To Protect, To Preserve, and To Party


Actually, that was supposed to be A Concert ON, not IN, the Lake — but when ArtsCAP throws its annual summer fundraiser party on Saturday, August 13, local fave rocker Josh Zuckerman is expected to make his usual big splash.

Meetings! We’ve all had to sit through our share — and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you at least agreed on the date of the meeting before moving on to whatever obfuscatory flapdoodle passed for “business” in your neck of the office plaza. Still, strange as it may seem, there are those who occasionally get something accomplished at the conf table — and weirder still, they’re people who represent nonprofit entities of low- (or even NO) budget, meaning they don’t even get paid for the privilege of kissing off those not inconsiderable slabs of Life.

Following is a roundup of what some of our fightin’ arts and/or historical orgs have been up to lately; a list that begs to be highlighted by the Black Box of Asbury Park. The long-running (but lately largely dormant) “incubator of ideas” is coming off a successful poetry slam-poon entitled “The Great American Beat-Off,” in which the black ‘n boxy Saint was transformed for the afternoon of August 6 into an Interzone of wannaBeats and savvy inheritors of the spirit. On Sunday afternoon, August 14, the Box gets a Re-Boot in a public-invited preview party at Chico’s House, with details here as posted previously on Upper WET Side.

Before that, the folks at the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park — a nonprofit that’s invested a lot of sweat equity and thinkpower in its ongoing mission of creating a genuine destination for the arts in AP — is making final preps on their third annual summertime benefit party. Going on Saturday evening, August 13 at an “undisclosed location” (not really; it’s a lovely private residence on Deal Lake), this “major fundraising event of the year” carries on an August tradition that’s worked out well for the ArtsCAP volunteers (check out our archived piece on the 2009 event and its featured star Rachel Garlin) — a cocktail-hour concert that, in the words of ArtsCAP prexy Dennis Carroll, “will enable us to fund an expanded arts agenda announced as part of our recently announced Strategic Plan.”

Under said Strategy (viewable here in short form), the ArtsCAP board is currently focusing their energies on three new established committees dedicated to Advocacy (chaired by The Showroom’s Mike Sodano), Enterprise (chaired by John Vigg of Collective Art Tank) and Public/ Private Partnerships. Add to this the group’s role in an afterschool program at Asbury Park High School (where a full time dance and drama teacher has recently been hired) and, well, you’d still only have a part of the overall picture.

“We’re also involved in a plan to develop artist workspace around town,” explains Carroll. “Particularly in undeveloped areas like Memorial Drive and the West Side.” In addition to all that, the Coalition crew has forged an alliance with Interfaith Neighbors, whose new work-in-progress Springwood Center project is set to include office space for ArtsCAP.

Kicking off Saturday’s soiree with an hour of complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, the concert component kicks in at 7 with fave local rocker Josh Zuckerman (whose latest release Got Love? is triangulated as “an infectious mixture of pop rock and soothing ballads, all of them electrified with a powerful message of love and self-acceptance”) AND the Asbury acousticana of Carl Chesna. Tickets ($25) for the event at 2115 Sunset Drive in Asbury Park are available via PayPal right here, or reserve by emailing or calling Ginny Otley at 732.874.3884.

But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more…

Downtown Long Branch’s URBAN CANVAS project — an endeavor that includes this work by legendary street artist Leon Rainbow and his team — could soon be getting a second-wind shot, through the effort of the LB Arts Council.

They say that Leonardo painted layers upon layers until he captured Mona Lisa’s smile just the way he intended. Michelangelo took four years to paint a ceiling, and Cezanne once attempted to paint a single portrait 115 times before (almost) finishing. In other words, this sort of genius stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

And so it goes with the Urban Canvas Project, the outdoor community art effort that got underway a little more than a year ago on the most boarded-up, beaten-down blocks of lower Broadway in Long Branch. The forty-odd buildings between Liberty Street and Second Avenue — an “urban wasteland” that was originally slated for demolition to make way for an ambitious Arts District project  — were made available to interested artists by the Long Branch Arts Council, working with the city and project sponsor Siperstein’s Paints.

With the collapse of that Arts District, the LBAC’s Carl Hoffman and Dr. Gabor Barabas began soliciting ideas from dozens of local and regional creatives — including Trenton-based graffiti muralist, graphic artist and body painter Leon Rainbow, who brought in a team of artists from Albus Cavus, the New Brunswick-based nonprofit arts organization he helped found. Together with Monmouth County painters like Bob Mataranglo, Jason Sisino and Bradley Hoffer, the first brushstrokes were laid down in an effort to transform a sad and somewhat scary eyesore into a colorful strolling gallery of large-scale visionary works.

