Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Isaiah Thomas. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

I met Isaiah back in July at the Parlor Gallery. He walked in and filled the entire gallery space immediately with his infectious positive energy! Isaiah dresses “to the nines” for no good reason other than, he enjoys dressing in suits and looking sharp. He was in wild awe of the artwork. When you see a young person so turned on to art, you stop what you are working on and give them all the time and attention to feed that inspirational fire. Isaiah is a caring, intelligent and driven model, photographer and conceptual artist living in Asbury Park.

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
I am a self-taught artist with many inspirations around me. When I was young, my brother Fredrick Maldonado, used to draw and paint. Seeing what he created inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I was not as talented as him but drawing was always a great outlet for my emotions. I didn’t know how to process my emotions vocally. I would go into a dark place mentally and just sit in that dark place until I was ready to get out…but drawing was a source of light for me. I never went out my way to learn the details and tricks of artistry because drawing wasn’t a passion for me, it was more therapeutic. I loved how I felt when I created because prior to that, I didn’t feel anything at all.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
It started with drawing to express my emotions. Hell, I even started making my own poems when I was younger to see if I enjoyed that version of expression. I never thought I would do anything more than that so to say that now I am a model, creative director, stylist, photographer, and videographer… absolutely insane to me! It all started with my brother, Joseph Bivins. He sent me a casting for a runway show that I completely forgot about. I never walked a runway a day in my life, so I didn’t expect much out of this casting. After meeting the organizers of the fashion show and demonstrating my walk…I got casted!

I am a creator that expresses feelings for people. Or make you think things that you never thought you would think of and giving you different perspectives using the visual arts. As a child, I used art to express my emotions and what I was feeling. In my family, we didn’t talk about feelings or talk about things, so I used visual art, painting and drawing, for that and I still do. I was passionate. It wasn’t so much that I was passionate about drawing, I was passionate about creating. At the end of the day, art is expression no matter what form it is, it’s expression. I spent a lot of time trying to do things that other people liked, but now I do things that for myself. It’s so much more freeing to do what I like! If people don’t like it, if they hate it, that makes me happy because it’s like, “Good, it made you feel something!” Being able to create that conversation is truly cool to me. Then I like to think, “What am I gaining from this for myself?” “What did I learn from this? and What can I learn for the future?

What inspires you?
I have a lot of peers that inspire me, my closest friends, family, Josh Spio, Bella Durante, Kashaun Covin, Justin Pack, Joseph Bivins, Freddy  Maldonado, and so many more. But what inspires me the most is my pain. I know that sounds pretty dark but it’s the honest truth. I have created concepts throughout my career. But the ones that are most deep to me are the ones that I created at my lowest. Life has a funny way of telling you that you are gifted. Instead of sitting in my despair, I woud much rather see what I can create within it.

If or when you get lost in an “art funk” (like writer’s block for artists), what helps you get back to creating?
Whenever I get into a Art Funk, normally I explore my world. I take a walk throughout Asbury Park, see the art out there. I’ll take a trip to NYC and get inspired with the energy there. Sometimes, I’ll even connect with my peers and see if I can get a spark from that. But one thing I’ll never do is stay content. Stillness is okay, but it must be done with purpose. Without purpose there is no drive. So, I try my best to stay driven with my passion even when I get into a funk. I may be low today, but I hope I’m not low tomorrow.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
More communication of the Arts of Asbury Park. There are a lot of great opportunities in Asbury Park, but a lot of new artists simply do not know about those opportunities. Also, a lot of artists sometimes confuse their financial situations with opportunities. They block off the thought of being an artist because they feel like they can’t afford it and that’s simply not true. I feel like if we made that message clear within the community it can really help bring more artists together. Lastly, those that are connected in the community could speak up more. There is a lot of knowledge in our minds and if we share that knowledge amongst others, we can all succeed together.

Check out Isaiah on IG: @ISAIAHT722 and on TikTok: @isaiahet722 (at the time of our chat, he had 383,000 Followers on TikTok)

Venue Change Announced

TAPintoAsbury Park

Your Neighborhood News Online - By Alissa Deleo

Venue change announced for the APin3 Film Challenge premier event to the Jersey Shore Arts Center

Showcasing films from top finalists, and entries from two community groups nurturing Asbury Park's future filmmakers

ASBURY PARK, NJ – The Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC) is pleased to present the APin3 Premier Screening Event on Sunday, October 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, 66 S. Main St. Ocean Grove.

