A New Jersey Transit bus-driver-cum-tour-guide is a godsend to non-native Trentonians like myself. We have an unspoken agreement: she stops teasing me about my habit of hailing a bus as if I were still in New York City, and I listen to her reminisce about “Old” Trenton, long gone except for faded names of department stores at the top of vacant buildings. Pointing to an early 20th century garage on Everett Alley, the driver says, “Back in the ‘70s that used to be a Sears warehouse.” That building is now Artworks, “Trenton’s downtown visual arts center (that) promotes artistic diversity by fostering creativity, learning, and appreciation of the arts, (making) art an accessible experience for all…” (www.artallnighttrenton.org/).
Following former Mayor Arthur Holland’s revitalization of the Mill Hill area and plans to acquire the Sears warehouse, Artworks leased the building from the City of Trenton in 1988 to begin operating art classes, studios and exhibit space (Glenn R. Modica, Trenton Historical Society Preservation Committee, www.trentonhistory.org).
A 501c3 nonprofit organization, Artworks offers classes (its Artist Professional Development Program teaches budgeting, networking, and marketing skills), exhibitions (the Art All Day fall exhibit includes art work from participants of the annual art-making community event), and events (the annual 24-hour Art All Night festival combines visual art, film, and musical groups like the fabulous Trenton Makes Band and the Trenton Children’s Chorus).
Participant testimonials of the Artworks four-month Professional Development program cite its value in “(providing) incredible tools for success…(teaching) concrete, systematic steps that equal financial success…and the (feeling of being)…invested in as an artist.”
Carol, a Hamilton resident and artist, enjoyed life-drawing classes at Artworks several years ago. The knowledgeable and attentive proctor, professional feedback, convenient location, and affordability, allowed her to avoid the time and cost of traveling to Philadelphia or New York City.
Not everyone can (or wishes to be) a Rembrandt, Matisse, or Rodin, yet art in its many forms is an integral component of our daily lives. During periods of my life when I have temporarily neglected my art, I have felt as though I were deficient in a vital nutrient. Something unidentifiable was missing. Artworks provides all of us, professional and neophyte alike, with a venue to nurture and celebrate our muse.