William Paterson University Exhibition Explores Cultural Heritage of New Jersey through 35 Objects

Mike Conner, “Worker’s Rally at the Botto House in Haledon, New Jersey in 1913,” Acrylic on canvas; Collection of the American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark

--35 in 350: The Story of New Jersey, held as part of statewide celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary 

Musical instruments, audio recordings, textiles, family heirlooms, farming implements, and Native American artifacts are among the objects on display as part of a new exhibition, 35 in 350: The Story of New Jersey, on display in the William Paterson University Galleries in the Ben Shahn Center for the Visual Arts on campus from September 8 through December 12, 2014. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on September 28, October 5, October 12, November 9, November 16, November 23, and December 7 from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Sunday, September 21 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The exhibition, presented in conjunction with the statewide celebration of the 350th anniversary of New Jersey, explores the state’s diverse cultural heritage.  Co-curated by Kristen Evangelista, director of the University Galleries, and Harry Weil, an adjunct professor of art history, the exhibition narrates the experience of living in New Jersey through 35 objects or places selected by individuals from throughout the state who represent diverse ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds and a range of vocations.

The co-curators organized the exhibition around the concept of New Jersey as home. “Defining ‘home’ is dependent on many things, including the culture, context, and location where someone grows up,” explains Weil. “From immigrants establishing themselves in a new land to those who seem to have always been here, the participants in 35 in 350 reveal the many ways in which people consider New Jersey their home.”

“Time and place are fundamental aspects of storytelling,” adds Evangelista.  “For some, New Jersey is a physical place where we live or work, defined primarily by its geographical features and its suitability for livelihood.  For others, it assumes a psychological or emotional ‘state’ of mind, embedded with memories and cultural or historical ties.  These distinct perspectives co-exist within the confines of this exhibition.”

Items in the exhibition range from replicas of Native American artifacts and pieces of saltwater taffy from the James Candy Company in Atlantic City to paper currency printed for the Morris County Bank and iconic images of local Paterson landmarks such as the Great Falls, the A.M.E. Zion Church, and Hinchcliffe Stadium. Numerous organizations, including the Paterson Museum, Sand Hill Indian Historical Association, Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the Mahwah Museum, and American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark, are among the participants; individuals who contributed items include U.S. Congressman Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, Mayor Randy George of North Haledon, Mohamed El Filali, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Rabbi Israel S. Dresner of Wayne, and William Paterson University President Kathleen Waldron, among other civic, community, and religious leaders.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication that includes essays by the exhibition curators, photographs of items selected for the exhibition, and statements provided by the participants explaining their object selections. The catalogue for this exhibition was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

The exhibition is one of two on view concurrently in the University Galleries. On view in the Court and East Galleries is the annual exhibition by members of the William Paterson University art faculty.

This exhibition is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The William Paterson University Galleries are wheelchair-accessible. Large-print educational materials are available. For additional information, please call the William Paterson University Galleries at 973-720-2654.