S.A.G.E. Coalition Artists to Create Underground Railroad Mural at ACP
The walls may be small, but the subject of the mural that will cover them is large. And the artists who will carry it out are the larger than life Will “Kasso” Condry and James “Luv 1” Kelewae of Trenton’s S.A.G.E. Coalition, the Trenton-based nonprofit organization that was formed in 2012 to initiate, plan, and execute inner-city beautification projects.
The two artists will create a mural that will span two small brick walls behind the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) Paul Robeson Center for the Arts on Witherspoon Street. The work will be carried out and completed throughout the day on Sunday, September 14, beginning at noon.
The mural is inspired by the Underground Railroad and quilt-making tradition. The Underground Railroad was a web of routes covering thousands of miles, several of which ran through New Jersey. Sections were known as “stations,” and Station A ran through Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.
According to an ACP press release, “members of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, spoke out against slavery as early as the 1840s and assisted escaping slaves in their passage north.”
The father of Princeton’s Paul Robeson, after whom the ACP building is named, was a slave who escaped a Southern plantation and eventually settled in Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, where his son Paul was born. For a time, Paul Robeson’s father was minister of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. Paul was born on April 9, 1898, in the church parsonage nearby. He graduated from Rutgers University and Columbia Law School and went on to international acclaim as an actor, singer, and humanitarian. He was an uncompromising champion of black civil rights.
Conceived by local curator, writer, teacher and photographer Ricardo Barros, the mural project will be one of several carried out by members of S.A.G.E., a diverse group of visual artists, engineers, fabricators, musicians and teachers, who create everything from murals to 3-D models.
“The mural will present a stylized, interpretive take on the Underground Railroad, reflecting the S.A.G.E. Coalition’s urban roots,” said Mr. Barros, a resident of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and ACP Exhibition Committee member. “The mural will not be visible from the street, but those viewers who choose to wander in and explore the “hidden” wall will experience the clandestine nature of the Underground Railroad as well as that of contemporary urban art.”
Kasso and Luv have already created a series of public art projects in Trenton, including a depiction of Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Barack Obama. The Gandhi mural in particular generated a surprisingly strong, positive, public response, which led to the transformation of a derelict, abandoned lot into a public urban garden, known as Gandhi’s Garden.
The artists are accustomed to completing their murals in one day and welcome a public audience. They also enjoy working to music, and live musicians and DJs will add to the festive occasion. It’s been rumored that a few break dancers may make an appearance as well.
“The ACP is proud to support the S.A.G.E. Coalition and bring their unique urban vision to Princeton,” said Executive Director Jeff Nathanson.
Founded in 1967, the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP), is a non-profit organization with a mission of building community through the arts. Housed in the landmark Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, designed by architect Michael Graves, the ACP fulfills its mission by presenting a wide range of programs including exhibitions, performances, free community cultural events, and studio-based classes and workshops in a wide range of media. Arts Council of Princeton programs are designed to be high-quality, engaging, affordable, and accessible for the diverse population of the greater Princeton region.
The Arts Council of Princeton is located at 102 Witherspoon Street. The creation of the mural will coincide with the ACP’s Free Fall Open House, from noon to 3 p.m. and its annual Members’ Show, from 3 to 5 p.m. All events are open to the public and free of charge. Parking is available in the Spring and Hulfish Street Garages and at metered spots along Witherspoon Street and Paul Robeson Place.
For additional information about the S.A.G.E. Coalition and to see photographs of previous work, visit http://sagecoalitionnj.com/. For more information about this event, please visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org or contact Alyssa Gillon at email@example.com or call (609) 924-8777 x110.