I have a community organizing background, so I understand working with community stakeholders with a goal of making a community-wide impact. While we rely on dozens of volunteers, we’re a small, single-employee arts center, and we have to target what our priorities are and work out from there. That requires working other organizations into what we’re doing and making constant connections. — Artworks Trenton Lynn Lemyre
Artworks Trenton is precisely what its name demonstrates. It’s a center for art production, it comprises artistic innovation and it even looks like a mill that evokes 19th century industrial Trenton.
The nonprofit visual arts center, however, is more than that. It brings together the many disparate players in a vast artists community in Mercer County with a primary goal: Elevating the Trenton’s arts scene.
Lynn Lemyre, Artworks Trenton executive director.
“Our responsibility is to make people aware of the arts scene here, and while we’re not the only location in Trenton that has art, we try to tie in as much as we can with other galleries and museums,” said Lynn Lemyre, Artworks Trenton executive director.
And it’s for this critical role Artworks plays in Trenton’s cultural melody that they received support from the Community Foundation. In 2014, Artworks was awarded a $35,000 Greater Mercer Grant to help build the region’s social capital through increasing the strength and cohesiveness of communities.
Building social capital is in line with the Community Foundation’s objective to bridge the divide across geographic and cultural boundaries.
“I have a community organizing background, so I understand working with community stakeholders with a goal of making a community-wide impact,” Lemyre said. “While we rely on dozens of volunteers, we’re a small, single-employee arts center, and we have to target what our priorities are and work out from there. That requires working other organizations into what we’re doing and making constant connections.”
It’s this weaving of Trenton’s artistic fabric that makes her something of a community organizer. “I’ve always been one, really, so this is no stretch.”
Artworks promotes artistic diversity by fostering creativity, learning, and appreciation of the arts. Its classes, exhibitions, and events aim to make art accessible to the entire community. Although the gallery has a “staff of one” in Lemyre, she relies on dozens of volunteers to keep things afloat.
Operating out of a vast, raw, open space with exposed brick walls and steel roof trusses, the entire space—once a storage facility owned by the New Jersey State Highway Department)—is filled with natural light that completely reveals just how much happens under the roof. It’s here where the gallery’s adult and youth programs, exhibits and open studios take place. Art All Night, a 24-hour visual and performing arts festival staged at the old Roebling Wire Rope factory, has become the premier public visual arts event in the region every June.
On this particular day, Lemyre admires the space, notably bare, albeit temporarily, as Artworks prepares for a new group show. “This space is perfect for what we do,” Lemyre said: “It’s right downtown, it’s accessible, and it’s recognizable. It perfectly suits the work we do.
“We wouldn’t be here without the support of the Community Foundation,” she said. “They are so vital. If they disappeared, we wouldn’t be able to build a community of artists or have the scope of exhibits. The work we do is intensive and to have that help is invaluable.”
For more information on Artworks Trenton, visit www.artworkstrenton.org