By Jim Simon,
Deputy Director, Community Planning, Isles, Inc.
What does your mind conjure when asked to visualize Trenton’s art scene? Public sculpture concentrated near the State House? Street-style art on abandoned buildings? While both examples can be found across the spectrum of art in Trenton, the reality is much more vibrant and diverse.
Creative and performing arts have always played an important role in Trenton over the course of its history, but recent years have seen an incredible profusion of art and related activity, including live music, visual art, bike culture, theater, and countless other art forms. At Isles, we’ve supported and promoted public art with community partners across the city for most of our 37 year history. We are especially excited, though, about being the driving force behind the Creek to Canal Creative District (C2C), the prime result of the year-long Trenton Arts in Focus planning process. We are currently working with partners on implementing the plan with a focus on supporting the arts as a key tool in revitalizing downtown Trenton, while keeping an eye on promoting arts activity citywide.
Not content to just plan and organize, we are leveraging funding to make on-the-ground projects happen through a continued partnership with the I Am Trenton Community Foundation. The inaugural round of the Old Trenton Arts & Community Grants distributed funding through a competitive process to 15 projects ranging from murals, community art making, and public art installations, to bicycle repair clinics, book fairs, and gardens.
We are bringing resources to launch or reinvigorate projects like the new Broad Street Bank Gallery, the rebirth of the Studios at 219 East Hanover, the Orchid House, and Trenton Community A-Team studio and exhibition space at 51 North Stockton. Additionally, we are convening stakeholders and municipal officials to develop public art policy in ways to ensure that healthy dialog can be had about art in the City. We need to be able to talk frankly and critically about art – not just art that is deemed “safe,” but art that is controversial, subversive, or art that speaks uncomfortable truths.
All too often, public perception of Trenton is one of violence, especially when it affects innocent bystanders. Creative arts can help express reactions against violence or the conditions hospitable to it, but can also help reclaim and activate public space as a form of anti-violence. Public expressions and celebrations of art, like Artworks Art All Night/Art All Day and the Levitt AMP free concert series are critical to the future of Trenton’s revitalization. We are excited to be able to move the Creek to Canal Creative District forward and support others in pursuit of creative revitalization in Trenton.
Image: Isles’ site for Art All Day at Roberto Clemente Park, featuring the Mobile Bread House and Trenton Art Puzzle exhibit. Mural work by Lori Johansson and Celeste Huang.
Jim Simon oversees urban agriculture services and related education for Isles, Inc. In addition, he oversees vacant lot stabilization and improvement work and other neighborhood arts and green infrastructure initiatives. He is chair of the Trenton Green Team, a member the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and is on the steering committee of the Trenton Cycling Revolution, a bicycling advocacy group. In a previous life, he spent 10 years as part of a rock ‘n’ roll puppetry collective and has performed in venues such as NYC’s Knitting Factory, BRIC (Brooklyn Information & Culture) House, and Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Painted Bride Art Center, and Trocadero Theatre.
The NJ League of Municipalities Conference 2018 rolls out inspiration to plan for the future with a theme of Municipalities Leading the Way. The 103rd League Conference will be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center November 13-15.
ArtPride has helped to organize two panels that focus on the relationship of the arts to municipalities:
The HeART of Downtown Renaissance
Tuesday, November 13 at 2:00pm
Co-hosted by ArtPride New Jersey and the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
Experts will share how local arts and cultural programs–from festivals and mural projects, to pop up exhibitions and creative use of vacant spaces–spur economic and community development. Panelists will discuss arts and community partnerships that tackle local challenges head-on and help develop healthy and desirable neighborhoods where residents take pride and businesses succeed.
Maureen Vanacore, Northern NJ Community Foundation, ArtsBergen
Patrice Foresman, Main Street Business Alliance, Hackensack
Evan Sanchez, Co-Founder, Authentic City Partners, Atlantic City
Tom Gilmour, Executive Director, Trenton Downtown Association
Dan Swern, Producing Director, CoLAB Arts
Presiding: Andre Sayegh – Mayor of Paterson, NJ
Tourism & Local Governmnent Engagement
Thursday, November 15, 10:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Room 414, Atlantic City Convention Center
Hosted by the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association
Explore the partnership between government and professional tourism marketing. Learn about your Destination Marketing Organization; using the local option Hotel and Lodging Occupancy tax for tourism; how to promote your town and take advantage of existing alliances. Understand cutting-edge proposals to create Tourism Development Authorities (TDA) used successfully in other states to empower local governments to establish their own marketing program with community participation and funding.
