September 30, 2020

TrentonWorks Gallery unites the city

By Cara DiMaggio

On Friday, April 22, TrentonWorks Gallery held its Community Art Exhibition, which featured the artwork of students from the College alongside those of artists from Paul Robeson Elementary School, Trenton Central High School, the Trenton Community A-Team and many more local groups.

“The idea is that we’re engaging the community, we’re bringing together TCNJ students with our community partners,” said TrentonWorks Gallery Program Assistant Raj Manimaran, a senior interdisciplinary business major and Bonner scholar.

The exhibit was organized by a team of Bonner community scholars from the College’s Bonner Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, as the group actively learns about the role arts play in urban development efforts.

“It really connects with our work as Bonner scholars, too, because a lot of our Bonners serve at these sites, so it’s just all integrative and you also have some TCNJ students here, some Trenton community artists, so it’s really trying to bring all those worlds together into one space,” Manimaran said. “It’s an experience for TCNJ students to see so many types of work and for Trenton students to see so many types of work, so it’s really like an educational experience for all of us.”

All of the artists featured in the exhibit were asked by Bonner to provide a piece of artwork that they felt showcased their artistic styles and abilities. The types of pieces that were chosen varied from artist to artist. The pieces were created with a range of supplies, from Sharpie markers, pastels, charcoal and watercolor, and featured diverse mediums such as limestone sculptures and photography.

The variety of art helped create an atmosphere of individuality while still showing how art has the ability to bring people of different ages and communities together. For both the youth of Trenton, N.J., and College students alike, the exhibit provided a special opportunity that allowed for them to present their artwork in a new fashion.

“I picked the first painting I did this semester. I just really liked it,” said junior art education major Nicole Miller, whose acrylic painting, “Wonder,” was featured in the exhibit. “I think it’s cool because we’re so used to seeing each other’s stuff in the art building at the TCNJ campus, so it’s cool to see it in a real gallery. I’m excited to see my own artwork in gallery and check out all of my friends’ stuff, as well.”

The gallery, located in downtown Trenton, is the College’s center for community engaged learning and research based on the arts. The exhibit attracted a large audience of artists, their family members, friends and teachers, as well members of the public.

In concurrence with the exhibit’s purpose to serve as a way of bringing together multiple local communities, one of the displays showcased artwork that the Bonner scholars had actually worked with Trenton students to create. These pieces came from the Bonner Institute’s Art Day, hosted annually, during which the students from the Academic Sports Academy come to participate.

The Bonner Institute’s mission for this year was to demonstrate the ways in which art can be found in different aspects of school — including history, literary, iSTEM and mathematics, by leading multiple interactive workshops.

Artwork from three of those workshops was displayed in the exhibit. Among those, the history workshop focused on artwork inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Mulberry Tree,” while the literacy workshop was centered around a book called “The Dot.” The math workshop featured the creation of art through lines of symmetry.

A different display featured artwork done by teens at Prevention Education Inc. Kids, a probation program in Trenton, in which they were asked by the Bonner Institute to write a word that described who they are, what they stand for and what they wish for, not only for themselves, but also for the public in attendance.

Through participation in these different activities, the children of Trenton were able to learn more about art and its relation to everyday life. They were also able to experience how art serves as an important means of expression that can be shared with others.

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