This Premier Screening Event will showcase the finalists of this year’s APin3 Film Challenge, as well as entries from two community groups nurturing Asbury Park’s future filmmakers – the Boys and Girls Club and Inspire Life, Inc. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Filmmakers submitted three-minute films shot in Asbury Park over the course of three weeks this summer with the hopes of winning the top three awards and the acknowledgment of their peers.

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The audience at the screening participates in the night’s ceremony by nominating their favorite film for a special Audience Award.

Filmmakers in the finalist category, in alphabetical order, include Alissa Deleo, Tom Cavanaugh, Kevin Clark, Chloe Evangelista and Noah Falco, Patrick Greene, Mat Hale, Elden Harris, Paul Kaplan, Thomas Louis, Jennifer Suwak and Caryn Whitman.

Mike Sodano, Board President of APAC and filmmaker, said about this year’s event, “As the only filmMAKING event held in Asbury Park, we are excited about the creativity of this year’s entries. Filmmaking is flourishing in our city, and this Challenge supports our local talent and celebrates film as an art form in Asbury Park.”

Nancy Sabino, Executive Director of the APin3, commented, “Asbury Park is the star in these films, and the variety of the submissions always serves to humble us as we rate the finished films for the event. These filmmakers are creative, and their work is evocative, and we are pleased to acknowledge their efforts on the big screen.”

Carrie Turner, Executive Director, APAC, offered the big picture, “APAC works to help pave the way for more art and culture to grow in the city.

The recently adopted Asbury Park Arts and Culture Plan has identified that the community wants more opportunities
for artistic engagement, and we are doing our best to act as champions for that request.”

Filmmakers, their fans and the public are invited to this free event.

Tickets can be reserved online at Whatever tickets are not pre-reserved
will be offered on a first-come, first served basis at the door that night.

Donations can be made to APAC online and at the event so that even more events like this can be
produced in the future.

This year’s APin3 Film Challenge is made possible by support from Monmouth County, Manasquan Bank Charitable Foundation and the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce.

The Asbury Park Arts Council is a 501c3 group formed to advocate for and promote arts and culture initiatives in the City.

A Love Letter to Asbury Park

Discover Jersey Arts - A Love Letter to Asbury Park: The APin3 Film Challenge

Asbury Park, NJ, a modest-sized, historic city of sixteen thousand with a rich tapestry of history, “punches above its weight” artistically and culturally. Founded as a premier seaside resort destination and connected to New York City (and the world) by rail, it drew countless visitors to its boardwalk and beaches even before the age of the automobile. The city faced significant economic challenges during the latter half of the 20th century, leading to urban decline and disinvestment. But, the resilient spirit of its community has been evident in its recent revival, as major efforts have been made to rejuvenate its cultural attractions, restore historic sites, and foster economic development, all while navigating the complexities of gentrification and maintaining the city’s unique character.

Sponsored by the Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC), the APin3 Film Challenge is not so much a “film festival” as a community filmmaking challenge in which budding directors and filmmaking teams create a 3-minute short film highlighting aspects of, and shot entirely within, the city of Asbury Park. The challenge asks filmmakers to include a supplied theme and line of dialogue, a prop native to Asbury Park, and one specific location within the city – the prompt keeps all the contestants on a level playing field. With its rich history and coastal allure, the city provides ample material for gripping narratives and documentaries. In essence, the APin3 Film Challenge aligns perfectly with Asbury Park’s artistic legacy and the potential for cultural celebrations that use the film short in unforgettable ways.

APAC president Mike Sodano said: “Last year was our first year, and we set up the auditorium for about, oh, 40-50 chairs. We got close to 100 people to attend! The reception was overwhelming. It was so much fun and very heartwarming. When the filmmakers get up and give their one-minute pitch as to why they did what they did, it’s an insight into the filmmaking process that audiences don’t really get a chance to hear very often. Each story becomes a different kind of love letter to Asbury Park. It’s a different perspective on the city. Filmmakers manage to find locations in the city and document them on film – places that a lot of people never even knew existed. You go ‘gee whiz! Where is that? I’ve never seen that from that angle.’ It’s a unique interpretation of the city. Seeing Asbury as illustrated in a 3-minute film really opens the eyes of the audience. It’s incredibly enjoyable.

