Art has always been an essential part of life.
The New Brunswick Cultural Center, Inc. (NBCC), at 109 Church Street, and its partners are using art as a tool to help heal, inspire and bring joy to County residents during this lingering pandemic.
The center, which teamed up with the Arts Institute of Middlesex County in February, provides diverse and entertaining programs to the communities it serves. In fact, the move to all-virtual events has allowed the Cultural Center to create and organize even more programs than ever.
“After having to switch to all-virtual programming practically overnight, the Cultural Center and its partners have been working around the clock to provide as much programming as possible,” said Tracey O’Reggio Clark, Interim Executive Director. “NBCC is ingrained in the arts, cultural, historical landscape and we have a wealth of talented individuals who are also working harder than ever to make our lives better. It is clear that the creative community is helping us to become more resilient through these challenging times.”
Virtual events have also allowed the Cultural Center to reach several new audiences, like online viewers and listeners who tuned in to the Inaugural New Brunswick HEART Festival on August 15th from Middlesex County and around the world. The HEART Festival was an initiative that was led by the State Theatre New Jersey, Above Art Studio and New Brunswick Cultural Center, and over 25 New Brunswick and County organizations collaborated in this event.
One of the most important aspects of the Cultural Center and the Arts Institute is that both organizations work collaboratively to offer free, accessible and high-quality programming to as many patrons as possible.
“Middlesex County views art and history as two essential underpinnings of a healthy community. Our rich and diverse landscape makes our county unique,” explained Lindsay Erben, Director of the Arts Institute of Middlesex County. “We believe that everyone deserves access to vibrant arts and historical experiences even during a pandemic. We want to be there for County residents and to share the message that the arts, history, and culture cannot be canceled.”
The Arts Institute, leads the county’s Office of Arts & History, drives collaboration between arts organizations across the county, and offers support so that other organizations can focus on providing residents with access to high quality arts, history and folklife programming. This extra step is the glue, ensuring that the cultural wealth housed in the County is connected with residents lives and enriches the communities where we all live.
Together, the Cultural Center and Arts Institute partner with local artists, restaurants, businesses and organizations to create public art and murals. The murals united communities and brought attention to social issues.
In late June, New Brunswick artist Luis-Miguel Caraballo created a temporary 30-foot by 50-foot brightly hued symbol of peace and unity, drawing inspiration from the dozens of protest marches held in cities across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Caraballo incorporated the Pan-African flag, using it as the border for the street mural. He, along with help from several volunteers, painted an African American woman with an afro against a yellow background with the County’s signature butterflies adorning the piece.
In August, Caraballo and a team of volunteers created a 125-foot long temporary mural in front of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center depicting a musical staff with colors borrowed from the Pan-African flag.
The design featured names of historical and contemporary African American musicians hailing from New Jersey with a special honor given to those from Middlesex County and the City of New Brunswick. Among the names were Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson and Count Basie. Caraballo also included lesser-known, but no less influential musicians like James P. Johnson, Micki Harris and the Shirelles and Hank Mobley.
Earlier this month, artist Samaria Walker-Raeford created a purple-hued street mural in one of the busiest intersections in downtown New Brunswick at the corner of George Street, Liberty Street and Livingston Avenue in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in honor of the inaugural virtual march hosted by the New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition that was offered on October 17th .
Sidewalk murals highlighting local open businesses also started popping up throughout downtown New Brunswick and window murals were installed at essential places such as Elijah’s Promise food pantry on Neilson Street. These sidewalk murals were made possible by the partnership between New Brunswick City Center and the New Brunswick Cultural Center.
The Cultural Center was also instrumental in the initial “Relaunch New Brunswick” initiative, partnering with New Brunswick City Center and local musicians to provide live entertainment for outdoor diners in the Hub City. The downtown has been an exciting hub for safe, clean and fun dining from Thursday evenings through the weekend on George Street.
Make sure to participate in the Art Institute’s Halloween Drive Through Food Drive at East Jersey Old Town Village, located at 1050 River Road, Piscataway. You can bring a non-perishable or monetary donation to MCFOODS in exchange for a goodie bag filled with treats, show off your costume, walk the Village grounds social distancing, and even see a UFO! Do not forget to check out their Virtual Halloween Celebration too. This Essential Food Drive starts on Wednesday, October 28th and runs through Sunday, November 1st, 10am – 4pm, virtual visitors will be treated to a classic “War of The Worlds” performance with Raconteur Radio. This theatrical group will be recreating Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio play, when Grovers Mill, faced invaders from Mars. To learn more, click here.
Learn more about the New Brunswick Cultural Center www.NewBrunswickArts.org and on Instagram @ArtsNewBrunswick and on Facebook/NewBrunswickCulturalCenter.