A project aiming to place large-scale public art in six blighted lots throughout the city announced its eight finalists.

If you’ve walked past vacant lots in Camden, you may have noticed the symptoms of illegal dumping: discarded appliances, building materials, furniture and more. Soon, you’ll be seeing a lot more art instead.

That’s thanks to A New View, a project aiming to place large-scale public art in six blighted lots throughout the city along Camden’s public transportation corridors, giving a new view to the more than 65,000 people who travel through Camden daily. It launched last year after the city was gifted a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. 130 artists from around the world applied for the chance to contribute their own work to the project, but only eight were selected. Those winning artists were announced on January 29 at an event on Rutgers-Camden’s campus.

Good news: one of those artists is Tom Marchetty, a local entrepreneur which we profiled last month! We checked back in with him to find out how he plans to execute his vision.

We also rounded up the other winning projects to give you a sneak peek of what’s to come. More good news: each project takes its own eco-conscious approach to art, from using recycled materials to integrating native plants. The projects will be installed in May and stay up until Oct. 31.

Tom Marchetty and Erik James Montgomery

A New View chose eight artists to help transform the six designated lots. Two of those artists, Tom Marchetty and Erik James Montgomery, will collaborate with the project team to incorporate their art throughout the city, rather than in one lot.

Marchetty initially proposed that he build an event space on the lot at 1401 Federal Street, which faces his father’s former machine shop. The space would include an outdoor art gallery and “pods,” or picnic tables with metal roofs that are constructed from urban timber, repurposed steel, salvaged machine parts and I-beams.

Instead, A New View asked that he place his “pods” in all six lots, to provide shade, seating and an interactive element to each site.

Tom Marchetty

“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise because now I get to work with each artist,” Marchetty told Green Philly. “It will definitely be a lot more exposure. It makes it more interesting, for sure.”

Montgomery, a Camden-based photographer, will be placing 75 photographic portraits throughout the city, as part of A New View’s marketing campaign. Each portrait will feature a Camden resident, along with a caption beginning with, “Camden is…” and followed by a word chosen by the subject.

Site #1: DKLA Design, “Invincible Cat”

DKLA Design, a Santa Fe-based firm led by Rutgers graduates, will construct a 36-foot-long black panther in Whitman Park. The massive cat will be made from repurposed car hoods, a material that is frequently dumped in vacant lots. 

“These materials, once a part of the waste stream of our fast-paced global economy, take on new life and urgency, becoming a potent symbol of nature as well as the power of imagination and hard work,” according to A New View’s project description.

The panther also signifies community protection, in the hopes of discouraging future dumping. And it’s functional–the sculpture, made of steel, will be sturdy enough for visitors to climb and sit on it.

Site #2: Terreform ONE, “Bioinformatic Digester”

Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology) is a nonprofit architecture firm that aims to increase environmental awareness and appreciation through innovative urban design. It’s contributing a unique project to A New View: a Bioinformatic Digester.

The machine, set to be placed at Chestnut Street and Orchard Street, will include a glass display that allows viewers to watch mealworms eating and breaking down Styrofoam packaging, which the community can donate.

“Tapping into Camden’s roots as the first county in the state to mandate recycling, this project demonstrates a new method of biologically-driven recycling that can contribute to urban biodiversity,” according to A New View. 

Site #3: SLO Architecture, “Turntable”

As an homage to what it calls Camden’s “lost history,” New York City-based SLO Architecture is building “Turntable,” cylindrical sculpture that rotates above scaffolding. The name references RCA Victor, the record label and former phonograph manufacturer that demolished its Camden warehouse in the 1960s and dumped the remnants into the Delaware River.

The sculpture, which will overlook the river at Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park, is made from recycled two-liter soda bottles and other discarded plastic, and runs off of wind power.

“The piece offers a space to contemplate the cycles of Camden’s history and potential energy ahead,” according to A New View.

Site #4: Josh Sarantitis and Athena Steen, “Touching the Earth”

At 5th Street and Erie Street in North Camden, artists Athena Steen and Josh Sarantitis plan to construct a park, featuring three totemic sculptures made from straw and clay mix, “representing the creative spirit of the people of Camden,” according to A New View.

The space will also include “mini parklets” made from cedar and black locust trees, as well as gardens of native plants and vegetables. 

Steen and Sarantitis aim to make construction as interactive and inclusive as possible, by offering workshops in urban horticulture, public art design, and fabrication throughout the process. They hope to build community, all while connecting Camden residents to the natural world.

Site #5: Tyler FuQua Creations, “Mechan 11: The Collector”

Tyler FuQua Creations, a Portland-based group of artists known for its massive robot sculptures, will build its very first standing robot by the pedestrian bridge on State Street in Cramer Hill.

Nicknamed “The Collector”, the 15-foot-tall steel giant will be posed as if it is picking up pieces of litter. It also features an image of a heart on its chest.

“Its glowing heart chamber serves as a reminder that we have to love and take care of this planet because it is the only one we have,” according to A New View.

Sire #6: The Myth Makers, “The Phoenix Festival”

Boston-based artist team The Myth Makers will create an open amphitheater and gathering space, featuring two 22-foot-tall bamboo sculptures decorated with recycled objects.

To include the community, the artists will invite residents to participate in a week-long residency on-site, allowing them to design and build individual flags for the installation.

“The goal for The Phoenix Festival is to create an adored space–as art is a catalyst for change,” according to A New View.

This story was produced in collaboration with the New Jersey Sustainability Reporting Hub project. It was originally reported by Brianna Baker for Green Philly, and may be re-distributed through the Creative Commons License, with attribution.

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