News and Press

Sanctioned Graffiti Goes Mainstream in Downtown Somerville

September 17, 2016 | Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ - Graffiti art has gone mainstream on the streets of the downtown shopping and restaurant district.

The artwork is sanctioned by Arts on Division, sponsors of a three-day weekend that celebrates the visual and performing arts, concluding with Sunday’s Central Jersey Jazz Festival.

While organizers welcomed artists and visitors to the “Somerville Perspectives” exhibit of paintings and photographs at Gallery on Main Thursday night, local author and street artist Jermome Gonzalez was busy at work outside on the sidewalk, giving life to his art form on an eight-foot faux-brick mural supported by a 2-by-4 frame.

Gonzalez was in constant motion, shaking spray cans, adjusting his respirator, flicking his wrist as he swept up, down and sideways, working the nozzle on the spray can to achieve the desired swirls and garnishes that were taking shape. He’d stop, stand back and go back at it again, hundreds of times, as he fine tuned the mural.

Finishing up long after dusk Thursday night, Gonzalez’ mural pays tribute to those who will take to the streets in pursuit of their art this weekend.

The mural has been moved across Main Street where it is now displayed on Division Street, where the activity shifts for the next two days.

Large block letters stacked atop one another – AOD – (Arts on Division) is just one of several murals that will be created by other graffiti artists this weekend. The murals will be mounted on the walls of several buildings alongside the many walkways downtown that lead to municipal parking lots.

Arts on Division continues Friday night, Sept. 16 with a 5:30 p.m. performance by the Slackjaw Blues Band on Division Street,  followed by the Whitehouse Wind Symphony which performs on Division Street at 7 p.m.

Graffiti artists, cube artists and The Artisan Market: Artists and Artisans will take over Division Street on Saturday, Sept. 17, selling a variety of artwork from jewelry to photographs, ceramics, paintings and more from noon-6 p.m. See mural painting by James Kelewae and J. Mike Kuhn, and cube painting by Gonzales and friends.

Participating artists include Matthew Allouf, Dana Benner, David Gallina, John Giftus, Katie Gloede, Emiliano Gonzalez, Janet Hickey, Jezebel & Raven’s Grace, Dan La Mountain, Nicole Miller, Matthew Scottile, Jennifer St. Pierre, Marian Stewart, Susyn Timko.

Featured artwork by members of the Printmaking Council of New Jersey will be on display as well as artwork by students at Somerville High School and Immaculata High School.

The Division Street stage will also feature music performances by students enrolled at Somerville’s School of Rock from noon-2 p.m.; drum competition from 2-3:30 p.m. and music by Bryan Hanson from 3:30-6 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 18, it’s all about the Central Jersey Jazz Festival.The all-star lineup of performers includes:·         Javon Jackson Quartet·         Vanessa Rubin with Special Guest·         Don Braden·         Isaiah J. Thompson Quintet·         Additional Performances by Jazz House Kids

The Somerville Jazz Festival will be presented on the Somerset County Court House Green, at the corner of E. Main & Grove Streets. It's produced and hosted by Downtown Somerville Alliance and Sheila E. Anderson, author and on-air personality of WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.

Bring lawn chairs and blankets.

Further information is available online at and

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Art and music take hold in Downtown Somerville

September 14, 2016 | Vince Baglivo

SOMERVILLE – A lengthy list of popular restaurants and annual events like the Tour of Somerville and summertime’s Friday Night Classic Car Shows earn high marks from residents and visitors when they think about Downtown Somerville.

The coming together of two relatively new happenings, each less than 10 years old, however, on the weekend of Sept. 15 to 18, underscores the emerging social scene in Somerville in a brand new way. A contemporary take on art, performance and entertainment, blended with the more traditional dining and retail, is redefining the downtown experience.

For the first time, Arts on Division, a three-day festival of arts, video and live performances, will overlap with the Central Jersey Jazz Festival on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 1 to 6 p.m.  Friday starts the weekend with Jazz Festival performances in Flemington from 6. to 10 p.m. and New Brunswick on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m.