“The goal of the challenge is really to elevate filmmaking in Asbury Park. The city is known obviously for music. Bruce Springsteen, and all the groups that came out of it, and it’s known for other visual arts. But we’re trying to give the art of filmmaking in Asbury Park a focus and a spotlight. We give the filmmakers a theme, a line of dialogue, a prop that must be included in the film. The film has to be no more than 3 minutes long and shot over the course of the three-week challenge.”

We asked APin3 organizer Nancy Sabino what makes the perfect APin3 entry: “I think it’s a combination of addressing the theme, getting in all the elements, and doing it in the most clever way possible,” she said. “It’s the use of the techniques and filmmaking that really sings to me personally. The use of exceptional editing techniques and a variety of storytelling- that’s how you get your 3-minute story across. I think it’s a great opportunity for filmmakers who never tried their hand at making a film to venture into this world and team together and play with film.

“Everybody who we’ve talked to who’s entered past or present has said it’s a lot of fun, and they really enjoy doing it. We think it’s a great match between our love of Asbury Park and filmmaking. Filmmakers who may not have experienced that yet get to put the city they love on screen. It’s a combination of texture, community and opportunity,” continued Sabino. “It’s an incredibly welcoming city. You’re able to walk the streets and go into shops and just start talking to people. You get an incredible sense of community. If you have an idea, Asbury Park is a great place for growing that idea because you get immediate feedback, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent! It’s an incredible breeding ground for creativity and opportunity.
“The judging is sort of like a casting session. You know you know it when you see it, and it hits you over the head as being one of the best. This year, we were very fortunate, and we got a lot of great selections that were really clever and creative. For us, that’s humbling. To know that so many people could get it right and do it differently because each selection has a different slant to it.
“We are looking forward to welcoming the entire community into this event. Everyone can come. It’s a free event, and tickets will be available soon. Come meet the storytellers of the future and those that are applying their trade currently. It’s a wonderful thing to see Asbury Park interpreted in so many different ways on the big screen, and we hope to continue the challenge with the support of our amazing community.”

The films will be screened at the House of Independents on October 22. The event is free, but reservations are required. The top three winners, and an audience favorite entry chosen by the assembled audience on the premier night, will be given prizes. It will also be a networking event for local filmmakers, a test of creative skill, and a source of feedback for filmmakers. If you’re a filmmaker, sound tech, actor, director, or simply love film, don’t miss it.

Suzanne Anan


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Suzanne Anan. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

Polar Opposites in Belmar

When I first saw Suzanne’s beach life paintings in a group show at the Parlor Gallery, I fell in love with them. They were not your typical “Jersey Shore Beach Art”. You know, the typical “Sunsets and Sailboats”, they were snapshots of beach moments and the lifeguard life of Belmar beach. Not sure what I mean? Close your eyes and imagine being kicking back on the beach reading this on a busy, hot and steamy Saturday in late July. What do you see? You see a Suzanne Anan painting! However, the next time Suzanne was in a Parlor show, I saw a completely different side of Suzanne’s work, a more dark, romantic, sensually strong poetic side with the subject based on her favorite poems and literature.

Tell me about your art background.

In my younger years, I enjoyed drawing. A health issue kept me home and I found comfort spending my days drawing to my heart’s content. In college, I earned a BFA from Kean University with a concentration in Design. My last class was an elective for painting. It was a first level course in stretching canvases and mixing paint

After graduation, I longed to find purpose for art making. I was managing a group of designers at the Asbury Park Press. Shortly thereafter, I wound up taking a position at the Star-Ledger as an illustrator/designer. I was not getting enough creativity managing others and this position. I decided on a whim to apply for a master’s degree at NYU in a study abroad program in Venice, Italy. I knew it would be a stretch to get accepted being that I lacked a formal fine art background in painting. I didn’t let it stop me. I poured my whole heart into my cover letter and sent my application off with art samples. It was a long and agonizing wait but, I was accepted. Now the real trick was explaining to my boss that I was leaving a job I loved for two years to live in Italy to pursue a master’s degree. It was the best experience of my life!

