Rutgers University–Camden Partners with City, Cooper’s Ferry on $1 Million Bloomberg Philanthropies Grant to Transform Illegal Dumping Sites into Art Spaces for Camden Neighborhoods

Camden Waterfront mural

A previous public art initiative of the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, this 670-foot mural created by Camden schoolchildren was unveiled in 2018 on the Camden Waterfront.

On Jan. 24, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that Camden, New Jersey has been named a Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge winner. The city will receive $1 million for “A New View,” a public art project that will transform sites plagued by illegal dumping along major transit corridors into dynamic art spaces, inspiring residents and attracting visitors. It will include art installations and creative programming at several sites along Camden’s rail, road, and bike routes.

As a lead partner in “A New View,” Rutgers University–Camden will encourage residents to combat illegal dumping of household and or industrial waste through education efforts and public-private partnerships. The city also aims to strengthen the local artistic community and improve the quality of life for Camden residents. Led by the urban redevelopment nonprofit Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, the collaboration will engage independent curators, the Camden Collaborative Initiative environmental consortium, the Camden City Cultural and Heritage Commission, local businesses, and residents.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, and mayor of New York City (2001-2013), says, “Public art has the power to bring people together to strengthen their communities. Camden is harnessing that power by transforming dumping sites into works of art along the city’s public transit routes, which will symbolize – and further spur –the city’s ongoing resurgence. I’m glad to congratulate Camden on being a winner of our Public Art Challenge.”

“As an anchor institution in Camden, Rutgers–Camden has always believed in the power of art to heal and strengthen our communities,” says Phoebe A. Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden. “For more than 40 years, our Center for the Arts has transformed lives and neighborhoods through our arts education programs for Camden children and our community arts program for Camden residents. We are excited that the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts will work with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the City, and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership in curating and developing these lots.”

Sites will include illegal dumping locations along the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) high-speed line, RiverLine light rail, and the Camden GreenWay trail network. Art installations and events along these routes will repurpose the sites as active spaces for the city. By visiting the art works along the trails, residents and commuters will experience Camden’s riverfront, neighborhoods, and communities in a new light.

Mayor Francisco Moran says, “Illegal dumping is unsightly, unlawful, and costs the city over $4 million annually. This winning project provides a unique way to bring together residents and artists to address this issue with creativity and create a brighter future for Camden. I have made solving this problem the cornerstone of my administration.”

The City and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership have long been working to address illegal dumping through the Camden Collaborative Initiative and Connect the Lots. Through Connect the Lots, a variety of artistic and cultural outdoor activities have been designed to engage residents and activate vacant and underutilized spaces in Camden neighborhoods.

“This funding will allow Camden’s best and brightest artists, curators, and community-builders to come together to beautify highly visible areas of the city. ‘A New View’ will shine light on important urban issues, and strengthen our neighborhoods and tourism sector,” says Kris Kolluri, president and CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. “We can’t thank them enough for this opportunity.”

About the Public Art Challenge:

In February 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues and demonstrate an ability to generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies.

More than 200 cities applied for the 2018 Public Art Challenge with proposals reflecting diverse artistic mediums addressing a range of pressing issues and social themes such as community development, environmental sustainability, cultural identity and immigration. Fourteen finalists were announced in July.

Camden is the fifth and final winning city of the Public Art Challenge. In November, Anchorage, Alaska was the first city to be announced as a winner in the second Public Art Challenge for “SEED Lab,” followed by Coral Springs in partnership with Parkland, Florida for “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art,” Jackson, Mississippi for “Fertile Ground,” and Tulsa, Oklahoma for “The Greenwood Art Project.”

Submissions were evaluated on a number of factors, including their potential viability as dynamic public art projects, impact on civic issues, community engagement strategies, and capacity to establish or strengthen public-private partnerships.

The Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts (RCCA), a distinguished arts organization recognized by the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, provides performances, exhibitions, education programs, and community projects that inspire a full appreciation and enjoyment of the arts. The RCCA creates meaningful opportunities to participate in the arts, advances the central role of the arts in pre-K-12 education, and increases awareness of the arts as essential to cultural, economic, and community vitality.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has a proven track record of supporting creative and innovative public art. Over 400 cities have submitted proposals for consideration in the Public Art Challenge since 2014. The foundation’s inaugural Public Art Challenge catalyzed $13 million for local economies across the four winning regions and illuminated civic issues including economic decline, vacancy, water conservation and police-community relations.

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