One of the biggest things I have to attribute to the Rutgers University and New Brunswick communities is my love for music and the arts. As a former high school jock, I never really had the time to go to theater shows, live concerts or galleries openings — until my senior year. Just by luck, I had to stop running track and cross country my last year of high school because of an injury and just so happened to be enrolled in AP art history. Now, there was not a total change of art: I’m not a visual arts student now. I haven’t stopped loving to run when I can. Nor would I call myself an expert on the arts. But this was the start of my appreciation-turned-love for the arts in the community that surrounds me now.
Also in my senior year, two friends from my high school were starting to perform shows in a band called Hong Kong Graffiti. They didn’t have lyrics to any of their songs yet nor any recorded demos, but within the time to accept their invitation I was into the DIY live music scene. I really have to give them full credit for that initial invitation because I wouldn’t be my position at The Daily Targum now without it.
My subsequent growth in the music scene from there was organic: starting with Hong Kong in Jersey City, I then heard Fiscal Cliff, a great indie-fresh rock band and Rest Ashore, a Hoboken-based math-rock band who would later be the first guests on my first-ever video interview for “Inside the Beat.”
I followed these bands to their shows at Rutgers in basements scattered across the fifth and sixth wards behind College Avenue as well as near Douglass campus’ Mason Gross School of the Arts. That’s when my music knowledge truly exploded in terms of knowing bands and learning how to listen — growing exponentially with every weekend of back-to-back shows and some double headers. New Brunswick has a historic basement scene, thriving since at least the late 80s. For, typically, only $5 admission, you can become a part of some of the most intimate performance spaces there are. Without a proper stage, the fuss of security or rules beyond respecting the house that you’re in, almost anything goes at these shows — from jumping around during a set to hanging out with the band members afterward.
Networking within this scene has not only made me a more creative person but also opened me up to a community of artists (in all senses of the word) who are involved and invested in the arts scene in New Brunswick, and when it comes to visual arts, more specifically, the Mason Gross School of the Arts.
The Civic Square Building (CSB), the central hub for the Mason Gross School of the Arts visual arts programs, has become one of my favorite escape spaces on the Banks. After hours you need an ID to swipe into the building, but during weekdays you’re free to explore the hallways decorated with students’ works in all different media. Additionally, its main gallery is open on the first Friday of every month and for thesis shows throughout the semester, displaying the works of students in all disciplines and programs. Every Wednesday and Thursday night there are also drop-in figure drawing classes, open to anyone interested.
Even though I don’t see myself making anything close to what gets shown in the CSB now, or in the near future, I find its walls and gallery a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to continue pursuing a career related to the arts. All of which contributes to why I’ve made their events a priority when outlining Inside Beat story lists.
And that’s not to mention the many fantastic exhibitions at the Zimmerli Art Museum or Alfa Art Gallery, and artists that come to visit or lecture, bringing their experiences and artworks with them.
I definitely left out many of the other amazing ways the arts community is expressed in New Brunswick and the Rutgers communities — theater, dance, the New Brunswick Jazz Project, events in Highland Park and the list could go on for almost forever. However, I think the most important thing to remember is that in its infinite multitudes there is a network of creative spaces at your disposal if you choose to explore them. There is no pre-requisite to attend and no expectations of you if, or when, you do. If you are new to the arts scene, I ask you to accept this challenge with abandon and allow yourself to be inspired by its vastness and creativity.
Brittany Gibson is The Daily Targum's Features Editor.
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