METUCHEN – The artwork adorning the windows and walls of Berkshire Hathaway office on Middlesex Avenue speaks volumes of the major social issues of climate change, civic engagement and food insecurity as part of the Windows of Understanding Project.
A virtual community conversation on the project is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on March 10.
The Windows of Understanding Project, which is in its fifth year, is a joint project of the New Brunswick Community Arts Council, Mason Gross School of the Arts, the Highland Park Arts Council, the Metuchen Arts Council and the Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission.
The initiative unites local artists, organizations, and businesses to promote compassion and awareness around social justice issues impacting local communities. The belief of the project’s creators is that through visual language, artists can communicate methods of understanding in powerful ways that cut across cultural boundaries.
The Metuchen Arts Council is joining with the Metuchen Human Relations Commission for the community conversation.
Dave LaMorte spent time at the First Presbyterian Church (FPC) Community Food Pantry with a focus on food insecurity. He observed volunteers helping people during their scheduled appointment at the pantry. The people were able to shop the shelves of the pantry with a shopping cart for free.
“It is interesting these are problems people do not necessary see … it’s a hidden problem,” he said.
The outcome of his observations and interactions was a drawing of a mix of items found on pantry shelves inside a drawing of a human heart sitting in a shopping cart.
The food pantry operates as a component of a comprehensive path for dependent or needy families and individuals as they become more financially stable or move toward complete independence. Generous donors are the lifeblood of the food pantry, enabling the food pantry to provide the support to the food insecure, according to FPC Food Pantry’s website.
Melisa Gerecci’s artwork focuses on climate change. She worked with the program director at Urban Ag Lab at the School of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University and spent time at Berkshire Hathaway to come up with the best way to depict how a real estate office can fit into environmental mindfulness.
The Urban Ag Lab’s mission is to support academic and outreach efforts that connect urban and suburban communities with agriculture and open space in order to enhance the economy, landscape, and culture of New Jersey, according to its website.
In her discussions with Urban Ag Lab, she learned about rain gardens and native plants restoring the environment.
“I took four real estate market images, enlarging them in black and white, erasing the grass and landscape, and hand drawing a wild landscape,” Gerecci said, adding she describes the plants in the new yard.
This is the second time Gerecci has participated in the Windows of Understanding Project. Last year, she worked on a piece art focusing on food insecurity.
Bobby Duncan worked with The Citizens Campaign in Metuchen, whose mission is to educate all Americans to the fullness of their political power and to introduce them to the shared experience of public service performed by participating in no-blame problem solving of public issues.
The organization is a community of volunteer government law and policy experts, civic leaders, civic-minded business people, high school and college students, teachers, veterans, and service-driven church members, according to The Citizens Campaign website.
“I believe Citizens Campaign goes above and beyond in their efforts to education rights and duties for the good,” Duncan said, noting he has known Harry Pozycki, who founded the organization, since high school.
Duncan said he began with rough sketches of a diverse group of people pushing up a wall with the word “America” on top for his artwork.
Ria Monga, a junior at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, spent time researching with the League of Women Voters of the Greater New Brunswick Area.
“It was perfect to pair with the organization since I’m 20 and two years since I have been able to vote,” she said. “It’s really important for people my age to vote.”
Monga drew portraits of the people she spoke with and portrayed what got them out to vote into a series of posters, which included environment and pollution concerns and women voting rights.
“The last person I spoke to was recently naturalized [as a citizen] and voting allows her to put her identity out into the world,” she said.
This is the second time Monga has participated in the Windows of Understanding Project. In 2020, Monga worked with the Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth Program, which operates out of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, for an installation in the RiteAid window in Highland Park.
Windows of Understanding Project
The project launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17 as a way to pay homage to King’s legacy with a designated “Day of Understanding.”
This year, 24 non-profit organizations were paired with an artist facilitator to illuminate positive strides they are making in local communities. The works have been displayed in storefronts and public spaces in participating cities.
The artwork in Metuchen is installed at the Berkshire Hathaway office at 564 Middlesex Ave.
A Zoom link for the community conversation will be posted on the Metuchen Arts Council’s website at www.metuchenartscouncil.com and the Metuchen Human Relations Commission’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MetuchenHumanRelationsCommission/.
For more information on Windows of Understanding, including a complete list of featured organizations, participating storefronts in the four towns, and a full calendar of free events, visit www.windowsofunderstanding.org.