The official First Fridays in Trenton began a busy weekend with art, skateboarding, and openings for upcoming artists to network and show off their pieces. First Fridays in Trenton has been around since 2011, with the Trenton Social starting the event and expanding to art galleries across the city of Trenton.
Habiyb Shu’aib, also known as “Beloved1,” is one of the co-curators at Trenton’s Passage Theatre. He pitched the idea with Jonathan Conner, another Trenton artist who goes by “Lank,” to Passage Theatre last year. “How cool would it be if you could coordinate with others,” Beloved1 said. “You can go to Artworks, walk the towpath to Passage Theatre and then to JKC, the Library and Millhill. That’d be awesome, just for you to be able to park your car and walk in the beautiful city of Trenton.”
Friday night’s event hosted several prominent art hubs, including Artworks, The Trenton Free Public Library, The Trenton Social, The Mill Hill Saloon, The Mercer County Community College James Kerney Photo Gallery, Freedom Skate Park, and Passage Theatre.
Freedom Skate was the newest member to join. In other years, the Skatepark was only open during the winter months, but after speaking with City Hall, Jake McNichol, Director of Freedom Skate Park, said that he is excited to announce that Freedom Skate Park will start to be open all year round.
“We’re joining in as part of Trenton’s First Friday’s arts programming. In addition to our Trenton winter escape program, this is for the spring and summer months,” McNichol said. “It’s exciting. It’s awesome. I mean, that’s always been our goal, to be a year-round resource for Trenton. And so, we’d love to figure out a way to be open more often and even longer throughout the year, but this is a great first step in that direction and doing it in a way that’s connected to Trenton’s existing cultural fabric.” In the coming months, McNichol explained that Freedom would add artists and music to the mix along with its open skate nights.
Throughout the night, people were able to walk across the city of Trenton, visiting the different artists. At Artworks, they showed the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition. M’Kina Tapscott, Executive Director of Artworks, said she was excited to start the first Friday season this year.
“It feels really good. I am excited about it,” Director Tapscott said. She explained that she was a little nervous because of the chilly weather but noted that she had people come in throughout the night. “That was a little sad because the weather was looking a little intimidating, but people are still coming through. It’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to summer.”
People packed in the space over at Trenton Social take a look at 21 artist exhibits put on by Trenton Social Curator Brass Rabbit. “The opening reception of 100% plant-based was an open call exhibition, calling to artists for any medium that was non-3d based, so basically anything that can fit on a wall,” Brass Rabbit said. “I’m focusing on utilizing the space as an incubator to help artists really gain and bolster those administrative skills that you need to be a real contender in the fine art world.”
The Trenton Social was bustling as people had to walk sideways to get through. “It’s really, really nice to see a ton of people. I keep saying, ‘excuse me, I’m going to squeeze by you.’ People are in there, you know…So I try to tell the artists, especially this is a 21 artists show. So there are going to be a lot of people no matter what, but we got some great press and First Fridays, which is always a huge help,” Brass Rabbit said.
Trenton residents enjoyed the evening going to the variety of different events provided including an artist talk at Passage Theatre, discussions with Leon Rainbow and Lori Johansson about their mural at the Trenton Free Public Library, and drinks with 21 different artists at the Trenton Social among other events throughout the night.
Haley Andreas, Trenton Resident who moved to Mill Hill during the pandemic, said that artists were part of why people made it through the pandemic. “There’s a lot of recognition of this, but most people wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic successfully if it wasn’t for artists, whether it’s television or movies or music or participating in some way and craft. So I think we’re excited to see institutions supporting artists and to support them with our presence and to start attending things… and sorta say thank you for getting us through this,” Andreas said.