Bloomfield Center Alliance keeps downtown swinging

Photo Courtesy of the Bloomfield Downtown Alliance Dining Under the Stars is one of many attractions that is drawing residents to the downtown district.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — As always, Bloomfield Center Alliance is busy attracting people to the downtown area. Its long-standing Cruise Nights are still happening every Wednesday evening during the summer and a Pop-Up Art gallery has been introduced to the downtown, summertime fare.

A Pop-Up Art gallery is a temporary space for art exhibitions, occupying a vacant storefront. The BCA space is especially temporary — one night only. But it happens at such an opportune time and place. The gallery is located at 78 Washington St. on the same Friday evenings as the BCA’s “Dinner Under the Stars” is happening on Washington Street. The BCA director is Ollyn Lettman.
“We’re going to have a captive audience,” Lettman said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “While they are here, they can check out local artists.”

The BCA also provides live entertainment for under the stars dinners. But there are also tables and chairs for people who just want to come to watch and listen. Lettman said with the gallery, a full entertainment experience is offered.

“The Pop-Up is a very raw gallery space,” he said. “It has high ceiling and exposed walls. The artists love the space. It looks like something you might find in Brooklyn.”

A Pop-Up has already appeared at two “Dinner Under the Stars” and is scheduled for two more: Aug. 11 and 25. The space has drawn about six artists each time. They bring mostly paintings, each artist bringing between five and 12 works so about 40 works are on display. Most of the artists are from Bloomfield and some of the works have sold. Word of the free space has gotten around and social media is used.

“The opportunity sells itself,” Lettman said. “It’s free space. The artist is not being charged anything.”

The space is raw. There are no light fixtures in it yet, but the BCA has brought in lights. The property is owned by Cedar Realty.

“We have an excellent relationship with them,” Lettman said. “We asked if they would work with us. They jumped on the opportunity, to bring people onto Washington Street.”

Lettman said the artists arrive usually in the afternoon of the dinner. They are given a wall and they do the rest. They have to be available while their works are exhibited.

“We insist they stay onsite,” Lettman said. “We tell them it’s an opportunity to sell and show their work.”

There is no gallery personnel. The artist and the potential buyer deal with each other.
“It’s a total evening we’re trying to give the diner,” Lettman said.

Lettman said Washington Street is the perfect venue for the BCA to program its events.
“It’s small, one-way, and four new restaurants have opened there,” he said.

One of the ways the BCA is trying to unify its approach to making Bloomfield Center a singular destination is with its Facade Grant Program. Lettman said for a property owner to be eligible for a grant they must be in the Bloomfield Center district.

He defined this area as running, east to west, along Bloomfield Avenue, from Venner Park to Watsessing Avenue, and north to south, a block up Broad Street and Glenwood Avenue.

Each property is eligible for up to $3,000 but so far only six businesses have used the grant money. The funds can be used for awnings, sidings and lights. Lettman said he does not know why more businesses are not taking advantage of the opportunity.


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