CHRIS KELLY staff Marianne Ficarra
is coordinating a statewide effort to bring recognition to the state's ethnic artists and the influence art from different cultures has on the mainstream art world.
A wave of immigrants is making New Jersey one of the most diverse states in the nation, but you aren't likely to find art created by the new arrivals in the state's museums and galleries, according to a local art historian."New Jersey artists for the most part are neglected and not recognized, in particular coming from these ethnic groups," noted Marianne Ficarra, project coordinator for Transcultural New Jersey: Diverse Artists Shaping Culture and Communities, a statewide arts initiative aimed at bringing visual art created by ethnic artists into the cultural mainstream.
"The purpose of this initiative is to make the general public aware of the existence of these artists and their traditions, their cultural heritage," she
said.The statewide Transcultural NJ initiative is a collaboration of stakeholders in the cultural life of the state, explained Ficarra
, a Fair Haven resident.
A returning student who earned a degree at Douglass College
after raising her
has taken on another role she
may not have anticipated , overseeing the Web site, www.transculturalNJ.org, scheduled to be up and running by Nov. 1.
The arts initiative, she
explained recently, was inspired by data collected in the 2000 U.S. Census.
"Transcultural NJ was spurred by the 2000 Census which showed a tremendous rise in ethnic populations in New Jersey," she
The Census showed a 71 percent increase in the Asian community, a 39 percent increase in Latinos, and a 15 percent increase in the African-American community, she
said, and recent figures indicate the Latino population as of 2002 is even higher.That data generated interest among arts groups, Ficarra said, and led to discussions between Isabel Nazario, director of Rutgers' Office of Intercultural Initiatives, and Jeffrey Wexler, senior curator of the Zimmerli Museum, New Brunswick.
As a result, they're not recognized by curators," Ficarra
explained."The challenge is how do they get their work out?Also, many can't afford to be full-time artists and to market themselves."
The new demographics presented a challenge for Ficarra
, who had to use alternate methods in her
quest to identify artists from the ethnic groups included in the project.
"A lot of these folk artists don't consider themselves artists, so if you put out a call for artists, they don't recognize it as such," she
explained."So you find them by being referred from one person to another."
In addition, Ficarra
tapped various arts groups like the Monmouth County Arts Council
, the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission
, and the folk life program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts
Another resource was a registry compiled by the Center for Latino Art at Rutgers University
that provided names of Latino artists.As a result of the project, the registry has been expanded to include African-American, Asian-American and Native American artists.
expects to discover more artists as a result of the initiative.Ficarra
came up with a cross spectrum of ethnic artists , some established and some unknown , including men and women of all ages, working in mediums including fiber arts, painting, sculpture, installation art and video.
But Transcul-tural NJ isn't just a year's worth of exhibits of ethnic art, Ficarra
noted, because some diverse artists create art that fits within the mainstream, while some artists of European descent assimilate ethnic elements into their work.
"It shows how these groups impact on each other, that's transculturation," she
explained."It's more than multiculturalism, which is an acknowledgment of other ethnic groups.
"This project is putting all of these groups together and looking at them as a whole and their impact on each other."As part of the initiative, Ficarra is curating "Exploring Cultures and Memories Through the Fiber Arts," an exhibit of quilts created over a 15-year period by classes of ESL (English as a second language) students as a learning tool that will open at the Monmouth Museum on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft next July.
"I don't think we've even begun to understand what an impact this initiative will have in terms of communities and their awareness being developed," added Ficarra
, "of art, of traditions of various cultures and the artists in our midst."