When it’s completed, the new amphitheater on Federal Street in East Camden will look like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The metaphor is purposeful. That new space will be one of the art installations popping up in Camden in May. Camden won a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to support creating large-scale public art in former illegal dumping sites. The eight winning artists and firms selected were announced Wednesday on the campus of Rutgers University-Camden.
Camden is one of five cities to receive the Bloomberg award, following Anchorage; Coral Springs, Fla.; Jackson, Miss.; and Tulsa.
“We’re encouraging what I dub ‘inclusive prosperity.’ We’re encouraging residents from the surrounding neighborhood to make that a common space,” said Camden Mayor Frank Moran. “We’re not doing the same thing and expecting different results as we’ve done historically. We’re doing different things, thinking outside the box.”
Leading the collective project, called “A New View,” along with the city of Camden are Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. Curators Judith Tannenbaum and Kimberly Camp combed through 131 applications to select eight winners, for six sites and two projects that will appear in locations throughout the city. The installations of “A New View” are temporary and will run until Halloween.
“Camden is no longer a dumping ground,” said Meishka Mitchell, vice president of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. “That’s both literally and figuratively.”
Cyril Reade, director of the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, said while the city changes, art shouldn’t be overlooked.
“The kinds of transformations that I see are the big corporations that have come and they’re installing themselves, you know, Subaru and American Water,” he said. “If Camden has a heart, and it has a soul, and if we want to tap into that, you do that through the arts, not through big buildings.”
Here’s a rundown of the eight installations coming to Camden.
DKLA Design, a Santa Fe-based firm led by Don Kennell and Lisa Adler, will place a mammoth black panther in Whitman Park. The 36-foot-long feline will be made from car hoods, a nod to the impacts of carbon emissions.
In the Gateway neighborhood, there will be a machine that will allow mealworms to eat away at Styrofoam. One goal will be to turn an environmental process into a spectacle that passersby can watch. The Brooklyn-based architecture think tank Terreform ONE will be building the digester.
In North Camden, the New York firm SLO Architecture will construct a spinning, cylindrical sculpture from reused plastics, including thousands of soda bottles.
Touching the Earth
Also in North Camden, the winning artists will count on help from Camden residents to create a new public space, encapsulated by three sculptures and anchored by a mini park (urbanist term: a parklet) that will feature greenery and vegetables. The artists leading this project are indigenous ceramicist Athena Steen and public artist Josh Sarantitis.
By the pedestrian bridge in Cramer Hill, Portland’s Tyler FuQua Creations will fabricate a 15-foot metal robot sculpture, representing the character of a litter collector. The character will have a glowing heart, to symbolize the need to care for the earth.
The Phoenix Festival
Bostonians Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein of the Myth Makers will build two 22-feet tall bamboo phoenixes, with an amphitheater in the center. The Myth Makers plan to work with volunteers in Camden to make the amphitheater a reality and then active space for events.
“No one really goes there, so we’re hoping that it becomes a pop-up park for people to come [to] maybe have lunch,” said Dodson. “We’re going to be partnering with Cooper’s Ferry and there’ll be concerts and performances featuring local artists.”
This photography project will appear on billboards throughout the city. The Erik James Montgomery Foundation will present dozens of portraits of Camden residents, showing a human side to Camden’s resilience.
“There’s a lot of unsung heroes in the city— not only schoolteachers, artists, and people of that nature, business people, entrepreneurs, but also people that are recovering from drugs and alcohol,” Erik James Montgomery said. “I want to give a panoramic of individuals from Camden to give a proper representation of this great city.”
In various locations, the project will include pods made from salvaged materials. The roofed pods will be like chill spots, where people can sit during the summertime for shade. Leading this will be Camden native Tom Marchetty, who owns the Factory, a makerspace in Collingswood.
Marchetty said that while driving around Camden, it’s apparent that there could be more art in town.
“Hopefully this kind of opens up [people’s] eyes. Actually, I’m hoping it’s a starting point. … October, I hope it doesn’t end there,” he said. “This might be a great catalyst for people to start building and making these sites more usable.”