As you walk along the left side of Terracycle’s World headquarters you can smell the paint, and hear the aerosol cans clicking as the artists shake them like a baby’s rattle. Loud colors decorate the walls, neon pinks and greens combined with electric blues and burnt orange.
On Saturday August 10, the eighth annual “Graffiti Jam” was held at Terracycle on New York Avenue in North Trenton. From toddlers to middle-aged men, males and females alike, more than 600 people walked the grounds of the property between Hillside Avenue and Sylvester Street.
Dave “Mek” Klama, native of Chambersburg, has been laying paint on the walls of Trenton for over 10 years now. “This event is really positive.” Mek preached, “You kind of associate graffiti with crimes and issues like that, but it’s like any other event where everybody is into the same thing and everyone vibes on the same thing.”
The vibe was unmistakable; love of art was the central theme. From the vendors selling tee shirts and work on canvas, to the DJ spinning rhythmic hip-hop beats that put a little swagger in the step of all who attended.
The Graffiti Jam is here to prove that Trenton is more than the scandals and violence statistics we read about every day.This budding community is made up of men and women from the inner city, to the suburbs of the greater Trenton area, all of them sharing one passion: Art.
The art these individuals practice, although not uncommon, is heavily stigmatized. But these artists are letting their work change the social perception of graffiti.
Leon “Rain” Rainbow is responsible for bringing all this together, “this is really fun for me, not just to participate, but to host all these talented artists,” Rain said with his painter’s mask dangling from his neck, “to see all this art is inspiring. Every year it gets better.”
Diamond Van Liew, a jewelry vendor from Trenton, told the VOICE “this is my first time attending as a vendor and it is a great opportunity to display my art, just like the graffiti artists here, but it’s a little different than the past years I have attended.”
Different because Van Liew’s husband, known simply as N.A.M., which stands for “No One After Me,” is an accomplished graffiti artist in his own right, but he took the day off from his passion to assist his wife in the marketing of her handmade jewelry line.
The VOICE asked N.A.M. what made this event different from other events in the Trenton area: “This is for us by us,” he said, pulling his long dreads back from his face and tying them behind his head “this is a well-rounded hip-hop event.” He continued, “it just shows you how everything is connected…without the beats you really can’t get in your groove to paint and without the paint you don’t have inspiration for rappers to come up with lines.” N.A.M. stated as he admired a mural across from him, eyes beaming.
This was not only an event attended by those in the Trenton area. The “Graf” culture has a following up and down the east coast. Artists, and those who appreciate their work, traveled from as far north as Rochester, NY and as far south as D.C. to this little corner in Trenton, next door to a home that had been condemned and boarded up.
Ron Guida, a Philadelphia resident, took the 35 minute ride up Route 1 to satisfy his “intense curiosity.” Guida shared, “I had never really seen real graffiti before and I wanted to see what it was like.” Guida was impressed saying “these are like murals. They look beautiful, some of these,” he paused, ”I don’t know what they say, but it looks cool”.
Guida was referring to the Artist’s ‘pieces’, which is an artistic twist on the signature of the artist, sometimes in block-lettering that borders on illegible, but is elaborate in its design and color palette. Graffiti artists are generally divided into those who paint letters, or pieces, and those who paint characters or realism.
Jim, a.k.a. “Mok” traveled down from Danbury, Connecticut to spray the walls of Terracycle, and he touched on the spiritual aspects of the graffiti culture, saying “there is something really subversive about graffiti because, some of the lines, you really have to step into them. It’s almost like dancing,” Mok told the VOICE, pulling his protective mask from his mouth.
“I like the comparison to Kung-Fu better because it has such a spiritual aspect to it”, he expounded, “when they taught Kung-Fu in the old world you would have to learn your training through calligraphy. I found that correlation between lettering and something as interactive as martial arts to be fascinating, and lettering for graffiti is no different”.