What inspires you?

I get so inspired from reading poetry. There is usually one line in a poem that captures my attention and I turn it into a painting. For example, for my painting, “The Terrace in the Snow” I took inspiration from the last lines of a Chinese poem by Su Tung P’O, “The icicles on the eves, drone in the wind like the swords of murderers”. Another example, “The Dark Night” inspiration came from a poem by St. John of the Cross, “I stood and forgot who I was, my face leaning against Him, everything stopped, abandoned me, my worldliness was gone, forgotten among the white lilies.”

You paint in two completely different content styles with the beach pieces and the more poetic pieces. Do you find you paint more of the lifeguard / beach scenes in the summer?

I find myself completely absorbed with summer living. Yes, my attention is completely focused on what surrounds me. I am in progress of creating several scenes of the shore, lifeguards and all the beauty and colors associated with these very vivid scenes. I have so many images in my head that I hope to have enough time in my life to get them all out.

Being a Monmouth County artist, what would you like to see happen in our county art community?

I would like to see a Monmouth County artist network or database created. One that lists your skill, your location, your style of art and your interest in work or volunteering. Whether or not you would like to donate or receive work for payment, this is a great opportunity for collaboration. For example, I volunteer and give away almost as much as I get paid. Personally, I try to keep that balance. There are many an occasion that people ask me about a mural artist or, perhaps a portrait painter, maybe someone specifically who would volunteer for Liz’ Linen’s or Mary’s Place to help a 501c3 create a portrait of a sick loved one, or a mural in someone’s bedroom who is convalescing. This type of project could be part of a volunteer organization’s budget, who fundraised to fulfill their mission. Another example would be mentoring younger artists. This type of one-stop network can build a stronger community of volunteerism and a great source for future prospects for work.

Eleanor James


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Eleanor James. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

Years ago, yours truly owned a punk rock/rockabilly/vintage and consignment clothing store called, B Unique Clothing on the “Arts Bloc” of Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury Park. Next door to me was Heaven Art & Antiques. Whilst chatting outside our shops, Malcolm Navias, in his exquisite and cultured South African accent would greet customers by saying, “Welcome to Heaven!” while I would welcome folks to…the other option – that was darker, louder and scarier! In case you were unaware, there is gallery space on the second floor of the shop. On Saturday, April 29th, Heaven is hosting an opening reception for a solo show titled, “Unconditional” showcasing the art of Farmingdale artist, Eleanor James.

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
At age 13, I remember locking myself in my small bedroom with a canvas in front of my face, listening to Janis Joplin and feeling at home in my creative space. My focus on art and design really started blossoming from then. Before going to Rutgers to get my degree in Landscape Architecture, I went to Brookdale and took several art classes in painting, color theory, figure drawing and 2D design where I learned skills and technique from some amazing teachers.  My work after that has been self-taught and continues to evolve through a lot of experimentation.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
Death and Love have been the main driving factors in my work for many years. I have had the challenge of losing a lot of my dear friends and family members to drug overdoses and suicides. Being introduced to this kind of loss at a young age made life seem fragile and temporary. There have been many times for me, and all of us, when we have a choice in life: to fall into the pain and darkness or to find the beauty and carry on. On some days the darkness creeps in and tries to take over. My work reflects this fight within me and within us all to stand up over and over again, day after day, to find the light and the magic in this world.

“Unconditional” is the word I have chosen to reflect this never-ending battle of love and loss. My work shows this juxtaposition of dark and light and presents the challenge within us all to love ourselves and one another.

