Art attack!

International artists converge on Braddock Park for interactive festival

Everyone was an artist on Sunday, June 14. The lawn in James J. Braddock North Hudson Park was turned into a sprawling outdoor workshop and gallery for the first Braddock Park Art Festival, with hundreds of visitors of all ages creating paintings and crafts and even a giant, 50-foot community monoprint.
“This is so fabulous,” said Michelle Richardson, director of Hudson County Parks and Community Services. “There’s so much energy. I really love that people can participate.”
Children in particular were given a variety of ways to get into the arts, with interactive demos on silkscreening, painting, etching, ceramics, and craftmaking.
“The kids don’t get exposed to enough art,” said Sara Barteluce, one of the board members at Guttenberg Arts, the one-year-old art studio that conceived and organized the event in collaboration with the county and local municipalities. “It’s the first thing they cut out of the schools when they have lower budgets.”
“This was one of the first things we wanted to do – a big arts festival,” said her husband, Dan Barteluce, founder and president of Guttenberg Arts. “We have a nice network of artists. What’s great is we dragged them to New Jersey. What we’re trying to do is establish this as a new art community.”
Joining Barteluce at a ribbon cutting ceremony were County Executive Tom DeGise, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff, and other local and regional officials.

“What we’re trying to do is establish this as a new art community.” –Dan Barteluce
“I see nothing by smiles,” said DeGise about the festive atmosphere at the event. “We’re all happy that people are using our park.”
“I’m so proud this is happening in our neighborhood,” said Michael Rees, the director of new art at William Paterson University, and a resident of North Bergen with his wife, also an artist. “I get goose bumps and my heart is beating fast. It’s like first-time love.” Although unable to participate this year, he added, “Next year we’re going to try to help out here. I’d love to do all kinds of things with these guys, be part of this.”

From around the globe

It wasn’t just kids and visitors creating art; many craftsmen in various fields displayed their works in the Artist Market. Local artists like Ray Arcadio, with his recognizable “In Shape” paintings, mixed with others from far and wide.
Suchitra Sirdesai from Bangalore, India has been in the U.S. for only two months but has been creating art for more than 30 years. She displayed her works in oil, acrylics, collage, and mixed media, including depictions of Indian banyan trees.
Amy Ishida came to the U.S. from Japan five years ago. She was selling an array of handbags, candles, pens, iPhone cases, fabrics, and more, all bearing striking imagery based on her original paintings. “It’s very abstract, not portraits,” she said of her designs, often inspired by flowers.
“I used to paint in public, like in bars or clubs at night, painting in front of many people,” said the resident of Astoria, Queens. Earlier this year she launched her product line, available at Her inspiration? “I want to be famous,” she laughed. “I want to make money through my paintings.”
Juan Ramiro Torres was born in Lima, Peru and emigrated to the U.S. when he was 19. Living now in Guttenberg, he paints and teaches art to local students. “I’m Peruvian, so there is an Inca influence in the work,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is modern art but with influence of the past. To connect those two kinds of influences.”
His bold and captivating surreal images mix the recognizable with pure imagination in moving and often dark combinations. “Sometimes I do figurative things, you can recognize the face. And sometimes I do abstract,” he said. “And I use a lot of textures. I love to use textures.” Samples of his work can be seen at

Art and artists large and small

Combat Paper was founded in 2007 by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Burlington, Vt. Combat Paper NJ started in November 2011 and Walt Nygard, a veteran of the Marine Corps in Vietnam, has been with them since the beginning.
“We deconstruct our uniforms, which is to say we cut them up into little tiny pieces. We reclaim them into paper. And then we communicate our stories through art,” he explained.
Providing demos of their papermaking process, Combat Paper NJ displayed examples of artworks created by veterans. “We do pulp prints, linocuts,” said Nygard. “We do silkscreening and etching and monoprints and all sorts of different printing.”
Not far away, Matt Ellis was painting a huge portrait in a row of artists creating works live in the park. “This is part of a big homeless project I’ve been working on for a long time,” he said.
Having befriended a homeless artist in Miami years ago, Ellis began documenting street people there and in New York. “I’m a tattoo artist so part of the homeless project was tattoos, where I tattooed homeless portraits on people for free, and whatever money they gave me I gave directly to a local homeless New York City charity,” he said. “Basically the project is about raising awareness for homeless people, changing people’s perception about judging people by what they look like. And trying to make people stop for a second and think, and question our social values.”
Among his works at the Art Festival was a large 4’ x 8’ woodcut being used to create steamroller prints – a process whereby the woodcut is inked, a fabric laid overtop, and a steamroller driven across it.
Attending the event was Stephen McKenzie, Guinness World Record-holder for the largest monoprint, at 1,800 square feet. “In the late ’80s I got the idea for using a steamroller to make prints by seeing paving crews out paving the highways. And I just looked at those big rollers and said, ‘Man, those are nothing but presses that you can drive.’ So I went out and I bought my own steamroller.”
As part of the Art Festival, McKenzie organized the community monoprint, an interactive project for attendees to paint whatever they desired in bright colors on a 50’ x 4’ sheet. The resulting collaborative image was then steamroller printed on a surface to be put on display.
Kids could also get involved in a project brought by the Montclair Museum Art Truck, painting and hanging crafts on a sculpture that would be displayed in the museum. “We do outreach in underserved communities,” said Dan Fenelon, artist in residence on the truck. “We do formal art classes with senior citizens. And then we do these art events and music festivals.”
This is the second year for the truck, and it is hugely popular with kids. “They don’t ever want to leave,” said Fenelon. “The museum asked me to do it and I couldn’t refuse. I tell everybody, I basically do what I did in kindergarten.”
Standing admiring the steamroller prints hung around the park was local resident Karla Rodriguez, a budding artist herself. “I paint, I draw,” she said. “Pencil, charcoal, portraits, landscapes. Mine are not as good as this.”
Rodriguez’s daughter contributed a few pieces to the art show last week in the high school, which moved to the park for the Art Festival, displaying student works alongside the professional artists.
“This is inspirational,” said Rodriguez. “It makes you want to go home and do it. I would come here every Saturday if they had this.”

Art Schwartz may be reached at

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