Arts on Division, the charitable organization behind the festival of the same name, says its goal is to infuse the arts into life in downtown Somerville. A collaborative partnership between three county seats, Flemington, New Brunswick and Somerville, led by the Hunterdon County Rotary Clubs, the New Brunswick Jazz Project and the event originator, the Downtown Somerville Alliance (DSA), has created the largest music festival of its kind in the area in the three-day Central Jersey Jazz Festival.

Rick St. Pierre, the owner of Verve restaurant in downtown Somerville and a member of the Arts on Division, Central Jersey Jazz Festival and DSA boards, notes that the sponsoring organizations behind the events understand that the arts are a critical factor in keeping their respective cities active and vibrant.

Shaun Daley, who owns Gallery on Main along with Michelle Pankowski Mundt in the heart of downtown Somerville, said he has seen participation in and the popularity of the annual arts event grow significantly over the past few years.

He credits that growth, and the corresponding revitalization of downtown Somerville, with sealing the decision on where to locate after extensive research and consideration of other options in the area. The gallery is  across the street from the Division Street Plaza, where Arts on Division will be staged and is a natural complement to the many cultural events that take place on Division Street throughout the year.

Gallery on Main will host an opening reception for Arts on Division on Thursday, Sept. 15, including a “Somerville Perspectives” Exhibit featuring works of all kinds with Somerville as their inspiration. Arts on Division will officially open at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, and will include a presentation by the Whitehouse Wind Symphony at 7 p.m. It will continue on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 12 to 8 p.m. with an “Art all Day” Artisan Market featuring individual artists and Printmaking Center of NJ mural painting, along with art exhibits and music music from 12 to 6 p.m.

Daley said he has seen a synergy between events like the classic car shows and simply people dining in downtown Somerville after opening Gallery on Main in July with foot traffic that sometimes keeps the space busy till 10 p.m. He credits the Downtown Somerville Alliance, providing the partnership between the borough and local business and property owners, with marketing the downtown as a destination and presenting activities and events year-round like movies, comedy nights, live music and holiday celebrations that attract residents and a steady flow of visitors.

Beth Anne Macdonald, the DSA’s executive director, added that the integration of the arts and music creates economic opportunities that represent win-win situations for all of downtown Somerville’s stakeholders."

Restaurants and coffee houses are featuring local musicians; the work of local artists and artisans are on display in downtown businesses and for sale at our shops and boutiques,” Macdonald said. “Our businesses and restaurants attract customers who are very savvy and they aren’t looking for a cookie-cutter experience. They want the hand-crafted, one of a kind, original; whether that is a specialty cocktail, seasonal fashion or an entertainment experience. We have all of those offerings.”

Jimmy Kastner and his wife recently moved to Somerville, and quickly found subject matter close to home for his interest in photography. A graphic designer by trade, he hopes to make photography profitable as well as his passion. Kastner has already sold several of his images and found other business opportunities after displaying his photos on social media and making connections in the community.“

I feel honored to be part of the growth in downtown Somerville,” he said. “It’s a great place to be.”

For more information about Arts on Division, visit

For more information about the Central Jersey Jazz Festival, visit more information about programs and services provided by the Downtown Somerville Alliance, visit, or follow news from Somerville on social media at and

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Arts on Division festival gets under way

May 17, 2012 | Loren Fisher

As people strolled around Division St. Thursday night and jazz music filled the air, Somerville mayor Brian Gallagher could only grin.

The third annual Arts on Division festival was underway on the newly refurbished street, the mayor was busy greeting people and shaking hands. The dream of many people, creating a special street for the arts, had come true.

“This is cool,” said Gallagher. “I’m not supposed to say ‘cool’ anymore, but this is cool.”

“Pop-up” art galleries in empty stores on Division St. and Main St. are displaying the art of Somerville and regional artists. The firehouse on Division St. has been turned into a movie theater, hosting a film festival. A new play was read in a Main St. gallery.

Musicians are playing on Division St., although the planned stages won’t be used because the contractor wouldn’t guarantee the freshly poured concert would hold up.