Joseph Simonetta – Executive Director, NJ Tourism Industry Assoc.
Jacqueline Morales – Director, Tourism and Somerset County/Business Partnership
Jennifer Costa – DMO Director, Elizabeth
Adam Perle – President & CEO, ArtPride New Jersey
Presiding: J. Christian Bollwage – Mayor, Elizabeth; Past President, NJLM
Last week, we had the extreme pleasure of welcoming the New Jersey Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, to McCarter Theatre Center. Our partners at New Jersey State Council on the Arts invited Ms. Way to visit one of the fantastic cultural organizations hosting voter registration tables as part of the Support the Arts – VOTE campaign. It was a wonderful opportunity to show her how art organizations can shine as civic leaders.
Way echoed the importance of these community connections and campaigns like Support the Arts – VOTE:
“Much like the arts give people a platform to share their stories, voting gives people the opportunity to make their voices heard. Now, more than ever, communities across our nation are feeling empowered by the right to vote. A record number of people – 800,000 – registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day last month.
We are grateful to our state’s strong arts sector – and organizations like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, ArtPride New Jersey and McCarter Theatre – for recognizing the role of the arts in bringing communities together and seeing the potential arts organizations have to increase and celebrate civic engagement.”
For more examples of our members bringing their communities together in the name of civic responsibility, check out our latest Voices from the Field blog post. Also, check out more photos from Secretary Way’s visit on our Facebook page or on McCarter’s blog.
By Koren Rife,
Marketing & Communications Manager, ArtPride New Jersey
Elections are determined by those who make their voices heard, and with 13 seats up for election in New Jersey’s midterms, there’s a lot to be said.
Moreover, there’s a lot at stake in the November 6 election. For example, influential arts supporter and chair of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), is retiring. Rep. Frelinghuysen’s moderate conservative voice supported the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities budget increases, despite proposals to terminate both agencies. In addition, there are hotly contested elections in at least four N.J. congressional districts.
That’s why ArtPride launched Support the Arts – VOTE, a campaign to spread awareness of the importance of the state’s upcoming elections and make sure all eligible New Jerseyans are active and informed voters.
ArtPride sent a questionnaire to all candidates regarding their opinions on the arts in the state (responses are available here) and called on the leaders of local arts organizations to become citizen advocates. Organizations from all over the state answered ArtPride’s rally cry. Here are just a few examples of our members bringing their communities together in the name of civic responsibility:
N.J.’s Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, also visited McCarter’s registration table, and had the following to say:
“We are grateful to our state’s strong arts sector – and organizations like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, ArtPride New Jersey, and McCarter Theatre – for recognizing the role of the arts in bringing communities together and seeing the potential arts organizations have to increase and celebrate civic engagement.”
New Jersey’s arts industry and its patrons certainly are powerful. The nonprofit arts sector alone generates $41 million in local and state tax revenues. Also, 90 percent of those surveyed in 2017’s Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study said they voted in the 2016 election. That type of impact is hard to ignore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all do more!
Make your voice heard. Help ArtPride spread awareness of the importance of N.J.’s midterm elections. Your outreach will ensure that art supporters are well prepared to perform their civic duty in November. Visit www.ArtPrideNJ.com/Vote to access a digital toolkit of graphics, social media language, and more to tell your audiences, friends, everyone: Support the Arts – VOTE!
Koren Rife is short, sassy and a terrible liar. Despite having not yet met her life goal of becoming a Muppet, she counts herself incredibly lucky to spend most days surrounded by art, whether at the office (ArtPride New Jersey Foundation) or at one of the community theatre groups she calls her second (third or fourth) home. At her actual home in Riverside, NJ, she snuggles with three cats (George, Jacques and Byng), one dog (Winston) and sometimes her husband, Jeff.