By: Olivia Armstrong, Follow South Jersey Intern
CAMDEN, N.J. — At first glance, you might think Camden FireWorks is just another art gallery, but there is so much more behind the community-based arts organization in the Waterfront South district of Camden.
Camden FireWorks has been in operation since 2016, and their mission is to use art to create social change. Their mission and idea is to use art to bring about change.
“FireWorks was truly a neighborhood effort to acquire a dilapidated property and use it for the purpose of creative expression,” the executive director of the gallery at Camden FireWorks Asiyah Kurtz said. “Our mission ‘to use art to create social change’ is fairly recent.”
Kurtz, trained as an applied anthropologist, believes that they take their mission to create social change very seriously.
“Although our mission is new, the social change aspect has been evident in our work from the very beginning,” Kurtz said. “As the only independent art gallery in the city of Camden, we take our mission seriously and work to create a supportive and inclusive space for artists of all disciplines, abilities, and experiences.”
Camden FireWorks was brought together by a tight-knit group and was a neighborhood effort. Kurtz said that many people were responsible for helping make Camden FireWorks possible including Father Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart who was a huge asset before he unfortunately passed away November 4, 2022.
One of Camden FireWorks well known artists is Brittany Baum. She is an oil painter and illustrator based out of Camden. Baum lived in the Parkside section of Camden until 1997. At age 12 her family decided to uproot her life and move to Florida, although that might have been good for Baum.
Florida is where her art journey began, but after a devastating breakup that left her broken and a single mother, her passion for art continued to grow. She picked up her love for drawing as an outlet to deal with her dark reality. Baum was just working out of her home studio when she felt “out of the loop” about in-person interactions and opportunities, so in February, 2023, she moved into one of artists studios to get out of her comfort zone and up her career.
Music is one of Baums biggest inspirations.
“I have many inspirations when creating my work,” Baum said. “Music is one of the most common inspirations for my pieces. I have a form of Synesthesia where I interpret music and instrument sounds with colors and shapes. So, it is very important for me to listen to good music because it helps me create a story. With my pieces, I aspire to have more private collectors, gallery representation (I am currently unrepresented) and more exhibitions.”
Baum was approached by Kurtz for a solo exhibition titled “Coming Home” which was a number of pieces portraying an artistic journey of Baum and celebrates the beauty, resilience, and power of Black women that took place June 11 through August 4, 2023, and she sold half the exhibition.
“Being associated with Fireworks has allowed me to get my work seen by more people in person and has also presented better opportunities for my work.” Baum said. “I currently have my first public art installation at the Walter Rand Transportation Center downtown Camden. I owe the gallery for that as they helped me along the way with that!”
Baum’s approach to art continues to grow as well as her passion and her ultimate goal is for the viewers to see vulnerability, poise, grace, and most of all self-love and expression in her body of work.
Check out some of her artwork below.
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