LONG BRANCH, NJ — It’s the neighborhood where the Boss wrote “Born to Run.” The place where thousands of ideas were launched at coffeehouse and tavern tables; where families of daytrippers have come in off the beach — and where generations of students, revelers and creatives have greeted a new day at such iconic haunts as The Inkwell and the original Windmill.

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The fanciful found-object metal creations of award winning sculptor Ed Spiro have long been a favorite attraction at the annual ART IN THE PARK event in Long Branch — and on May 27, the East Brunswick artist joins dozens of painters, photographers and artisans for the 2012 edition of the outdoor art fair, beginning 10 a.m. in West End Park.

The West End section of Long Branch has long been a place of summertime street festivals, year-round good times, and some true milestone moments in New Jersey music history. On Memorial Day weekend — when the beaches and boardwalks of the Jersey Shore roar back to life with all the passion and promise of the new season — Art in the Park returns to West End, this time with a renewed sense of purpose.

February’s devastating fire on Brighton Avenue displaced numerous residents and destroyed several longstanding businesses on the block across from West End Park, longtime home of the Art in the Park event. On Sunday, May 27, the Long Branch Arts Council, Long Branch Free Public Library and Long Branch Historical Association join with the City of Long Branch in a commitment to the vitality of West End, and its continued importance in the cultural landscape of coastal New Jersey.

Presented from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the 14th annual event is totally free and open to the public — and it gathers dozens of the region’s most creative people in a sea-kissed setting that’s just one block from the beach, and right in the heart of the West End arts and business district. That means visitors can stroll or roll from the art fair to the city’s famous oceanside Moss Mile — all while being within walking distance of more than 20 different sit-down restaurants, take-out eateries and taverns; one of the largest, most diverse and accessible culinary experiences on the Jersey Shore.

As if that weren’t enough reason to attend, there’s also plenty of free parking in the neighborhood — but as artist and event coordinator Mare Akana explains, the main attraction of Art in the Park is the opportunity to “ meet the artists, and talk to them about their work.”

“This is a favorite event for them,” says Akana of the artists who come from four states to stake out their place in the park. “As an artist, this would be the one show I wouldn't miss if I was able to participate.”

One of the largest and best attended open-air art happenings in New Jersey, Art in the Park is not a traveling “art sale,” but an art and fine crafts event in which participants showcase one-of-a-kind works that they have created themselves, with no commission taken by the event organizers.

There’s live music in the park gazebo from the Paul Marino Band, along with a Visitors Gallery where kids can create their own artworks to display in the park. A variety of items will be available for sale by the participating artists, and awards will be given out in each of eight categories.

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The Surf Art creations of Long Branch painter Ronnie Jackson are a welcome addition to the annual ART IN THE PARK event in West End — and on May 27, Ronnie joins dozens of painters, photographers and artisans for the 2012 edition of the outdoor art fair, beginning 10 a.m. just one block from the ocean.

Among the creative people scheduled to participate for the first time on May 27 are Rumson’s Doreen Catena (furnishings constructed from found objects and recycled materials), Lanoka Harbor’s Debbie McGuire (works on paper, photography, mixed materials) and Red Bank’s Jenny Woods (jewelry crafted from used guitar strings) — and among the returning favorites are East Brunswick metalworker Ed Spiro; photographer Denes Petoe of New Hyde Park, NY, as well as many others from all over the region.

Guest juror for this year’s event will be Amy Faris, a graduate of Moore College of Art and Design and the New York Academy of Art, and an artist whose paintings and drawings have been exhibited at gallery shows in Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. A member of Winsor Newton’s technical team, Amy is also an adjunct instructor at the main campus of Brookdale Community College.

Last year’s event was the most successful ever, with more than 50 participating artists enjoying beautiful weather, a record turnout and a positive buzz that’s made this event such a treasured part of the city’s cultural life. The LBAC invites one and all to help sound the keynote to a new season of fun and activity in Long Branch — in colorful style — at Art in the Park 2012.

For more information, call Mare Akana at (732)542-1307.

The Long Branch Arts Council is a partnership dedicated to working with the city government, civic and business organizations and the arts community to re-establish the City of Long Branch as a thriving regional center for the arts. Our aim is to accomplish this goal by attracting artists and arts organizations, by coordinating fundraising and development efforts, by establishing arts education programs, and by presenting arts-oriented events that draw upon the natural resources, accessibility, historic assets and “people power” that are unique to our beloved city.