48 Blocks Atlantic City was formed in 2015 to provide exciting art-related projects that display the searing power of art and enable community coalition in a way that transforms Atlantic City. It is currently the flagship program of Atlantic City Arts Foundation (ACAF) in partnership with Stockton University.
Currently, their participants mostly consist of teenagers and young people. Those who participate are exposed to four disciplines: photography, dance, music, and painting. After the first week, they choose a discipline to focus on. 48 Blocks Atlantic City holds mock gallery exhibits that last for over a month, two of which are on permanent display at the Arts Garage. There are also dance teams and a drumline.
At its core, there are eight projects in each of Atlantic City’s six wards (where the organization’s name comes from). Each neighborhood explores its individual creativity and has sole decision-making power on what project they create. In the first year, 48 Blocks started with creating building-wide murals that capture the vibrancy of the city. The six wards managed to create 10 impressive murals within that first year; installations were placed throughout the city. Other community-engaging arts, such as poetry readings, were also displayed. With each mural made, the city began to take notice, leading to increased funding from the city and more recognition in the community.
The ongoing initiative invites local, regional, and global artists to create unique murals in Atlantic City. By doing so, the community garners a web of knowledge that transcends the city. There are currently 48 murals on view throughout the city, none of which have been tagged. Artists are given full creative freedom, leading to a diversity of styles and subject matter.
48 Blocks has an active Instagram account that displays their collection of murals and other projects they have been involved in. Over a weekend in June, the community convenes to celebrate the arts in Atlantic City, developing their own projects which are staged throughout the free weekend-long event full of live music, dance performances, interactive workshops, installations, and mural tours.
Their principles are straight-forward: inclusion and community-organizing. From the start, they have achieved this goal. Their work seeks to change the narrative of Atlantic City into a more welcoming version of the story. True partnership is key. Currently, they have raised $130,000 in grants that fund new classes in sculpture and comic design, with well-attended Saturday classes that see an average of 100 kids per session.
This article was written by Montrell Chandler. Montrell is a passionate and dedicated writer pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at The New School. Montrell is interested critically in writing about the film, music, and fashion industry.