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Hotline a Hit

Watch Public Arts Project Gives Neighboring Towns a Sense of Place on PBS. See more from NJToday.


Thursday evening, April 4th, marked another first in Bloomfield College history. It is the first time that the college has partnered with the Montclair Art Museum to present an interactive art exhibit that can be seen both on campus and at the museum.

The Bloomfield Avenue Hotline, created by artists Karina Aguilera Skvirsky and Liselot van der Heijden, who were selected from 35 proposals for the Bloomfield Avenue Prize, was installed in the college library and Lehman Court in the museums main entrance. Using repurposed telephone booths the exhibition features a phone with prerecorded messages from residents of Bloomfield and Montclair. The residents of Bloomfield will hear messages from residents of Montclair and vice versa. There is an option to record one’s own message by calling a number and responding to a question from a set of cards at each site. (Calls must be made from a working phone; the phone booths are not fully operational.)

The opening at Bloomfield College held a sense of excitement for all who wanted to try out the new exhibit. Art is a way to preserve the history of a place and can be interpreted in many ways. “This art exhibition is a symbol of our new collaboration with the Montclair Art Museum,” said college president Richard Levao. Vice President of Academic Affairs Marion Terenzio quoted Native American artist Mari Martinez and talked about the role of art in society. “The role of art is to engage participation through emotion,” she said.

Student Government President
Abigal Pena is the first to enter the booth.

“This project is born of the vision of two creative people, Laura Nova, CAT professor and Alexandra Schwartz, museum curator," said VP Terenzio. "They looked at a way to link both communities and developed the Bloomfield Avenue Prize.” Bloomfield Avenue connects both institutions that sit within six miles of one another.

At the other end of Bloomfield Ave., The Montclair Art Museum hosted an opening of the Bloomfield Avenue Hotline a few hours later. Lori Urbanowitz, the museums executive director, introduced the artists after noting that using a phone booth in the past was a singular and solitary experience. “We no longer have that with our cell phones,” she said. “This exhibit is a nostalgic look back into our history.”  The artists gave the gathering a recap of how the exhibit was created. “We asked students to give us their responses to questions, then asked them to go out into the community and record responses from residents of both towns,” explained Skvirsky. “We were pleasantly surprised at the richness of the stories we received, from what you could buy for $5 in the respective towns to what are your financial concerns,” said van der Heijden.

The exhibit will be in place until June 14, 2013. The exhibit resides in the college library and is available during normal library hours Monday through Friday:  7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday:  8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Sunday:  4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The museum hours are Wednesdays through Sundays, 12:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the first Thursday of the month.


The Bloomfield Avenue Prize is funded by the Predominately Black Institutions Formula Grant.