Tri City News - 2/23/23

Local weekly paper covering regional news and events covers the establishment of APAC.

Our beloved little city was destined to change from its DIY arts days two decades ago when a group of creatives pretty much could do whatever they wanted. So much of the city was vacant.

Now that an economic boom has come, that’s all gone now. Yet conformi-ty never took hold. Of course, with more money and people comes more mainstream. But Asbury Park is still holding to its promise of the most broad-minded and creative place in our region, if not in the state.

There’s so many examples of this. And here’s one of our favorites.

The Asbury Park Public Arts Commission is an agency of the city govern-ment subject to all laws and regulations. It’s made up of artists and artistic types and has its monthly meetings in Parlor Gallery, the avant garde ven-ue operated by arts leader Jenn Hampton and Jill Ricci.

TriCity just had to go and see for ourselves. This is so Asbury Park. Very cool.

Sure enough, it was probably the most fun governmental meeting we’ve ever attended. Cracked us up that they read the Open Public Meetings Act notice at the beginning — just as they do at every boring local government meeting.

But at no other local government meeting we’ve experienced has the room been filled with cardboard art. Nor has a 1980s New Wave dance club station ever been playing in the background.

Welcome to the annual reorganization meeting of the Asbury Park Public Arts Commission!

Appropriately enough, Parlor Gallery co-owner Jenn Hampton was elected Chair. Her role as an Asbury arts leader goes way back. It started as one of the brains behind the old Asbury Lanes music venue in the early years of the city’s cultural comeback.
The Public Arts Commission serves two roles: regulatory and arts promo-tion. Its regulatory function requires it to approve all outdoor art murals on buildings in Asbury Park. As for arts promotion, it does that by arranging art installations, such as the 12 acclaimed outdoor murals on the south side of the sewage treatment plant that were painted last year.

A main order of business at the Public Arts Commission meeting triCity attended was setting up another mural project at the sewage treatment plant. This time on the east side facing the ocean, with four panels avail-able. Artists will each be paid $1,000 for their work.

The tentative timeline for this new mural project is to get submissions in March, and then have the murals painted in May.
“The sewage plant murals really opened the public’s eyes to the possible,” said Public Arts Commission member Mike Sodano.

Hampton enjoyed seeing the interaction of people with the murals — on a sewage plant, remember. Of particular joy was watching brides get a photo there.

“I love seeing brides taking a picture in front of the murals at the sewage plant, and they don’t care what’s going on behind there,” said Hampton. “I really like this story of the sewage plant.”

There were other interesting arts discussions among the members. Hampton said she’d like to see the city revisit the possibility of a mural on the backside of City Hall facing the train tracks. There’s also tentative plans to have an art fair later in the year in the Springwood Avenue Park for local artists to sell their work. That’s being spearheaded by Matt Daniels, a musician and member of the Public Arts Commission.

There are various entities promoting public art in Asbury Park, aside from the city who’ll pay for the new sewage plant murals. Waterfront redeveloper Madison Mar-quette has backed Hampton on her Wooden Walls project of murals on boardwalk pavilions, as well as installations in the Casino walkway and Carousel house.
In addition, the Asbury Park Arts Council, a private non-profit entity that also pro-motes arts in the city, can apply for grants and funding that the city cannot. The Arts Council works closely with the Public Arts Commission to maximize resources for public art.

Hampton and Public Arts Commission member Michael Sodano noted that it’s a good investment to pay to get nationally and internationally known artists to the city because of the attention it generates.

“It’s very much akin to the music in Asbury Park,” Hampton said. “You have head-liners come in and you have the locals.”
Members of the Asbury Park Public Arts Commission are Michele Alonso, Matt Dan-iels, Mary Eileen Fouratt, Jenn Hampton, Shana LaBranche, Malcolm Navias, Amy Quinn, Marilyn Schlossbach, Angie Sugrim, Michael Sodano and Charles Trott.