What is your process with your art making?
My emotions are the driving force behind my art. My process of creation usually starts with music and an itch of sorts. I lock myself into my studio and invite my dear friends to join (Cat Power, Radiohead, Chopin, T-Rex, Velvet Underground, etc.). I work in watercolor and ink or acrylic and ink mostly and have two differing processes for each. Similarities of the two mediums include setting down my base tone, often yellow ochre, and sketching out the concept. Backdrops often consist of calmness, soft landscapes and an ease of movement. This portion of my painting sometimes takes on a life of its own. There is a freedom here that isn’t planned or set to a reference. It’s an expression of mood and rhythm.
I then move on to my subject which is often a skeletal or botanical study and requires extreme focus and precision. Knowing how and when to apply control and when to apply a lack of control is paramount in creating my pieces. I appreciate both parts of the process, just as I try to appreciate the ebbs and flows of life. Some pieces will be created in a few hours (watercolors) where some of the larger acrylic pieces can take years to finalize. I find joy in it all and will not allow anything to take away from my love of creating art. Art is MY space to bare my soul, to laugh, cry, shout and scream.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the contrasting energies of the earth. I am inspired by a delicate wind or raging tornado, a delicate beam of sunlight or scorching desert heat. I am inspired by all of nature in its power and wonder.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
Since I am a Landscape Architect by trade, I am pretty new in the art world. I thought working with seasoned contractors was hard, but it seems easy in comparison to emerging in the art world. It’s overwhelming and can at times seem very closed off.  I am very happy when I see galleries (like Heaven) that create opportunities for emerging artists! It’s so great to hear that we have high level artists involved in juried shows. I would love to see more of that in Monmouth County! I would also love to see galleries engage and offer local residencies to our native folk and to see the community work together to promote one another.

Eleanor’s art can be found on:

Vanessa Maestri Armadillo


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Vanessa Maestri Armadillo. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

One afternoon at Christmastime, I was wandering around the magnificent Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove. This building has an incredible story that hopefully we will see printed in this rag one day (hint! hint!). I was admiring the architecture and all the creative businesses that rent studios there. The studios are former classrooms in this Victorian era architectural award-winning former school. When I happened upon the Armadillo Tintype Photography Studio, I needed to know more and reached out to its proprietor, Vanessa Maestri. Vanessa invited me to her studio for a chat, photographed me with her vintage 1900’s camera and then showed me the developing process which was fascinating to watch!

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?  
I am mostly self-taught.  I did one semester at my county college for Photography before I realized that setting was not the right learning environment for me.  I continued working at it on my own with the academic pressure off.

What brought you to create the art that you make?  I found it by accident.
I saw work in this process by another (female) photographer, Joni Sternbach, in a magazine. It was so strikingly different from the photography we are used to seeing. I felt compelled to learn it.  Once I understood how different the process is from traditional photography and also how autonomous it is, I was hooked.  It completely changed my approach to photography and how I see the world.

What is your process with your art making? 

A lot of my ideas are inspired by paintings, cinema and design.  I keep a notebook where I flesh out ideas I want to try and I sketch.  I have a lot of ideas I’ve tried that didn’t end up working out.  I would say 75% of what I work on doesn’t see the light of day!  I try not to get discouraged, it’s all part of creating work with your hands, it’s imperfect.

Wet-plate process is one of the oldest photographic processes dating back to the early 1850’s.  It was used during the Civil War and through the later part of the 19th century.  While I love history, that is not what attracted me to this process.  The images are made using an emulsion that isn’t sensitive to panchromatic light (what our eyes see), so it has a really haunting way of capturing people and scenery.   My hands are on the plate through the entire process making it a truly handmade image.  There is nothing quite like it.

Can you explain the development process?
The process is wet plate collodion. I mix two salts with a syrupy substance called, collodion (which is cotton dissolved in nitric acid) and apply it to a metal plate. When submerged in a bath of liquid silver, the salts applied to the plate become silver halides rendering the plate sensitive to light. The plate is then exposed in the camera and upon development will become a direct positive image. The images are one of a kind.

Wet plate collodion became less popular in the late 19th century when dry plates were introduced. This eliminated the need for plates to be immediately developed and did not require a mobile darkroom to be carried along for on-site or traveling photography.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
I’d love to see the art community come together in a co-op setting where all the artists involved are accountable for planning, setting up and cleaning up for an event.  Mentorship programs for young students in the area by more established artists within the community would be lovely as well.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?

I look at these vacant buildings at Sandy Hook and the hotels in the area and think of the artist residencies in hotels like The Object Hotel in Arizona and the Pfister Hotel in Minnesota. I can’t help but think of the opportunities we could have here for area artists.  I would love to see the large business’s, state parks and hotels carve out space for artist residencies and art instruction.

It would be great to see a space where working artists could have subsidized affordable rent and/or no fee shows and a cooperative communal space where each of them was held accountable to keep clean and beautiful.

