LONG BRANCH, NJ — Just seconds from a thriving summertime seascape of busy beaches and boardwalks, luxury hotels and upscale restaurants, an entire city block sits boarded up and counting down the arrival of the wrecking ball. Most people would agree it’s not much to look at — but to the people of The Long Branch Arts Council and their partners in the City of Long Branch, it’s a thing of beauty; a massive “urban canvas” crying out for the first transformative brushstrokes of a few good visionaries.
Now getting underway in downtown Long Branch, the Urban Canvas Project is designed to turn the façades of forty unoccupied buildings on lower Broadway into a communal work of art that will inspire and beautify the neighborhood, create a one-of-a-kind local attraction, and put forth a message of energy and solidarity in the arts community.
Located two blocks from the ocean, the buildings are slated to be demolished at a date that has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the LBAC and the City of Long Branch have teamed up to offer interested artists a unique opportunity to be part of a project that will be documented through photos, video and press media — from the planning stages on through to its eventual destruction.
According to Arts Council president Gabe Barabas, “The purpose of the Project is to beautify a community that has fallen on hard times, and to inspire the residents and especially the youth in the area who have few cultural opportunities at this time.”
The Urban Canvas project is the brainchild of LBAC member Carl Hoffman, who explains, “We hope to increase foot-traffic and to draw individuals into a neglected and mostly abandoned, yet highly vital area in the city, and to use the Project as a catalyst for developing all kinds of arts and cultural events in the neighborhood.”
As highly visible as it is ultimately ephemeral. the Urban Canvas Project makes perfect sense in a place where some passionately produced castles of sand are regularly taken away by the tide. Of course, even a temporary work of art can have a lasting impact — and some of New Jersey’s most dynamic artists have already answered the call to action.
Interested artists are encouraged to visit the area along Broadway (between Second Avenue/ Long Branch Avenue and Liberty Street/ Memorial Parkway) and to acquaint themselves with this eclectic collection of structural styles and surfaces. Images of all the buildings have also been posted online (at www.longbrancharts.org/canvas/urban.html).
Artists can apply to take part in the project by selecting one façade of their choice, and submitting a fully colored drawing of their concept for the surface. All submissions must be submitted in scale (dimensions for all the façade surfaces are available), and the Urban Canvas Committee will choose one artist for each site from among the submitting candidates. The Committee will also take into consideration how each entry works with the whole to create an integrated cityscape and work of art.
Primer, paints, and painting supplies will be donated by Siperstein’s Paints as part of their long-standing support and commitment to the City of Long Branch, their corporate headquarters for generations.
While there are no limits as to subject or theme, these publicly displayed works will be considered “family friendly” and subject to the approval of the Committee. All selected artists and support staff will work as volunteers for the City of Long Branch, under the coordination of the Long Branch Arts Council. And did we mention that everyone involved gets a t-shirt?