Non-Profit Transforming Historic First Presbyterian Church into Community Arts and Cultural Center also Debuts New Website Offers Local Artists Chance to Display Work in Steeple Center Virtual Art Gallery with Cash Prizes for Winners

120 East State, the non-profit transforming the historic First Presbyterian Church of Trenton (FPCT) into The Steeple Center arts and cultural community complex in downtown Trenton, announced Thursday that it has launched a contest for greater Trenton artists of all ages to create a new logo for the non-profit.

The announcement comes as 120 East State debuted its new website.

The contest, with three categories for contestants, will provide prizes to the winners, exhibiting all of the submitted designs in a Steeple Center Virtual Art Gallery and asking the community to help 120 East State choose the winners.

“This is a community arts and cultural center in the making and we want to engage the community in shaping it,” Cherry Oakley, 120 East State Board President, said. “What better way than to ask all local existing artists and aspiring artists, young and old, to join us? We’re excited to see what our community artists bring out for our new logo, and we can’t wait to display it proudly. We believe that the steps we are taking will help move our community’s arc for the better, and with our partners, we’ll keep challenging and changing long-held perceptions of Trenton and what is possible here.”

120 East State was formed in April 2022, for the purpose of creating The Steeple Center, a community-centered performing arts venue, an engine of economic development, and an opportunity for local empowerment giving voice, space, and welcome to its neighbors out of the First Presbyterian Church properties in the heart of downtown Trenton.

Contestants may submit up to three entries between April 3 and April 29, and members of the community are invited to help choose the winners in the three age categories. Community voting, in two rounds, will be held May 6-15, with the final voting held May 20-30. 120 East State will use community sentiment to advise on the eventual winners, and contest winners will be announced at the Juneteenth Celebration at Mercer County Park on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

For details on the contest, please see the flier or the contest form link..

The New Website

“The new website represents one more step in 120 East State’s progress as an engine of community-based investment in the future of downtown Trenton,”  Molly Dykstra, Project Leader, said.  “At the end of last year, the New Jersey Historic Trust awarded us a major grant, and we continue to look for further assistance to bring this project to fruition.”

The website shows plans for future development, conveying the project’s background, and will host the Steeple Center Virtual Art Show. Exterior renderings and floor plans for the property, visible on the website, show a multi-use gathering place for the whole community, including a community cafe, performing arts venue with film and live-stream capacity, and events/program spaces, together with a full commercial kitchen able to serve up to 300 diners.

Akeya Fortson-Brown, of The Hustle Lab, LLC, a native Trentonian, designed and will continue to support the new website. “I’m excited to be using my skills to help 120 East State create an impactful digital presence” Ms. Fortson-Brown said. “The Steeple Center presents an unique opportunity to encourage collaborative work, artistic expression, and innovation. I hope the new website will help 120 East State to build an even deeper connection with the Trenton community, both on and offline.”

The organization received start-up funding of $1,000,000 from the First Presbyterian Church, enabling the creation of the nonprofit, design and construction documents, applications for grants and historic tax credits, and continued though limited community use of the building.  In September 2022, the organization received two matching grants totalling $825,000 from the New Jersey Historic Trust, and $5,000 from the Kearney Foundation, and in September 2023 it was awarded the first-ever four phase Capital Grant from the NJ Historic Trust, totalling $3,000,000 in matching funds.

120 East State will contribute to the revitalization of the surrounding community. Its intention is to become a sustainable source of jobs for local residents while creating opportunities that foster meaningful connections between Trenton residents and visitors, all while highlighting the important history of this property.

About 120 East State

120 East State (120ES) is a community-based, community-centered investment in the heart of Trenton. Through public and private funding, 120ES is transforming a building with a storied past, First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, into a multi use gathering place for the whole community, including a community cafe, cultural/performing arts venue, and events/program space. Serving Trenton and greater Trenton, 120ES will contribute to the vitality of downtown, provide needed jobs and services to Trenton residents, highlight the told and untold histories of this National Historic Register property, and create a Trenton-proud hospitality zone for visitors to our capital city.

About First Presbyterian Church of Trenton

Founded in 1712, the First Presbyterian of Trenton has been located on this downtown Trenton site since 1727, nearly 300 years (the current structure dates from 1839).  The earliest cemetery grave-markers date to the 1730’s.  Many of Trenton’s original settlers are buried here, but the cemetery is perhaps best known as the final resting place of Col. Johann Rall, killed in the First Battle of Trenton in December, 1776.  The first U.S. military chaplain to be killed in battle, the Rev. John Rosbrugh, is also buried here, murdered by British and Hessian troops during the second battle of Trenton.

Both the church and cemetery are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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