Starting today, an innovative six-month long exhibition featuring six one-of-a-kind sculptures is being shown in Camden through a collaborative effort with the city, Cooper's Ferry Partnership and The Rutgers-Camden Center.

The purpose of the exhibition is to highlight the issue of illegal dumping and to change the perception of Camden, said Kris Kolluri, CEO of Cooper's Ferry Partnership.

Funded by a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge grant, these large, outdoor art installations will hopefully attract visitors of all ages to Camden.

Kolluri said an extensive program of curators, residents and artists throughout Camden came up with the sculptures that are representative of Camden's history.

He said they also wanted sculptures that can talk to people about the present conditions of Camden. One of the sculptures, called "Turntable," talks about the cycles of history Camden has been through. It does it through the use of face masks, which in the middle of a pandemic, are the largest sources of waste that we are generating as a city, community and country, he added.

"Everything that these sculptures represent is not just about beauty but it's about communicating the power of not desecrating our environment that we live in, whether it's the city or the state or the country," said Kolluri.

"A New View" is the theme. Kolluri said Camden has been going through a renaissance in the last decade. Public safety is the best it's been in 50 years, K-12 education rates are improving, there's been almost $2.5 billion in investments that have come into Camden. This is an opportunity to not only talk about the advances Camden has made in the last 10 years, but to also talk about the inherent beauty of Camden, said Kolluri.

The perception of Camden, has not been good going back five decades, Kolluri said. But he added that he believes this art is going to be the catalyst to continue changing the perceptions of Camden to the positive.

Another exhibit is "The Invincible Cat." It's a 15-foot steel sculpture made of car hoods that doubles as a receptacle and sits along the PATCO Speedline.

Kolluri said the PATCO Speedline normally has 40,000 riders a day. The goal is to have those riders look out the window and see a spectacular sculpture that captures the beauty of the city and not a pile of tires that have occupied that site in past years, he said.

Another sculpture is "The Phoenix Festival," which features two large bamboo birds that fit on the former site of an incinerator. The sculptures are super imposing on the site for the drivers that drive by it, said Kolluri.

"We understand that this exhibit is only six months so it's very temporary but I think the impact is going to be very long-lasting on the city and on the state," said Kolluri.

Thanks to a donation from Subaru, with North American headquarters  in Camden, they funded artist apprentices who are Camden residents who helped with the sculptures, he said. The residents are the main focus for everything, whether it's creating jobs or preserving and protecting the environment, said Kolluri. This is an opportunity to highlight the importance of environmental stewardship and to give budding artists an opportunity to work alongside the sculptors.

With the pandemic, Kolluri said the exhibits provide a safe, communal space for residents and visitors to gather in a safe environment to admire the beauty of Camden.

The sites for the temporary public art are adjacent to major transportation corridors in Camden neighborhoods of North Camden, Cramer Hill, Gateway, Whitman Park and East Camden, along the PATCO Speedline, NJ Transit's River Line and Camden GreenWay.

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