Find Vanessa’s Tintype photography at:

    • IG: @armadillotintype
    • Web:
    • Her studio is located at the Jersey Shore Arts Center (a.k.a. “The Old Neptune High School”)

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.”

This government commission meets in a cutting edge art gallery

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.

Lisa Bagwell


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Lisa Bagwell. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

For all of us who have love and respect for our magical and majestic Atlantic Ocean, seeing beach trash is heartbreaking. To walk along the shore seeing what the tide has washed up is sad because along with the seaweed, shells and driftwood is a lot of human plastic litter that will never break down. You can choose to pass by and keep on walking. If you brought along a bag, you can pick some up and toss the items in the recycling bin on your way off the beach. Or, if you are someone like Red Bank artist, Lisa Bagwell, you will collect it, clean it and make fantastical sculptures out of it!

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
I am self-taught! A bright side to my parent’s divorce was getting the chance to visit my Grand Aunt Dot in Oklahoma where my Dad lived. She was a well-respected artist who taught physically disabled people handicrafts so they could earn money. She opened her studio to me and taught me whatever I wanted during our visits together. I learned a lot from her, she was extremely creative and I loved that.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
I began working with trash in 2005 while working at a camp (Camp Oakhurst which is now Rising Treetops). I had a lightbulb moment and realized that building sculpture with trash would be a great way to combine my impulse to make things and draw awareness to how much trash humans create. I had become quite the environmentalist in college and was brought up not to be wasteful. Also, I like to collect things and do puzzles so it was sort of the perfect collaboration of interests. I have always admired creative reuse and collage art, so why not give it a go? At first, I made weird mobiles, robots and buildings. At that time, I was fortunate to show my work at the free art and music events known as, “The Big Art Show” that were happening in the old Howard Johnson (“HOJO”) and other venues in Asbury Park. I was thrilled that people were looking at what I made. I have continued building with trash ever since.

What is your process with your art making? 
It all starts with the materials I have collected since they inform the art most of the time and I consider how I acquired these items as part of the process. In addition to myself and my immediate family, there are about 15 people who collect things for me. Instead of throwing their dead pens and contact lens containers in the trash, it goes into a bag for me and I find that bag outside my door. People also gift to me their own collections that they had grand artistic plans for but were not able to follow through with.  I have collections of bottlecaps, corks, pens, straws, containers, cassette tapes, six pack rings, lighters, twist ties, old shoes and other odds and ends.  I sort and store the collections of things and then think of how I can use them in a sculpture. Alternatively, I might want to replicate a bird or animal and I will use a variety of materials in the construction. I get to purge my materials when I teach workshops like the annual Monmouth Arts Teen Arts Festival at Brookdale, which I have done for over ten years.

I also collect beach trash and work with those materials separately from the household trash items. The work I make from beach trash, I believe, has a certain resonance to it since it shines a light on the plastic pollution in our oceans and how imbedded it is in our environment. I work on a small scale with these materials since I could never keep up with processing the amount of plastic we pull from the beaches. I keep a selection of favorite and common beach items for my work. We now have a geographical layer of plastic on the earth’s crust. Plastic is filling the bodies of 90% of fish and mammals in the ocean and we even have plastics in our own blood.

How do you think the community can better support their artists?
I love it when restaurants open their walls to artists to display their work and when businesses host holiday market pop ups for people to sell their small handmade goods. Any creative way that presents itself for the arts to become more a part of our daily lives I am all for. We also need more spaces for free expression of music and the visual arts. It is important that there be spaces for people to come together to share their art outside of the money system. I love to see art that is not made to be sold, experimental stuff, it is art for art’s sake and we need to make space for that to grow new ideas.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
I don’t want to make demands on the art community. I know it has its share of difficulties. The Arts are underfunded and grant money needs to be constantly chased. Brick and mortar galleries have rent to pay and are often run by volunteers that are hard-working and extremely dedicated. If I’m being idealistic, I would imagine there being more collaborations between galleries and the communities they exist in, more street art, public art, sculpture gardens, art fairs and working more with local schools and in the parks to promote environmental consciousness or social justice issues. Art should be accessible to everyone and not just within the walls of art galleries (the special places that they are!).

