‘Pure Magic’: ArtBender Returns to Seton Village in South Orange June 18

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In 1975 Jose Fuster purchased a small bungalow in the fishing village of Jamainitas, Cuba and with the help of his neighbors, spent the next 50 years adorning homes, offices, streets and structures with whimsical mosaic designs. Fusterlandia is now one of the most unique locations in the world.

In 1986, Tyree Guyton returned to his childhood home on Heidelberg street in Detroit. Run down and neglected, he set out not just to restore, but to create something entirely new and different. With the help of his grandfather and a bunch of neighborhood kids, he slowly transformed his street into a place of creativity and wonder, continuing to offer programs and opportunities for local residents to work, create and play. 

In 2010, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, along with a team of volunteers, collected 40,000 lbs. of plastic garbage along the shore of Brandon, Oregon. They turned it into 70 marine animal sculptures. Their project, Washed Ashore, now works to educate about environmental conservation.

During the difficult and isolating months of the pandemic, an unnamed patient preparing for discharge from The Princeton Center for Eating Disorders had the idea to leave a message of hope for future patients. Since that time, one painted rock has evolved into a garden of inspiration.

These are stories about communities coming together to create magical spaces through creativity and engagement. This is the mission of ArtBender, and this year we’ll be creating pure magic in Seton Village.

I became involved in ArtBender in 2016. My husband was diagnosed with ALS and was declining at an alarming pace. I was overwhelmed, but our town came together in amazing ways to support us. We had moved to South Orange years earlier looking for community; I couldn’t have guessed how, years later, this choice would bear fruit. I wanted to do something lasting to give back to a community I could never thank enough for its generosity. Miraculously, I discovered Arts Unbound, a nonprofit dedicated to helping artists with disabilities develop their careers. We worked together to create ArtBender, a celebratory day of creative self-expression.

Each year during ArtBender we work together to add beauty and uniqueness to our towns. We’ve painted murals together, planted gardens, read our stories, made music and designed installations, and this year will be the most amazing (so far)!

Carter Park on College Place, across from the car wash, recently received a big renovation by the town of South Orange, an initiative spearheaded by Village Trustee Summer Jones. Following the installation of all new equipment, master gardener and Village Trustee Olivia Lewis-Chang, has been developing an entirely new garden design, working with unique raised beds designed by #FlowerboxJoe.  

This year for ArtBender, we’ll be adding a magic touch to the playground. Painted fencing, rocks, fairy homes and bird houses, crowned by a ten foot directional sign post directing people to other unique, magical places around the world. We want Carter Park to join other unique play spaces around the world, inspiring curiosity, wonder and imagination.

We’ll gather at the new community center at 133 Fairview Avenue for painting and decorating. We’ll bring all the paint and materials. There’ll be live music and food throughout the day to keep us entertained and festive. You only need to bring your creativity and love for the community. 

We’re excited to be joined this year by CINC, the new makerspace nonprofit moving into downtown South Orange. They’ll be leading a project titled “Creativity is in our DNA”. Recognizing that SOMA is filled with a vibrant arts community, our neighbors are invited to come and paint one of 25 tubes that will be stacked to create a large sculpture meant to look like a strand of DNA. Family Connections/Pride Plus will also be on hand to lead the decoration of unique bird and fairy houses representing three aspects of the queer experience. And we’ll be entertained throughout the day by musical performances organized by Gregory Burrus. 

You can see a complete list of events around South Orange here:https://www.setonvillage.org/new-page

This Father’s Day, we’re decorating our world. You don’t need to be “artistic”, just be you. And come for the joy of it.

ArtBender is supported through NPP grant funding from the NJ Department of Community Affairs, and the hard work of grant manager ErinRose Baldry.




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