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Camden Launches Exciting Public Art Project to Call Attention to Illegal Dumping

April 22, 2021

Happy Earth Day, y’all! This year in celebration of Earth Day there’s an incredible project launching just over the Delaware in Camden, New Jersey that’s bringing artists and public space together to call attention to illegal dumping and its impact on Camden’s community. Called A New View, the six-month-long exhibition features six, one-of-a-kind and family-friendly public art projects designed by nationally recognized artists. And I’m super excited to tell you that Streets Dept is joining the initiative as a media partner to help highlight the project’s goals and artwork! 

A New View features a massive feline designed from repurposed automobiles, a 15-foot-tall steel trash collecting creature, a machine that utilizes mealworms to eat Styrofoam packaging from e-waste, and more. The creations were specifically designed to raise awareness about illegal dumping of bulk waste in Camden, which costs taxpayers over $4 million annually. 

“This project is all about envisioning a future for the city, with art playing a central role in reinforcing Camden as a place for creativity and innovation,” says Camden Mayor Frank Moran. “The sites chosen for the project have long been dumping grounds, literally or figuratively. A New View will transform them and generate interest among community members and visitors to explore different Camden neighborhoods.”

The Project is a partnership between the City of Camden, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, and is funded by a Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge grant.

The six central installations will be augmented by creative works from two New Jersey artists, Tom Marchetty and Erik James Montgomery. Local woodworker, third-generation factory machinery specialist, and owner of The Factory Workers, Tom Marchetty will add to each site’s overall transformation by designing and building “pod parks” (unique seating areas) at each of the sites. Camden-based photographer Erik James Montgomery’s viral photography series, Camden Is Bright Not Blight, will continue to shine a light on illegal dumping. The photo series, originally launched in fall 2020, was displayed on abandoned buildings throughout Camden, keeping much-needed attention on illegal dumping during the pandemic.

A map of the six site locations can be found here. Below you can find out more information about each installation! 

“Invincible Cat” by Don Kennell and Lisa Adler (DKLA Design)

Location: 1489 Pershing St, Camden, NJ 08104

Invincible Cat is a 36 foot long, monumental panther made from repurposed black car hoods. The sculpture has a steel armature that allows elements of the piece to function as sturdy urban furniture. DKLA Design sees this animal as a symbolic protector of the space it occupies. Panthers are rare creatures and hold a mythic place in popular imagination. They are strong and agile, revered and respected. The sculpture embodies these qualities and engages the imagination of its viewers. 

“Bio-Informatic Digester” by Mitchell Joachim and Vivian Kuan (Terreform ONE) 

Location: Chestnut Street and Orchard Street, Camden, NJ 08103

The Bio-Informatic Digester is a machine in the garden that utilizes mealworms to eat styrofoam packaging from e-waste. At the base, the tesseract showcases mealworms devouring community-donated styrofoam and at the top, mycelium erodes over time to reveal the biodiversity graph and future projections of Camden, NJ. Tapping into Camden’s roots as the first county in the state to mandate recycling, this project demonstrates a new method of biologically-driven recycling that can contribute to urban biodiversity. Furthermore, the project visualizes the often-unseen beneficial insect behavior in cities. Manifesting ecological routines into a visible spectacle is a utilitarian mechanism for building awareness and communicating intentions. Instead of burying or hiding urban metabolic infrastructure, reversing its presence is desirable. This machine shows nature as an aestheticized and functional event in its myriad of forms. It offers the community the capacity to see waste, energy or water systems in flux – highlighting their value and immediacy. 

Turntable” by Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi (SLO Architecture)

Location: Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park, 801-811 Delaware Ave, Camden, NJ 08102

Legend tells that Harding and Son’s Windmill, operating during the 18th century on a once existing island between Camden and Philadelphia, is buried somewhere under Camden. During low tide a sandbar, from what is now Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park, formed a landpassage directly to the island that was critical for transporting goods, helping make Camden a vital hub. Camden abounds with lost history. RCA Victor recorded the 20th century classical and jazz greats, but many original vinyl from its Cooper Street warehouse were dumped at the shoreline in 1971, and then bulldozed alongside dynamited rubble. With Turntable, the discarded is unearthed, reconsidered. At Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park, a wind-powered beacon becomes a shoreline focal point. Using wind energy captured by thousands of cut two-liter soda bottles, a cylinder spins above a ring of scaffolding. Within, a diaphanous dome of discarded plastics and an oculus open to the sky, the piece offers a space to contemplate the cycles of Camden’s history and potential energy ahead.

Mechan 11: The Collector “by Tyler FuQua Creations

Location: 1599-1537 E State St, Camden, NJ 08105

Mechan 11 is the first standing robot built by Tyler FuQua Creations. At around 15 feet tall, Mechan 11 is a steel creature that is picking up giant pieces of litter. It is referred to as “The Collector” by its fellow robots. Its glowing heart chamber serves as a reminder that we have to love and take care of this planet because it is the only one we have.

The Phoenix Festival” by Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein (The Myth Makers)

Location: 1401 Federal Street, Camden, NJ 08105

Phoenix Festival is comprised of two monumental 22-foot-tall sculptures made out of bamboo, and decorated with colorful recycled objects. Leading up to the grand installation, the artists worked with Camden educators and neighbors to create individual flags for the Festival. During a week-long residency on site, The Myth Makers worked with community volunteers to build and decorate a large open amphitheater for gatherings and events – both spontaneous and organized. A series of welcoming pathways connect the sculptures and the Gathering Place into a playful park setting. The goal for The Phoenix Festival is to create an adored space – as art is a catalyst for change.

Touching the Earth” by Athena Steen and Josh Sarantitis

Location: 512 Erie Street, Camden NJ 08102

NOTE: This project will be completed after the final frost, likely sometime in early May, and I’ll update this page when it’s been completed!

Touching the Earth is a series of clay/earth installations constructed in collaboration with Camden families, residents and artists. Athena Steen and Josh Sarantitis led workshops on building with straw and plastering with clay mix to create three totemic sculptures representing the creative spirit of the people of Camden. Mini parklets made from Cedar and Black Locust, and planted with native plants and vegetables create a safe environment for the totems to “live” near. Workshops in urban horticulture, public art design and fabrication allow participation at all levels of the production and installation. An opening ceremony will raise awareness of the location, and daily construction workshops will allow for maximum connection to the community.

Pod Park by Tom Marchetty (The Factory Workers)

Location: All locations listed above! 

Tom Marchetty has created functional freestanding spaces with the use of urban timber, repurposed steel, salvaged parts, and i-beams. These spaces or “Pods” have been dropped onto all six sites mentioned above to create gathering spots. The use of metal roofing adds shaded areas to some sites that have no trees for shade and relaxation. The positive feel and look of these “Pods” will engage the visitors and community to use these sites in ways other than illegal dumping.

Camden Is Bright Not Blight” by Erik James Montgomery

The Erik James Montgomery Foundation has created 75 photographic portraits of Camden residents to highlight the A New View. These images exemplify the power and perseverance of the great people of Camden, New Jersey. The images are paired with large text stating, “CAMDEN IS…” and then followed by the word that each individual subject selects to define the Invincible City of Camden.

In addition to the Camden Is Bright Not Blight photography installations, Montgomery is working with Vedra Chandler from Cooper’s Ferry Partnership on a project titled Camden Reframed, where Camden residents are photographed next to illegal dumping sites within the city. These photographs of piles of trash, discarded, and broken furniture are juxtaposed with the residents dressed in business suits, couture gowns, and other stylized garments. In May, the artist will be launching Focused Gallery-Camden, where teen and young adults of color can exhibit their photography. Focused Gallery will serve an an incubator to the next generation of photographers. Lastly, Montgomery will have several exhibits of his work including the Newark Art Museum, an online exhibit in June that explores anti-racism imagery, and a 30 year retrospective in October.

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