July 7, 2021

Summer Events At the Princeton Shopping Center Are Scheduled for a Lively Series of Entertainment

AMAZING ARTWORK: “Bring on the Joy” is the theme of this colorful mural at the Princeton Shopping Center. Commissioned by EDENS, the owner of the Shopping Center, it was painted by a team of Arts Council of Princeton artists. “We believe that public art provides an opportunity to build community around creative expression,” explains Melissa Kuscin, Arts Council program/marketing manager. “The impact of a mural is impressive: it brightens and lifts the spirits of those who encounter it, and has the potential to deliver key themes and messages.”

By Jean Stratton

It’s party time at the Princeton Shopping Center!

Friday, July 9 (rescheduled to July 29) will be the launch date of its “Summer Nights Series” of concerts, movies, and DJ parties. It will also dedicate its striking new mural, Bring on the Joy, located on the interior courtyard wall between the Smith’s Ace Hardware and Princeton Mattress establishments.

It couldn’t be a better time to celebrate, as everyone is ready to get out and about after a year and a half of semi-confinement.

We are fortunate in Princeton not only to have a downtown that is alive and lively, but a “village” shopping center, with friendly service and personal attention. And Princeton strives to be a town where the independently-owned establishment can still thrive. The independent entrepreneur is a presence here, appreciated and respected by knowledgeable and interested customers.

Unique History

COVID-19 was an unmistakable and unwelcome presence for individuals and businesses alike, but as cases are decreasing, and stores and businesses reopening, hope is on the horizon. And the Shopping Center wants to share that optimism.

Princeton Shopping Center has a unique history in town. New Jersey’s first shopping center, it opened in 1954, and has been a true community gathering place. It was really the first “one-stop” shopping area in the state.

In addition to its wide range of shopping and dining opportunities, it has offered a series of programs over the years, including festivals, outdoor events, animal programs, car shows, Halloween parades, and more.

For the past nine years, it has been owned by the EDENS company, a national retail real estate owner, operator, and developer with a portfolio of 125 retail centers.

Breadth and Diversity

In the interest of enhancing creative opportunities and awareness, EDENS commissioned the Arts Council of Princeton to create a mural, Bring on the Joy, for the Shopping Center courtyard.

“The mural reflects the courtyard’s florals and greenery, with a welcoming and encouraging message.” says EDENS Managing Director Brad Dumont.

“Our places, including Princeton Shopping Center, can serve as canvases for authentic engagement and for amplifying the breadth and diversity of business owners and entrepreneurs who are often the life blood of their communities.”

Bring on the Joy, the first in a series of three murals, was created by a team of Arts Council artists, explains Sommer Hixson, EDENS director of communications and public relations. New designs, inspired by the changing seasons, will be on view at later dates.

The collaboration between the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) and the Shopping Center has been a very positive experience, as Melissa Kuscin, Arts Council program/marketing manager, reports. “The Princeton Shopping Center is a longtime partner and friend of the Arts Council of Princeton. Public art and murals have risen to the forefront of the ACP’s work in our community as we tap into the power of utilizing color and creativity to spread meaningful messages.

“A mural at the Princeton Shopping Center was an obvious next step, and we couldn’t ask for a better ‘canvas.’ The expansive, interior-facing courtyard walls allowed us to make a big impact with larger-than-life lettering and bold florals for this Bring on the Joy mural.

“The team of artists that brought the mural to life is an all-female team of local painters,” she continues. “Two Arts Council staff members, Maria Evans and myself (both of Princeton), led the design and implementation of the mural painting process. Lisa Walsh of Cranbury and Fiona Chinkan, raised in Princeton, and now living in Bloomfield, completed the team of artists.”

This creative collaboration of the Arts Council and the Shopping Center is an important expression of community involvement, and really couldn’t come at a more opportune moment.

Creative Expression

As Arts Council Executive Director Adam Welch points out, “The Arts Council of Princeton bringing public art to Princeton Shopping Center is timely. We have experienced some very challenging times as a community and deeply felt the isolation of the past two years. Now that we have made it to the other side, it has become so apparent to us that murals can be just what our friends and neighbors need to feel not so alone, but rather energized and excited about what’s to come. We thank the Shopping Center for their dedication to hosting these moments of joy and discovery.

“We believe that public art is an asset in expanding our world view, and provides us an opportunity to build community around creative expression.”

Adds Dumont, “Cohesive communities are more relevant now than ever, and public art activates landscapes in unique ways that spark dialogue and encourage people to authentically connect. An important part of our mission is to collaborate with embedded organizations like the Arts Council on neighborhood enrichment projects. We are very excited to watch these walls come to life in ways that only artists can imagine.”

Art and music will combine on Friday, July 29 (rescheduled from July 9) at 6 p.m. when the mural will be dedicated, and We May Be Right, a Billy Joel Tribute Band, will perform. Spectators are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket. These events are free and open to the public, and will continue throughout the summer.

The “Summer Nights Series” is a partnership of the Princeton Shopping Center and the Princeton Public Library. It will consist of music, including country and jazz to rock and soul, and more, as well as movies and DJ Dance Parties.

“We are so pleased to be hosting ‘Summer Nights’ with the Princeton Shopping Center,” says Princeton Public Library Executive Director Jennifer Podolsky. “Last summer, when we were looking for a safe way to resume public programming, we consulted with Health Officer Jeff Grosser, and decided that the courtyard of the Shopping Center was an ideal venue. We had film screenings, one of which featured a live band, and the partnership took off from there.”

Perfect Time

“This series is the result of hard work by Janie Hermann, who coordinates public programming for adults at the library,” continues Podolsky. “Janie remembers when the Shopping Center was the place to be on Thursday nights in the summer, when families would dance on the lawn to a variety of music acts. Although some of our events are on Friday nights, we are hoping to recapture the mood of those Thursday nights.

“The Shopping Center has been a great partner on this series, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration as the Shopping Center neighborhood changes and grows. It is the perfect time for this collaboration.”

Certainly, Princeton residents — and visitors to town — can look forward  to these shared activities and events, something we have all missed for the past many months.

The Shopping Center, Arts Council, and Public Library have all come together to provide this opportunity for enjoyable entertainment in a special setting.

As Dumont points out, “Although the concert series
is not new to Princeton Shopping Center, this year’s line-up is an expanded program — as we ourselves begin to stretch and expand our social muscles. Our mission is to create places that breed a culture of togetherness and familiarity, which is more important than ever in a post-COVID era.

“Princeton Shopping Center has been a true community gathering place for more than 60 years —well before becoming retail partners with EDENS — and has remained a vibrant meeting place both for residents and visitors year-round. It is a perfect example of a shared place that naturally inspires people to convene and communicate.”

For more information about the Princeton Shopping Center’s upcoming events, visit princetonshoppingcenter.com.