Lisa is an extraordinary person who not only is a passionate environmentalist working with numerous nonprofit environmental organizations, she is also the manager of Kula Urban Farm, Operated by Interfaith Neighbors Check it out!

You can find Lisa on IG: @lisa.bagwell | Website:

David Ross Lawn


Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist David Ross Lawn. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

If you spend time in Asbury Park chances are you have seen David Ross Lawn. David is known around town for his “cottagecore” style. David’s style videos are extremely popular on TikTok where he has over 450,000 followers and Instagram with 115,000 followers. What is cottagecore? Think Anne of Green Gables meets The Cure. Yet, there is a whole lot more to David than their linen cottage dresses and strawberry hat. Talking with David (who goes by “they/them”), is like peeling an onion with many layers to reveal. David is an Ivy League trained classical pianist, opera & musical theatre singer, has played Carnegie Hall and for Queen of England!

Tell me about your art background?
My musical journey started at nine years old in Scotland, sitting cross-legged at a light up toy keyboard while listening to the EastEnders theme song on BBC television. For reasons unknown at the time, I could successfully trace the melodic contour of the theme with one finger with no prior knowledge of the instrument. I quickly learned that I had a “very good ear” for music and started taking piano lessons. In my teenage years, I continued music, diving into oboe and singing, taking on any extra-curricular activities I could from jazz band to orchestra, chamber choir, church singing, and even forming a hysterical rock band with my peers. Music was always my passion.

I was accepted as an undergraduate into the University of Aberdeen to study music performance (piano and oboe as the primary study). I then got a scholarship into Westminster Choir College at Princeton University to pursue a Masters in Theory and Composition. During these years, I started working in music professionally from performing at Carnegie Hall, to singing for the Queen of England, being part of a Grammy Nominated choir and of course, creating music that eventually started being used in television and big media outlets.

What is your process?
When I am creating my solo piano music, the majority of my influence and inspiration comes from the architecture of the human condition. I like to dig deep into my feelings (such a Pisces) and then allow the music to flow from that. A lot of my work is based around piano improvisation. I’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic experiences with it, my most recent performance was in the same lineup as composers I look up to such as Tom Cipullo and Ricky Ian Gordon. I’m always so thankful to be at that “emerging” stage where my music can be recognizable as my own and I’m excited for what is to come.

What inspires you?
While I certainly attribute a lot of my artistic and musical abilities to my professors, a lot of my inspiration and passion comes from outside of academia. As a composer, I feel most inspired when I’m out in nature, surrounded by serendipity and moments that unfold when I’m not even thinking about them. I try not to allow myself to get stuck in the monotony of classical music ideals and what is “correct” and let feeling dictate my music and my journey. I don’t believe in walking in the shadows of somebody else when it comes to music. I believe in creating my own light and legacy and not being afraid of letting that shine.

How did the quarantine/Covid-19 affect you as an artist?
I found a lot of silver linings in my pandemic time, as I was fortunate enough to have my piano nearby. I started posting actively on YouTube and gained over 10,000 subscribers, I started posting actively on TikTok and gained, at that time, 300,000 followers and I released a piano album that ended up getting used in national television. I refused to allow the time to affect me in a way of becoming lazy or lethargic and while there were many moments of weakness and sadness (as well as fear, of course) I did manage to continue my journey as an artist during that time.

Tell me how you got started dressing in cottagecore style.
I love reading period dramas, like Anne of Green Gables. I was inspired by the straw boater hat, so I bought one. I could see myself as a gender fluid type person getting into cottagecore because of the whimsy and juxtaposition of femininity and florals with gothic dark Doc Marten boots, my beard and more masculine features. Growing up in a small town in Scotland, cottage core was familiar to me and comfortable. Then Taylor Swift came out with the album Folklore that she wrote and created in a cottage and it became popular.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
I’d personally love to see even more recital series with artists that are under the classical music umbrella whether in the form of piano recitals, improvisation communities, or groups where folks of all ages and abilities can perform for each other. I think it would create a safe place for those passionate about classical music to be able to come together and enjoy and embrace the art. I do this with my students and I’d love to see it happen on a more community level.

Check David out on Instagram: @davidrosslawn, TikTok & Spotify: “david ross lawn” or on his website: