Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts Stays Connected via Online Art Activities and Programs

By Tom McLaughlin

Since its inception, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts (RCCA) has served as a hub of award-winning performances, exhibitions, education programs, and community projects in the South Jersey region.

The RCCA is now poised to stay connected – virtually – through a series of weekly online arts activities and educational content for stuck-at-home audiences of all ages.

“Unlike a lot of big museums, so much of what we do is connecting with people in Camden and the South Jersey region,” says Noreen Scott Garrity, associate director of education for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts. “We’re just trying to keep doing what we do and keep that bond going.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic taking center stage, the RCCA had just begun producing and distributing a monthly newsletter keeping guests up to date with its latest initiatives. The newsletter will now feature weekly “check-ins” to inspire and engage the community, including an ongoing series of art activities inviting guests to follow along at home.

Every other week, the activities will be related to “A New View,” a public art project that will transform six sites plagued by illegal dumping in Camden into dynamic art spaces. The RCCA and the urban redevelopment nonprofit Cooper’s Ferry Partnership currently lead the project, funded by a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. The collaboration – engaging independent curators, the Camden Collaborative Initiative environmental consortium, the Camden City Cultural and Heritage Commission, and local businesses – encourages residents to combat illegal dumping of household and/or industrial waste through education efforts and public-private partnerships.

On April 9, the first activity – related to the “Invincible Cat” art installation, a 36-foot panther coming to Whitman Park – invites participants to create their own feline friends out of recycled materials.

On alternate weeks, the art activities will relate to the Stedman Gallery exhibition – currently “Seamless: Craft-Based Objects and Performance Practices” – as well as impressive artworks contained in Rutgers–Camden’s permanent collection.

Scott Garrity notes that the activities will include examples of both expert- and basic-skill techniques.

“Some people may want to do something simple and others may want to take it a little further,” she says. “People do have more time on their hands, so maybe they want to spend an hour on an art activity.”

Miranda Powell, arts education and community arts program assistant for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, adds that the RCCA is hoping to personalize the experience as much as possible and encourages participants to share their creations via the center’s social media platforms.

“If you followed along with this art activity, we’d love to see your work!” exclaims Powell.

In addition to the art projects, plans are in the works for Nancy Maguire, associate director of exhibitions for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, to handpick pieces from Rutgers–Camden’s permanent collection to highlight in an ongoing educational segment.

Carmen Pendleton, community and artist programs manager for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, will also check in periodically with local community groups to see how they are weathering the crisis and learn what they are doing to stay creative.

Moreover, the RCCA will turn the spotlight on itself, offering guests behind-the-scenes looks at the art world through the eyes of staff members, including a conversation with Scott Garrity in her home studio.

Ultimately, says Powell, “we’re just trying to be ourselves,” noting that some museums are trying to focus on art solely as a distraction from the pandemic, while conversely, others are becoming “too virus-centric.”

“We’re all dealing with the same issues, but the arts can help us get through this,” she says. “We want to be a positive outlet for people to stay connected to us and, if they so choose, to challenge themselves in the process.”

Check out the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts’ latest newsletter, and follow the RCCA and post creations on Instagram.

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