May 2012

Month: May 2012
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.
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.

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