April ARTS is bringing local residents together to embrace the arts

Photo courtesy of the Arts Council of Princeton
April ARTS

The joy and appreciation of creating art will take center stage in Princeton when April ARTS arrives to kick off the beginning of April.

In 2022, April ARTS will be a monthlong celebration of the arts and culture hosted by the Arts Council of Princeton from April 1-23 throughout Princeton.

With support from Princeton University, April ARTS is set to launch on April 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Arts Council and takes the place of Communiversity, which was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After meeting with municipal officials several months ago, Princeton University representatives the Arts Council partners with for Communiversity, and the Arts Council’s artist team, the Arts Council created April ARTS.

“Speaking with Melissa Kuscin [Arts Council’s program and marketing manager] and Maria Evans [Arts Council artistic director] within a few days we had come up with the idea of April ARTS month,” said Adam Welch, executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton. “A whole month of activities, arts engagement and building community through the arts, April ARTS would be more socially distanced, safe and something the community can get behind.”

Some of the activities would be events the Arts Council of Princeton planned, are hosting and also a part of, while other activities will be to promote additional arts space organizations in Princeton and their activities.

Activities throughout the month include an exhibition opening for artist Joe Kossow and his “Still Lives from a Mostly Stilled Life: Oil Paintings from 2019-2022” on April 2 at the Arts Council’s Taplin Gallery; a spoken word celebration for Paul Robeson 124th birthday; Cabernet Cabaret 10th Anniversary Extravaganza; and a Princeton University Art Museum gallery-on-the-go.

“The reason why a monthlong event was appealing to us goes back to our history. Back in 1968 when the Arts Council published its first annual report they mentioned their interest in hosting a celebration to celebrate the merry month of May,” Welch added. “Having that in mind that was the connection to what we are now calling April ARTS. The big reason for April is our sense of spring and the university can be much more engaged with the community and be apart of this event as compared to May.”

Unlike how Communiversity gathers thousands of people to Nassau Street there is a decentralized approach to April ARTS.

The launch of the first component of April ARTS, which is the Princeton Piano Project, occurs on April 1.

“The Princeton Piano Project was inspired by things that we observed in Hightstown and I lived in Brooklyn, New York, and in Brooklyn they had a similar program where pianos would be put outside for people to play out in public,” Welch said. “This reason why it is the kickoff to April ARTS is because it is something that is going to last the full month. It combines both the visual art with the music.”

The Princeton Piano Project is seven pianos, all of which have been donated, on which the Arts Council commissioned artists to paint designs or images.

The artists who have painted the designs and images on the pianos are Leon Rainbow, Ronah Harris, Albelardo Montano, Susan DeConcini & Lisa Walsh, Marlon 7oveChild Davila, and Stephanie and Naomi Nazario.

“They will be placed throughout basically the Central Business District (CBD) and goes a little bit to Jugtown. This is an opportunity for public art and public performance,” Welch said. “People can stroll by and play the piano at their convenience. We are also going to have planned performances throughout the month at the pianos at various times.”

The piano locations include 185 Nassau St., Palmer Square, the Arts Council on Witherspoon Street, and Hinds Plaza.

There is a culmination of the events for April ARTS that occurs with the Arts Council and Princeton’s first-ever Porchfest. On April 23, Porchfest is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m.

“Porchfest is not unique to Princeton. It is going to be Princeton’s first-ever Porchfest. The model we are using is inspired by Asbury Park,” Welch said. “The concept is quite simple people in the community offer their porches and we coordinate bands to play on those porches. The idea we are going forward with is five bands at each of the 11 porches.”

Each one of the bands for Porchfest will be listed, there will be a map of all of the locations of the various porches, and where the bands are playing and when they play on a certain day. All of the porches will play simultaneously.

“So, you have to look at this map and determine in advance which porch you are going to walk to during which set. There were about 40 applicants who offered their porches for Porchfest,” Welch added. “We looked at all of the porches and determined which groupings made sense, because we need to have the porches at a certain proximity from one another to really have the best and most successful Porchfest.”

The porches decided on will not be in earshot of one another, but are still in within walking distance between each other.

“The goal with that is to have participants stroll through the neighborhoods to see a more of Princeton that they may not normally see. Also for neighbors to get out and stroll around town and meet their neighbors and people in the community,” Welch said. “This is all around the idea of art.”

There will be a Porchfest guide on the Arts Council of Princeton website that will be constantly updated and accessible to people’s phones. Maps will also be in the Princeton Packet newspaper.

Various activities will be highlighted and promoted on a centralized calendar throughout the month that will be available on the website. Organizations have been submitting content so that their events can be promoted by the Arts Council throughout April.

Welch urged that people also follow the Arts Council on Instagram and Facebook for updates during the month.

“I think we ultimately want people to have as full and rich a cultural experience that they can. We want a community based experience and remind people of the deeply human experience that is art,” he said.