Gandhi Garden is one of SAGE Coalition projects in Trenton that uses art to change the city’s appearance

Art work by SAGE coalition at the Gandhi Garden on East Hanover St, Trenton NJ. Photo by Dylan Vaughan Art work by SAGE coalition at the Gandhi Garden on East Hanover St, Trenton NJ. Photo by Dylan Vaughan

Written by: Dylan Vaughan

A rtwork made exclusively out of skateboard parts was featured at an exhibit called “Hit the Deck” on March 8 in Trenton. The show was sponsored by the SAGE Coalition, a Trenton-based non-profit led by local teens and twenty-somethings whose mission is to “remind those in economically depressed neighborhoods that unity and pride can thrive through creative problem solving and civic engagement,” according to their official website.

Art work by SAGE coalition at the Gandhi Garden on East Hanover St, Trenton NJ. Photo by Dylan Vaughan

Art work by SAGE coalition at the Gandhi Garden on East Hanover St, Trenton NJ. Photo by Dylan Vaughan

Skateboards covered the gallery, the walls lined with deck after deck. All the while, the air was filled with the smell of incense. The crowd sifting through the works and participating in friendly conversation gave the place a welcoming vibe.

According to the artist known as “Mekone,” who is also a skateboarder and a member of the SAGE Coalition, there were “between 15 to 20 artists” attending this event, including photographer CJ Harker, a graduate of Mercer. (Full disclosure: CJ Harker was a staff photographer at the VOICE who won several awards for his work including a first-place national Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his sports photography).

Harker told The VOICE in an interview that he has been shooting seriously for about 5 to 6 years. Harker attended Mercer for photography and says that Mercer professors John Monahan and Michael Dalton “were pivotal roles in my career.”

Harker explained how he got involved with SAGE Coalition. “These guys were talking about doing a skateboard art show a couple months ago and a few of my friends had a graffiti show up, so I got a hold of Kasso. I went from having one wall with a couple pieces up to taking the whole front room and gave me a feature for the show.”

William “Kasso” Condry is the Head of Operations for the SAGE Coalition. For Kasso, who was born and raised in Trenton, helping the community is his motivation.

“We are a very charitable organization and we put a lot of time in just to build community and the art is just an extension of that. We’ve been able to employ people with what we are doing, and provide opportunities for those who may not have had it anywhere else,” said Kasso.

Kasso has been running the gallery since June. According to him, there are “monthly shows every second Friday. We also go on the road and travel, to spread our brand, and to spread our influence.”

Another recent beautification project was the third annual “Soul of the Message” art show, which featured “raw, soulful artwork by a dozen artists in the Trenton area,” on April 13.

SAGE Coalition’s influence on the area can also be seen in the lot next door to the gallery. The organization has transformed what was once an empty lot filled with trash in to what the group calls “The Gandhi Garden.” So far, the SAGE Coalition has hosted four “Gardening with Gandhi” volunteer events to beautify the lot.

The Gandhi Garden showcases a portrait of Gandhi himself on one of the walls enclosing the garden and uses recycled garbage such as tires for planters. A gravel path leads through sculptures and artwork.

Byron Marshall, a first year business student at Mercer and member of the SAGE Coalition said, “We all have good hearts. We’re all about the community. I’m a Trenton kid man, just trying to do something positive in this town.”

Any students that are interested in entering their work into one of Sage’s exhibits can learn more at www.sagecoalition.com.

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Dylan Vaughan
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