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Trenton arts community recovers in wake of shooting

November 17, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The arts scene is alive and well in Trenton.

Over four months since the infamous Art All Night shootout, Artworks has rebounded and hosted its citywide Art All Day event this weekend.

“What happened at Art All Night was very terrible,” Lauren Otis, executive director of Artworks, said Saturday, “but Trenton is resilient, and I think people want to move forward.”

People appeared to move forward on Saturday as Art All Day blossomed with a multitude of activities. “It feels really good that people have come out for today,” Otis said, “because we have worked very hard. People see Trenton is a place that is coming up, and there’s a lot of remarkable things happening.”

Otis founded Art All Day seven years ago as a way of “getting people into the city and connecting the dots” so people could tour the full range of artsy venues spread throughout this 7.5-square-mile capital city, he said. “What was here before is still here, and that is what Art All Day is showing. It’s ultimately about the people. Trenton has wonderful citizens.”

A trolley transported people to various hotspots on Saturday, making it easy for Art All Day attendees to canvas multiple venues ranging from private studios to art-friendly businesses.

Art connoisseur Jim Gordon hosted a guided tour through Trenton’s North Ward arts scene between Roberto Clemente Park and Artworks. A group of people, including students from The College of New Jersey, walked with him along city streets to view a variety of art projects.

TCNJ Professor Karen Deaver brought her students to Art All Day as part of their “community engagement service,” she said. “I brought them to Art All Day because I want them to see how art functions as solidarity and community building.”

“I think it is imperative for young people to know how powerful art is to effect change and to communicate between people of great diversity,” Deaver said, adding she has spoken to her freshmen students about stereotypes in the wake of the June 17 Art All Night shootout.

“The very thing we need to do is go in communities like this,” said Deaver, who teaches a course called “arts as a force for social change” at TCNJ. “It is a service because they can see Trenton is a beautiful place.”

The TCNJ students observed a plethora of art showcased at the children’s garden of Roberto Clemente Park. Justin Allen, urban agriculture coordinator with Isles Inc., a community development organization, helped transform the garden into an oasis of art.

“It’s great to bring people out that might not be as familiar with the city,” he said. “There is beauty everywhere — you just have to find it or create it.”

The 100 block of North Broad Street featured a site of beauty across from Mercer County Community College — a new mural by Leon Rainbow gracing the side of a building. The colorful mural depicts the landscape of the nearby buildings.

A building at the corner of Academy and North Montgomery streets had mirror-style reflective panels installed, representing new art created by Wills Kinsley and Andrew Wilkinson.

Saturday’s Art All Day event also brought attention to facilities like the Orchid House at 134 E. Hanover St., which housed pastel portraits created by Trenton artist Walter Roberts Jr.

“This is my first art show,” said the 44-year-old Roberts. “I’ve been doing this type of art all my life.”

Roberts was “upset” when the Art All Night shootout occurred in June, he said, adding Art All Day shows “we can still come back and be more better.”

The gunfire that erupted inside a Roebling Wire Works warehouse during the early morning hours of June 17 has not been forgotten. At least 22 people were injured during the Art All Night shootout, 17 of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Witnesses and prosecutors said the shootout happened as police were shutting down the festival due to numerous fights that occurred throughout that night.

To date, at least 18 victims have filed tort claim notices intending to sue for what happened at the event.

Shirley Gaines, a Trenton Police chaplain and community leader, said she was “very happy and satisfied” that “we didn’t allow the negative stuff” to stop Art All Day from being a success Saturday.

“We’ve got to keep this going,” Gaines said as the Artworks facility bustled with artists and art enthusiasts alike. “Everyone seems to be enjoying this. That’s good.”

“We cannot give up in Trenton,” City Councilman Santiago Rodriguez said as he stood alongside his good friend Gaines. “There’s a lot of good things happening in the city.”

Matthew Krawczun, an artist who creates handmade jewelry, stained glass and steampunk artifacts, displayed some of his baubles at Artworks on Saturday and received a warm reception from the public.

“That’s so cool,” a woman said of Krawczun’s hand sculpture, intrigued by its movable finger joints. She also complimented Krawczun on his ornaments, saying they would make for “nice Christmas presents.”

“I try to do unique stuff,” said Krawczun, 35, who sold several artifacts on Saturday, exceeding his expectations. “I am not complaining,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to sell anything.”

With Election Day looming, one city resident said politicians are not the solution to global problems.

“Art is what can save us at this point,” Trenton poet Doc Long, a retired educator, said while standing outside of the Trenton Free Public Library. He called the Art All Night 2018 fiasco “a bump in the road on a journey” and said “we carry on and continue on our journey.”

“The institutions in America are breaking down,” Long added. “The arts can be a beacon and a guide in that transition to a positive way.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2DLvI08

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Information from: The (Trenton, N.J.) Trentonian, http://www.trentonian.com

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