Expanding Boundaries for Better Participation - The ArtBender Project of Arts Unbound

May 14th - 15th
The Oranges & Maplewood

By Gregory Burrus

In line with my mission to help artists and musicians move along and get the word out in their endeavors, I always find it interesting and intriguing to see what others are doing to help move the arts, music and community activities along.  The other day, while walking through the South Orange neighborhood, I came across a set of signs on an vacant storefront.  Having fond memories of the Blockbuster that use to be there, I always review what’s being advertised on the storefront.  As a side note, I am glad to see someone came up with the idea of colorful advertising instead of dull brown paper bag covered windows.  However, what caught my attention was the advertising of the event I saw previously, that clearly was in another town.  It’s called ArtBender and now here it was being promoted as if it was occurring in my town, too.  It just didn’t make sense at the moment.

ArtBender Promotion in South Orange New Jersey

 Image: Gregory Burrus

Image: Gregory Burrus

Intrigued by the name and the event location, I made a call to the hosting organization, Arts Unbound.  Now I know Arts Unbound is a community group that, as they state, is “dedicated to the artistic achievement of people living with disabilities and to the continuing artistic enrichment of seniors.  Arts Unbound provides visual arts education and professional development to help emerging artists compete on the retail market.” This group, as far as I knew, is located in a storefront Gallery in Orange, NJ and had recently opened a location in Maplewood, NJ.

What  Is Arts Unbound?

Here’s an excellent explanation by the Founder of Arts Unbound Catherine Lazen. Arts Unbound is the brainchild of its founder Catherine Lazen.  Cate holds a Master's degree in Education Psychology from the University of Virginia.  Catherine is also a fiber artist.  In 2000, she created and implemented Arts Unbound, a non-profit entity devoted to providing arts education and meaningful work in the visual arts, to people with disabilities.

Fundraising to Support Arts Unbound

 Image: Robert Ramos, Curator of Arts Unbound, talking to the audience during the recent  Friends of Arts Unbound 2016 Event . 

Image: Robert Ramos, Curator of Arts Unbound, talking to the audience during the recent Friends of Arts Unbound 2016 Event

Arts Unbound, besides having a location for their artist community to display their work, also conducts some really successful events that raise awareness and money for the disabled artists who want to live successful and independent lives as artists. As they say, “We are preparing talented individuals to be self-employed, working artists contributing to our community, and our economy.”

What I liked about the last fundraiser is they bring in supporting artists from around the community to list their artwork in the Arts Unbound gallery.  There, the work is sold and proceeds are used to support the members of the Arts Unbound community.  Expanding the boundaries of the physical gallery by bringing the outside world into their world just makes sense.  Now they have taken this expansion concept of removing the physical barriers of the gallery a step further with the project I had seen promoted on the storefront.  I love the concept because now anyone can get involved in helping the cause, and you don’t have to be in the Gallery or even be an artist.  You just have to be you, with the ArtBender project.  

Arts Unbound ArtBender Project

As I was directed to the ArtBender website, I found out that ArtBender “is 24 hours of creativity and self-expression, happening in and around The Oranges of NJ.  [You can] Join your friends and neighbors at creativity hubs, start a communal project in your neighborhood, do some painting or play some music on your front porch or do that project you keep putting off!"  ArtBender lets anyone "participate and join the fun.” 

The fun and expanding part is that while ArtBender will take place at the Gallery of Arts Unbound, of course, it will also be at other locations in South Orange, Orange, West Orange, and Maplewood, too.  Now, you can host a bender, too, by locally creating a project with neighbors in your home or some other local venue.  You can also join an ArtBender that is held by others, you can donate to the cause, or sponsor one that someone else runs.  You will see that the ArtBender project even has a map already that lists the locations of each project, so it’s a great way to see what’s going on in and around The Oranges, during the 24 hours of the ArtBender project. 

ArtBender Sponsorship Opportunities Available

 Image: Sponsored logos of two of the main sponsors of ArtBender project.

Image: Sponsored logos of two of the main sponsors of ArtBender project.

Now, you can usually tell if a project is pretty good by some of the successful local independent business that take their money and put it where their heart is.  Two very local businesses, Jerry’s Artist Outlet and Natalie Farrell who uses “Natalie Knows” as her calling card, are immediate and early sponsors.  As Natalie says, she makes it her business to be up on everything there is to know in the local real estate market, and now Natalie is sponsoring a great cause like ArtBender.  Since the project runs from noon on Saturday, May 14th all night through noon on Sunday, May 15th, there are additional sponsorship opportunities still available for you too.  Visit http://www.artbender.org/

Join the ArtBender Cause

Moving the project beyond the walls of the gallery, conducting a project that anyone can join to support the Arts Unbound community, from their own doorstep if they want to, is a truly great idea.  What do you think?  Are you an artist, musician, a neighbor who has a project to finish?  Get some friends and join a worthwhile cause of helping these artists stay independent and productive in the New Jersey Essex County community. 

About the Writer

 Gregory Burrus out supporting Arts Unbound, Orange, NJ.

Gregory Burrus out supporting Arts Unbound, Orange, NJ.

Gregory Burrus is a supporter of local businesses, community events, jazz, blues musicians and local art exhibitions.  On a regular basis he promotes art, music, business, government and local community events through social media marketing, writing articles, blogging and photo journalism.  Gregory Burrus resides in the beautiful, historic town of South Orange, New Jersey, the home of beautiful gas lamps, many historic buildings, some wonderful old trees, the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Seton Hall University, South Mountain Reservation and many gorgeous, vibrant, growing communities in the surrounding North Jersey towns and cities of Essex County.  Having fun living life while helping others.  Visit Greg at http://facebook.com/gregoryburrus

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