The Bayonne Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) Bergen Point Art Installation Project is calling for artists to submit proposals to help transform Broadway in the Bergen Point neighborhood into an art streetscape. Artists from Hudson County interested in being commissioned to paint call boxes, fire boxes, statues, and wall murals, to transform street features can apply using the official RFP application at the city’s homepage at bayonnenj.org and scroll through the slideshow at the top of the page. The deadline to enter is Friday, June 23.
After seeing the long-term success of the streetscapes on Central Avenue in the Jersey City Heights SID, which started in 2009, Bayonne allocated $60,000 of UEZ funds to facilitate an initiative of its own, with the coordination of the new local art spot, The Bridge Art Gallery, and the Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
The initiative will not only beautify the shopping district, but attract visitors, renew old streetscapes, and prevent vandalism. Weathered, old, and otherwise boring traffic boxes and the sides of buildings are set to become eye candy instead of eyesores.
Cheryl Mack, who runs The Bridge Art Gallery on Broadway in Bergen Point with her husband, Christopher, will sit on the committee that reviews the concept design submissions. Various walls, callboxes, and other streetscapes have been set aside for art, in what Mack hopes will create a stronger community.
Projects like this have many residents like Mack excited for the future. Terrence Malloy, who works closely with the UEZ as Bayonne’s Finance Director, said the city is planning to bring in statues and potentially other artistic installations to Broadway in later phases. “We’re hoping this is just phase one, and that if this goes well we can continue to expand this program to other parts of Broadway,”he said.
“We see this as an opportunity to have the government and creative community come together,” said Mack, who helped to facilitate collaboration between the city and the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs. As business owners and residents in Bergen Point for a few years since moving from Brooklyn, the Macks have enjoyed the neighborhood’s renewed vitality, new businesses, restaurant openings, and the emerging arts community.
“The larger goal is to eventually do an art walking tour through Bergen Point for people to walk through and see all the art installations,” Mack said. “The neighborhood can become a one-stop shop for so much.”
A model to follow
David Diaz, District Manager of the Jersey City Central Avenue SID, said bringing art into the streets has been “a big help, especially with the traffic boxes. With the artwork applied to it, it’s been tremendously preserved.”
When the art inevitably gets weathered, just like anything else, Bayonne artists can start over. In the Heights, Diaz updates the paintings and the boxes every so often, keeping things interesting. “It’s great because we’re always being updated with new artwork,” he said.
Also as in the Heights, Malloy proposed installing statues. The Heights has three statues, at Leonard Gordon Park, Pershing Field, and Riverview Fisk Park.
“We really like what we’ve done here on Central Avenue, and it’s great to hear that we’re inspiring other municipalities to do the same,” Diaz said.
The upgrading of Bayonne’s streetscapes will take place in one of 27 designated Urban Enterprise Zones across the state, which were instituted in 1983. Their main draw is a 50-percent reduction in sales tax, ideally to lower costs for consumers while allowing for more business overall. Businesses have to jump through a few hoops first. To participate in the UEZ Program, businesses have to be certified by the program, be in tax compliance, and be registered within one of the 27 designated zones.
Interested artists can direct questions to the UEZ office at email@example.com, or (201)858-6357; or the Bridge Art Gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (201) 443-8921.
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rory_louis.