Month: June 2023

Siren Arts, DRIFT

Siren Arts: DRIFT: July 10 – Aug 18, 2023

Transformer brings Siren Arts back to the beach in Asbury Park, NJ for its 7th Annual Summer Artist Residency & Performance Art Series

Performance Art Events: 7pm Thursdays on the 2nd Avenue Beach, Asbury Park, NJ
Artist Talks: 6pm Wednesdays at Transparent Clinch Gallery

All Audiences Welcome; All Programming Presented Free of Charge

Transformer celebrates the 7th year of our Siren Arts program back on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ this summer, supporting 13 east coast-based artists presenting innovative performance art works that address human & environmental interconnectedness. Each artist’s beach residency includes public artist talks 6pm Wednesdays at Transparent Clinch Gallery, and performances 7pm Thursdays on the 2nd Avenue Beach:

  • July 10 – 14 | Pussy Noir (Washington, DC)
  • July 17 – 21 | nia love (New York, New York)
  • July 24 – 28 | MuEr: Wood Ear/Eye Bait (Che Chen, Anne Ishii, Eugene Lew, Patrick Shiroishi, Matthew Smith Lee, Alex Zhang Hungtai) (Philadelphia, PA)
  • July 31 – Aug 4 | Yali Romagoza (Queens, NY)
  • Aug 7 – 11 | Maira Duarte/Dance to the People (New York, NY)
  • Aug 14 – 18 | Dusty Childers (Brooklyn, NY)

Launched in 2017, Siren Arts is a summertime micro-residency program taking place in Asbury Park, NJ that supports emerging visual artists working within evolving performance art disciplines. Created and curated by Victoria Reis, Transformer’s Executive & Artistic Director, Siren Arts is an expansion of Transformer’s mission to connect and promote emerging visual artists, to advance them in their artistic careers, and to build & engage audiences with new & best contemporary arts practices.

With new support from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Presenting & Multidisciplinary Arts grant program, Siren Arts: DRIFT will explore themes of movement and transition within the continued lens of celebrating the ocean, while building awareness on the intersectional implications of climate change. Artists have been invited to participate in this year’s program via nomination by peer arts colleagues including: Kara Gilmour, Brooklyn Arts Exchange; John Chaich, Queer Threads; and Kim Chan, National Sawdust; in addition to Siren Arts curator Victoria Reis.

All performances will take place at 7pm on the 2nd Avenue Beach in Asbury Park, NJ. Performances will last approximately 30-45 minutes and are open to all audiences free of charge. Audiences are encouraged to gather on the 2nd Ave beach at 6:45pm, bringing beach towels or chairs for seating. In case of rain, please visit @sirenartsap on Instagram for rain location details.

Can New Jersey’s New Festival Top Coachella or SXSW? It Thinks So.

New York Times

By Tammy La Gorce - June 2, 2023

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, along with the first lady, Tammy Murphy, had a vision: A new performance festival in their home state that could rival South by Southwest in Texas or Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And they had a plan to distinguish it.

“Austin and Nashville are great towns,” the governor said, referring to two famous arts hubs that are connected to notable festivals. “But if you stop to consider the cultural priorities of the states that govern them, you say, ‘Wait a minute.’ You’re hoodwinked if you get taken by the coolness.”

A festival in New Jersey, they argued, would be produced in a state whose values align with issues like gun safety and reproductive rights, a bragging right difficult to come by in the south. But what organizers are really touting with the event, which is being produced for the first time this summer, is the mix of homegrown talent and national acts (Halsey, Santana, Jazmine Sullivan) performing across three different cities, from the state’s largest city to the coast.

The North to Shore Festival will roam from Atlantic City to Asbury Park to Newark throughout the month. Its inaugural run will feature more than 220 acts — including music, comedy, dance and film — in 115 venues. “When you combine all the talent we have in New Jersey with the fact that our values are on the right side of history, we thought, there’s no reason we couldn’t give this a shot,” Mr. Murphy said.

In May, the festival doubled in size, in part because of a commitment to local talent. Grants of up to $5,000 were handed out to 58 New Jersey-based artists.

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“What I love about it is that it’s a combination of the biggest names in entertainment and comedy and film,” said John Schreiber, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, which is producing the festival, “but it’s also a chance to turn up the volume on the local folks I call the local heroes — the artists, the creators, the presenters, the producers — who work in these cities 365 days a year.”

One example of this kind of artistic convergence is “You Got VERRRSED: NJ Poets vs. New York Poets,” which will take place in Newark on June 24, the day after Marisa Monte, a Grammy Award winner, performs there.

In each host city, venues stretch beyond the familiar. Newark, for example, will host “Jersey Club 101,” a combination dance lesson and party, at Ariya Plaza Hall, a local dance club known for hosting private events and the occasional concert, on June 24.

On June 9 in Atlantic City, a brewery, The Seed: A Living Beer Project, will host a multidisciplinary event, “From Earth to Cup,” with live music, pottery making and samples of its craft beers. The following afternoon at Sovereign Avenue Field, a popular skatepark, local hardcore and punk bands will play free shows in the “Back Sov Bullies Concert.”

