3The BSB Gallery, with its tall glass windows high ceilings and period lighting, is welcoming artists and visitors to its East State Street-based contemporary arts and education space in Trenton’s Canal to Creek arts district.
It will also have its doors wide open as part of the annual Art All Day set for Saturday, November 2 (see related story).
BSB, which stands for Broad Street Bank and now owned by the Bayville Holdings, was originally built in 1900 and is known as Trenton’s first skyscraper.
The gallery was launched in February, 2018 ,and is open on Thursdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional hours are added for events like openings, special lectures, and parties. There is also a new exhibition section called the G2 or gallery two. It opened in August.
Gallery curators Christy O’Connor and Aine Mickey personally renovated the G2 space, painting the walls a dramatic dark gray.
Mickey and O’Connor, in their 20s and 30s respectively, have worked together for two years and seem to complement each other in expertise. As for the direction and mission of the gallery, “We are on the same page,” says Mickey.
O’Connor is a painter, mixed media artist, and sculptor from Monmouth County. She has curated pop art exhibits throughout the state and has had her own art practice for five years with works in many shows throughout the region.
Although she did not grow up with artists in the family (her dad was an ice cream salesman), she had a passion for art and photography, and majored in art in college. She taught pre-school and decided to make a change and focus on the visual art part of her training as opposed to the art education part.
Mickey, who grew up in Trenton, is a fine art and documentary photographer with a focus on social and economic inequality. She has worked on film sets and owns her own photography business. The daughter of project managers, she has a background in pharmaceutical business development and brings her organizational skills to arts and event marketing with experience producing large outdoor events. Her photography is shown in Trenton galleries and is slated for an exhibitions at the at Mercer County Community College’s downtown JKC Gallery for photography.
Trenton Downtown Association Executive Director Tom Gilmour says the BSB “is a gallery where we try different things and have fun.”
The bank had been vacant some 17 years, he says. “TDA is all about revitalizing downtowns, bringing in business, and recruitment and retention. But it doesn’t work unless we also bring in visitors. There is already a strong creative arts community in the city, and BSB is a platform to show off that art.”
Gilmour previously was director of economic development in Asbury Park, where the arts, notably music, transformed the city.
He says there is a migration of artists who are being pushed out of larger, more expensive cities, and who find they can afford studio and living space in Trenton. “It’s an artist-friendly city,” he says.
BSB was created with support by a grant from the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation and by Isles Inc., with the support from the New Jersey Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program.
“We had the idea, and once we secured the grant we picked that specific space because East State Street was inactive but had potential,” he says. The corner is evolving, with the Commonwealth Building across the street being renovated for mixed use. “Currently, the challenge is walk-ins, but TDA is all about challenges,” Gilmour says. He envisions an active block in about five years.
For the next few years BSB’s objective is to “cultivate creativity and community,” according to its mission statement. The space, says O’Connor, should “bring art to the Trenton community, to become a staple in the community, so the people in Trenton can have work exhibited, and be a place for professional development.”
The challenge for any new gallery is getting people in the door. The gallery is walking distance from many state offices and a block from the post office. “We want people to know we’re here,” says O’Connor. “We are looking to branch outward but want to be part of the community. We are open to ideas. We want Trenton to be involved, to create a core base of people who want to be here.”
Adds Mickey: “People are busy. They don’t think they have time. We need to incentivize. Once in, the space should engage people. It should become a place that can provide culture that is positive, interesting.” She says print marketing and word of mouth have been helpful.
BSB wants to attract artists from Trenton and from other areas and enlarge the city’s community of artists.
BSB will offer professional development this winter, with classes in business writing, CV writing, and other skills helpful to artists or the general public including lectures, art demonstrations, and children’s programming. Educators are invited to apply to teach.
Mickey, having grown up in Trenton, says she can detect the evolution of the arts community. “It’s always been an interesting place, defined mostly by small businesses. I don’t remember art to be too big a deal in the past, but art has gotten more momentum with murals, festivals, and galleries.”
BSB recently hosted (with the TDA) the first Fiber Arts Festival and public yarn bombing in Mill Hill Park, where the trees took on colorful yarn and fiber coatings.
During the November 2 Art All Day celebration BSB will offer Fiber Lit yarn bombing demonstrations. Artist Scott Lewis will discuss his current solo exhibition, “The Anxiety Side Show,” an exploration of, and fascination with the visual and literary, portraying a character’s psyche. And G2 will feature work by Trenton pen and ink artist ISeeDyfrnt. A native of Ghana, he is inspired by different cultures and spirituality.
Upcoming exhibitions include “Road Maps: Navigating Moments,” November 7 to December 7, with an opening reception Friday, November 8. The two separate solo exhibitions feature paintings and mixed media works by Tali Margolin and Heidi Sussman. They will each present a hands-on class. Margolin presents “Journey Through Memories, Preserving a Memory,” on Saturday, November 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. Sussman offers “A Journey to Paint — A Painting Party with Music,” Saturday, November 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. Participants should register through the BSB website.
The year will end with “Every Ghetto, Every City,” December 14 to January 4, with an opening reception Friday, December 13. The show examines city life, from corruption to inequality and the communal spirit of perseverance and strength in urban communities.
January brings “Badlands,” January 9 through February 8, featuring works by sculptor Domenic Sansone, who relies on everyday and accessible building materials.
BSB Gallery, 143 E. State St., Trenton. Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 609-599-3268.
Link to register for workshops: bsbgallery.com/workshops.