The Noyes Arts Garage: Stockton College Helps Create Cultural Corridor in A.C.
DO AC. This catchy slogan can be seen on buses, billboards and bumper stickers, from Philly to the shore. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when YOU see this saying? Do you think of Atlantic City’s fee-free beaches? Its historic Boardwalk? Miss America perched atop her float? The all-you-can-eat-buffet at your favorite casino? The outlet shopping?
Or maybe you consider an arts-related excursion as part of your next trip to “America’s Playground?”
No? You don’t automatically see the link between the arts and Atlantic City? Then perhaps you could include The Noyes Arts Garage: Stockton College on your next DO AC itinerary.
As Jennie McEwan of the Arts Garage told me, the need and desire for a dedicated arts district in Atlantic City had long been recognized by community members, business people and residents. But it wasn’t until the CRDA (Casino Reinvestment Development Authority) came forward with funding and the plan for a multilevel parking structure with first floor retail arts space that the seeds of the project took root.
The vision, McEwan explained, was to create a cultural corridor along Mississippi Avenue–convenient to Convention Hall, the train station, The Dante Hall Theatre of the Arts and the outlet stores–and to attract local arts and cultural organizations to this targeted area of the city.
Once the location was established, the CRDA invited Stockton College and the Noyes Museum to collaborate on not only planning and development, but also in the day-to-day management. The CRDA provided the initial funding, and the space rentals help to pay the operational costs.
The Arts Garage opened with a ribbon-cutting on November 25, 2013, and currently houses 15 artist studios, galleries, shops, a café, a classroom space, and a Noyes Museum of Art store and satellite gallery. The space also serves as home to the African American Heritage Museum and Atlantic City Arts Center.
I asked Noyes Museum Executive Director Michael Cagno how Noyes became involved in the project. “Atlantic City has always been part of the Noyes Museum because the founders, Fred and Ethel Noyes, were very connected to the city.
Cagno describes the Arts Garage as an incubator for artists and galleries. “The space allows individuals a safe and affordable place to create work and bring it to the marketplace.”
“What we really hope is that the artists outgrow the Arts Garage,” Cagno said, “and move into bigger places in the city.”
“There are cultural dots popping up in Atlantic City and we’re starting to connect them.”
It’s apparent that Arts Garage is a wonderful resource for artists and craftspeople, but I wondered if community outreach is a part of the overall plan.
Jennie McEwan answered emphatically. “We think about reaching out to the community every day,” she said.
McEwan and I talked briefly about what people who live near a cultural institution may think about that place and its relevance to their lives.
“We understand that people in the community may have a particular idea about what Arts Garage is and what goes on here,” McEwan said, “and everything we do is about changing that.”
“But, once we have them through the door,” she said, “that perspective is blown away.”
As an example of this wide-ranging approach, the February event schedule includes exhibitions and openings, a talk by Arts Garage artist/tenant Steve Kuzma, a creative writing class for teens, oil painting class, and February 14th activities like “Paint to Live Music” and a “Valentine’s Photo Shoot” (for just a $5 donation).
Cagno also talked about the importance of extending the impact of the Arts Garage beyond its walls. “We work with local schools and interest groups, with the Boys and Girls Clubs, and with many others,” he said.
“We also encourage tourists to visit, to interact with the artists, see them at work, and buy original art.
“We pride ourselves on offering a variety of media and styles – from jewelry, to photography, to painting and sculpture, to merchants selling fairly traded items.
“The energy and teamwork demonstrated by all of the partners is really exciting,” said Cagno. “We all work together to provide accessibility to the arts without social, economic or ethnic barriers.”
Northside: The Way We Were
African American Heritage Museum at the Arts Garage
The Links, Incorporated – Atlantic City Chapter
45th Annual Art Show featuring Kevin A. “WAK” Williams and the art of the Atlantic City Schools' students participating in The Links, Inc's National Poster Art Contest
Through March 2, 2014
Floretta Schiff Mostovoy: Visions from the Northside
Through March 6, 2014
The Arts Garage is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free.
It is located at 2200 Fairmount Avenue, between Mississippi Avenue and Christopher Columbus Boulevard. The phone number is 609-626-3805.
Parking is free in the Wave Garage for patrons who spend $25 at Arts Garage shops.