The four-day indoor/outdoor festival features fine art exhibits, theatre, music, poetry, dance ensembles, film and art related demonstrations.

Members of the Playwrights Theatre, John Pietrowski, Victoria Waumans, Daniil Krimer and Edward Furs read the play “Another Spring” by Yasmine Beverly Rana.

At 6:00 p.m. Friday will be the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new street followed by the Arts on Division opening reception with music by the Jonathan DiFore Jazz Band.

Eighteen visual artists from the Somerville area will be exhibiting during the festival. The artists work in several different media including five painting styles – Acrylic, Alkyds, Gouache, Oil, and Watercolor; Beaded Jewelry, SAORI Weaving, Metal and Stone Sculpture, and Pen and Ink Drawings.

Participating artists include Kristina Lloyd, who is also curating the exhibit, Frank Gubernat, Hilary Klimek, Jean Leigh, and Letty Oratowski of Basking Ridge; Michelle Marigliano and her son Lorenzo DiAndrea of Bernardsville; Maryann Ficker of Bound Brook; Olga Phelps of Branchburg; Diana Patton of Bridgewater; Abi Fellows of Budd Lake; Filip Everaert of Far Hills; Rita Koch of Flemington; Donna Souren of Martinsville; Frank Racina of Raritan; Vivian Bedoya of Somerset; and Amy Erdman of Somerville.

Arts on Division is sponsored by Downtown Somerville Alliance and the Borough of Somerville with volunteer support from the Printmaking Center of New Jersey and the Greater Somerville Arts Initiative.

“New Look” Division Street hosts 3rd annual Arts on Division festival

May 14, 2012 | Rod Hirsch

The ongoing transformation of Somerville’s emerging Arts District ramped up considerably April 27 with the arrival of a cement mixer that helped put the finishing touches on the facelift.

The transit mix truck inched along Division Street between Main Street and South Street, dumping freshly-mixed concrete down a sluice as crews wielding rakes, shovels and trowels worked quickly to smooth over the new decorative road surface.

Work continued over the next two weeks with a deadline looming for the official “unveiling” of the new-look Division Street, a pedestrian-friendly gateway to downtown Somerville that will play host to the third annual Arts on Division celebration May 17-20.

Downtown Somerville celebrates the cultural arts for four days with a wide range of fine art exhibits, music, dance, theatre, visual and literary performances through a series of ‘pop-up’ art galleries on Division Street, Main Street and the Somerset County Jurors Assembly Room inside the historic First Dutch Reformed Church at the county complex on nearby East Main Street.

Arts on Division kicks off a busy two weeks of events that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the borough: Somerville Sampler Day May 19; Somerville Restaurant Week May 19-26 and the 2012 Tour of Somerville Cycling Series May 25-28, four days of world-class cycling events in Somerville and nearby towns that culminates with the Kugler-Anderson 50-mile race in downtown Somerville.

The cycling series is expected to attract over 600 professional and novice cyclist participants and more than 20,000 festival-goers throughout the Memorial Day weekend, with competitive cycling and family festivities taking place May 25-28 in downtown Somerville.
The completion of the Division Street project will impose a new traffic pattern; it will be a one-way thorough-fare between South Street and Main Street, according to Colin Driver, director of Economic Development for the borough, who explained the design of the “new” Division Street is unique.

“There’s not a street like it in New Jersey that we are aware of, or in the region,” Driver said. “We had some unexpected discoveries as you’d expect that’s always the case when you’re doing road work on old road,” Driver explained. “We had to get utilities involved more than once. We had discovered stuff that to the best of our knowledge wasn’t there; we found an old telephone conduit made out of wood that had to be for the original phone lines. We had to check with Verizon to make sure it had been abandoned so that we could remove it and we had a leaking sewer line that took three days to resolve.”

Replacing the blacktop is a pressed concrete road and walkway surface, each a different color to distinguish one from the other. The curbs on both sides of the street have been eliminated.

