pokey and Tiger in the c. 1790 Thomas (Jr.) and Zilpah Ludlam House in Cape May County, New Jersey, which the couple restored. She works from small studio in the home’s addition. She finds it inspiring to paint heritage arts in a historic building.
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