While Asbury Park’s famous rock club, the Stone Pony, will see its share of action — with Eric B. & Rakim, Brian Fallon, Demi Lovato and the B-52’s all scheduled to perform — stages at the lesser-known Watermark, down the street, will also be in heavy rotation and can expect to see more traffic than usual.

Alexander Simone and his seven-piece band, the Whodat? Live Crew, will play there on June 14. Mr. Simone, 34, who is from the area and the grandson of Nina Simone, won a grant to take part in North to Shore with the band, which leans toward funk and R&B, after being nominated by local fans. The recognition confirmed something he already knew: “I am definitely one of the most known bands in this community,” he said.

Now he hopes that other parts of the country will pay more attention to his music. “Artists are coming this way, to Jersey, and bringing people with them the way South by Southwest brings people to Texas,” he said. “They’re coming to see what we have to offer on this end.”

Billboards along the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike are promoting the festival. Mr. Schreiber said he expects more than 350,000 people to attend. The overall windfall for New Jersey’s economy, he added, could be $100 million. “We’re betting the economic impact in all three of these communities will far outweigh any of the investment we have to make,” Mr. Murphy said.

Natalie Merchant, accompanied by New York City’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s, will perform in Newark on June 25. “I think it’s really ambitious and impressive,” she said of the idea behind the festival.

But her decision to participate did not have much to do with performing in a liberal-leaning state, Ms. Merchant said. “I tend to not penalize my fans in states with political conditions like abortion restrictions.” Instead, “I talk about them onstage.”

The North to Shore Festival will take place June 4-11 in Atlantic City, June 14-18 in Asbury Park and June 21-25 in Newark.

Meet the Creative Force Behind Asbury Park’s Transformative Art Scene

New Jersey Monthly

By Jon Coen - June 2023 issue

Known as the muse of Asbury Park, Jenn Hampton founded the Wooden Walls Project, which has grown to include ambitious installations and residencies.

Link to NJ Monthly Article

When Jenn Hampton, known as Juicy Jenn, moved to Asbury Park in 2003, the city was still famously deserted, poverty-stricken and crime-ridden, and the historic Palace Amusements was being torn down. But her idea to create murals throughout the city helped transform Asbury into a destination for the arts, and was a major part of the city-by-the-sea’s radical transformation.

She gravitated to Asbury Lanes, the 1960s-era bowling alley that reopened as a live-music venue in 2004. Eventually, she took on the role of booking the fringe acts it was known for—the punk bands, films, burlesque performers, DJs, visual artists—along with cheap drinks and famous tater tots. And as she is known to do, she poured her whole being into it.

In 2006, the city was feeling positive momentum when Hampton, now 48, opened the Cry Baby Gallery and then the Parlor Gallery, both on Cookman Avenue.

Jenn Hampton poses in front of a colorful mural in Asbury Park
“Art is educating people, making them comfortable,” Hampton says. Photo: Krista Schlueter

She was still managing the Lanes, which became an indie clubhouse for the Shore and Central Jersey region, helping to attract new visitors, and even residents, to Asbury. When the company I-Star bought up 70 percent of the buildable land on the Asbury waterfront, it included Asbury Lanes. But the development company rebuilt and reopened the venue without her.

“Music creates a certain community that feeds an art community. An art community feeds a music scene,” she says. “I had the best of both of those worlds. I didn’t need anything else. I was so heartbroken after I lost Asbury Lanes.”

She comforted herself by spending time by the ocean and came up with the idea to commission artists to adorn boardwalk buildings with art. “I thought that working with artists to inspire visitors might heal my broken heart,” she says.

Jenn Hampton strolls in front of a colorful mural in Asbury Park
Hampton’s Wooden Walls Project gives Asbury visitors a visual experience they won’t see anywhere else on the East Coast. Photo: Krista Schlueter

The proof of concept came when Hampton’s longtime business partners, Michael Lavallee and Brad Hoffer, painted an expansive mural in the boardwalk passthrough of the Casino building (which was recently closed indefinitely due to structural rust). In 2015, Carrie Turner, now executive director of the Asbury Arts Council, and Angie Sugrim, both former employees of Madison Marquette, which owned the boardwalk buildings, diverted funds from advertising to pay eight artists to adorn walls. “Art is educating people, making them comfortable. My brain doesn’t work in a way that is only driven to the profit. Your return on investment in art isn’t as obvious,” she says.

Today, Hampton’s Wooden Walls Project has grown to include ambitious installations and residencies, giving thousands of Asbury visitors a visual experience they won’t see anywhere else on the East Coast. She’s also worked to bring projects to the overlooked west side of the city.

But after 20 years of the transformation, Hampton is aware of the trade-offs. Facilitating public art helped fuel Asbury’s gentrification—but now some people who helped to pave the way can’t afford to live there.

“I try to tell our local officials that you wouldn’t want to be in this city if we didn’t have the vibrant music and art that we have,” she says. “That was why we were all drawn here.”