Replacing the curbs and bordering the pedestrian walkway is an 8-inch wide domed strip, described by Driver as a “visual demarcation” that is lined with black bollards, vertical waist-high posts designed so that they can be removed. The pedestrian walkway lining both sides of the street is 16 feet wide beginning at South Street, narrowing to 12 feet wide moving northward to Main Street, according to Driver.

The removable bollards will enable a transition to a broader pedestrian walkway for special events like Arts on Division. Bollards can be installed at either end of Division Street to prevent traffic, according to Driver.

The new look will also introduce a new traffic pattern. No longer will Division Street be two-way. All traffic will now be one-way towards Main Street.

The intent is to create a pedestrian-friendly corridor from the train station through to Main Street, according to Driver. Some owners have already begun remodeling and restoring building facades.

‘Arts on Division’ to turn downtown Somerville into a gallery

The Messenger-Gazette

May 11, 2011

SOMERVILLE — Build it and they will come, and that is precisely what has fueled the energy and commitment of business owners and volunteers behind the creation of Arts on Division, an event created in collaboration with the Downtown Somerville Alliance and the Borough of Somerville.

The week-long cultural celebration will showcase fine art, music, dance, theatre and literary arts in “Pop-Up” art galleries on Division Street from Saturday, May 14, through Saturday, May 21.

Two storefronts at 11 and 15 Division St. will feature art by more than 40 New Jersey artists.

The exhibitions will include an array of fine art media such as paintings, mixed media, sculpture, photography, printmaking and ceramic art. The galleries also will serve as performing art venues hosting such activities as dramatic readings by Playwrights Theatre, literary arts activities, dance by the Hillsborough-based group Kids on Tap, and salsa presented by Indigo Ballroom.

Participating artists hail from across the state, including many from Somerville and its surrounding communities.

Somerville resident Sandra Benscoter has been working in clay for decades. One of her ceramic vessels will be on exhibition in the Pop-Up gallery at 15 Division Street, along with other ceramic artists from the New Jersey Artists Guild. Artists from the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, Raritan Valley Art Association, and Somerville and Immaculate High Schools will be featured throughout the week.

Joan Needham, a multi-disciplinary artist based in Princeton, will exhibit several of her large sculptures.

The large oil paintings by Todd Doney will illuminate the power and beauty of nature. Doney says, “The landscape genre investigates painting’s ability to record the authenticity of the real world and to communicate the artist’s experiences in nature.”

In contrast to Doney’s realistic work, Bedminster resident Grant Clark works intuitively to create large, colorful abstract paintings.

The 2nd Arts on Division coincides with downtown Somerville’s “Restaurant Week” and the annual “Somerville Sampler Day” on Saturday, May 14.

Division Street will be closed to traffic from South Street to West Main Street on May 14 for live music on two stages.

In addition to music and indoor art exhibitions, a demonstration of traditional Japanese pottery known as raku will be on tap for the day. Children also will have a chance to make handmade greeting cards using monoprint techniques offered by the Printmaking Center of New Jersey. New York Times bestselling author Cathy Cash Spellman will discuss her upcoming books.

“Somerville has long been home to fabulous restaurants and quaint shops,” remarked Mayor Brian Gallagher. “Somerville, the county seat, is the cultural center for Somerset County and downtown to the entire region. The borough is the perfect location for a future arts district on Division Street, and the district will serve as a ‘cultural gateway’ drawing visitors to art galleries and performances, and onward to Main Street,” he added.

The mayor has teamed up with other elected officials, the Downtown Somerville Alliance, The Printmaking Center of New Jersey, local business owners, artists, and members from the community to form the Greater Somerville Arts Initiative. Volunteer members of the initiative have worked for months planning this week-long cultural celebration. The mission of the group is to foster and support a dynamic and diverse arts presence and to ensure that artists and arts organizations are valued as essential to the character, sense of community and economic vitality of the greater Somerville region.

The Downtown Somerville Alliance and the borough are co-sponsors of the 2nd Arts on Division event. Visit for more information about participating artists, dates and times of performances, or call 908-541-1600.

All events are free and open to the public.

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