After a hopeful start, however, the project got mired in red tape, bad weather and a general lack of follow-through, coordination and momentum. It also met with criticism from local business owners, media people and even fellow artists — and ongoing questions as to the timetable for demolishing the structures continued to hang over the project.

Here in August 2011, however, the LBAC is preparing to move once again with a “Phase II” call to artists — both those who previously donated their time and energies, and anyone who’s intrigued about realizing their designs on a grand and public scale. A Call for Submissions set of criteria is expected to be made public following a meeting later this week, with the ultimate goal of establishing an Art Corridor stretching to the intersection of Broadway and Ocean Boulevard — and plans in the works for a Long Branch Center for the Arts building to be established within the Urban Canvas zone. Much more on all of this as it develops; we plane to be present at the meetings, so you’ll likely read about it first right here, on the Upper WET Side!

The familiar Rainbow Room sign — seen here in its long-running roost on the now-gone Albion Hotel — is the subject of a special preservation effort by the Asbury Park Historical Society.

Meanwhile, back in AP, the good people of the Asbury Park Historical Society — an organization that meets once a month right here where we live at the Stephen Crane House (not that our night-owl tail will ever be present at the table for those 10am events) — have been busy with an effort aimed at restoring the old neon “Rainbow Room” sign that hung for decades outside the now-demolished Albion Hotel on Ocean Avenue. It’s a seemingly modest endeavor that’s layered with significance for many longtime residents of the city — including Frank D’Alessandro, who composed an eloquent statement of purpose for publication by local media. We’ll let him take it from here…

“An old adage goes something like this: ‘To make a rainbow, you need both sunshine and rain.’ Of course, we’ve had an abundance of both of those rainbow-making ingredients this summer in Asbury Park. But what does it take to restore a rainbow? The short answer is: about $15,000.

“For decades, the beautiful neon-laced ‘Rainbow Room’ sign graced the late, lamented Albion Hotel across Second Avenue from where the Stone Pony now stands. That sign was the familiar beacon that welcomed not only patrons of the hotel but the wonderful Key West lounge as well. The Key West was a safe, welcoming oasis of fun and acceptance in our multicultural little city. A generation of the young and the young at heart could always look to the Rainbow Room sign to light the way.

“When the shuttered, once stunning art deco edifice of the Albion began to resemble Miss Havisham’s crumbling wedding cake, the bulldozers arrived to deliver the final coup de grace. Precipitously clinging to the edge of the building was the aforementioned sign, refusing to abandon its host. Fortunately, when pried from the rubble it was not sent ignominiously to some nameless landfill. It has instead been languishing at the city yard, waiting for the its eventual parole and rehabilitation. With proper care, an enthusiastic, capable restorer (already on the job), and the will to make it happen, the Rainbow Room sign is coming back to life and light.

“The Asbury Park Historical Society has recognized the great potential of the ‘Rainbow Room’ sign as an icon welcoming visitors to our city. Their intention is to restore the venerable old sign, complete with its delicate neon lighting, an almost lost art, and place it in the city’s transportation center. Visitors will know that here they will have found something more precious than a pot of gold: the sun, the sea, the sand, the boardwalk, the downtown, the diversity, the art, the history, and all the recreation and entertainment that Asbury Park has to offer. No other symbol, not even a concrete one with a sardonic smile borrowed by way of Coney Island, can match the metaphor of a rainbow and all that it symbolizes.

“Of course, the $15,000 that it will take to restore the sign is not an insignificant amount of money, especially in these hard times and in a city where most people do not earn that amount annually. There will be those who argue that $15,000 could be used for a more appropriate purpose. However, no city funds can or will be used to restore the sign. It will be up to individuals here and elsewhere to make the investment through various fundraisers over the next few months.

“The Historical Society will restore the sign in stages as funds are collected. (Check out PROJECT RAINBOW for updates.) Those who wish to contribute now are encouraged to do so. A visit to the Asbury Park Historical Society website and a donation, small or large, posted there will help speed up the process.

“Asbury Park’s ‘Rainbow Room’ sign may not be the awe-inspiring color prismatic palette created by sun and rain. It will instead be a permanent shining symbol beckoning weary travelers to sample all our city now has to offer.”


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