How does one preserve their sense of adventure when the nation, and indeed much of the world, is in self-isolation? In the grand scheme of things, road trips are luxuries, something that pales in importance to the good of public health. However, what if there was a way to see cool works of art while maintaining a safe distance between yourself and others? And what if this art could all be found close to home, places that one would pass on the way to pick up takeout from a local restaurant, to shop at the grocery store, or for a quick stop to get gas? That, then, would sound like a fun way to explore while still following the guidelines urged by health officials.
My wife recently came across the
Middlesex County Outdoor Art Guide, an interactive website detailing murals and sculptures throughout our home county. It listed twenty works of outdoor art, all located minutes from our front door. While I hadn’t planned on writing another post for a while, I thought my readers might appreciate a brief tour of some cool local artwork. So sit back, relax, and let The Open Road Ahead bring the great outdoors to you! The Outdoor Art Guide
Readers of this blog should remember my overview of Middlesex County from this past summer. Once again, the second-most populated county in the state is my road trip destination. The Middlesex County Outdoor Art Guide lists 20 works of art throughout the county. We did not make it to all 20 (at least not yet!), but here are some of our favorites:
I admit it, I cheated a bit on one of the first items on the list: I visited Light Dispelling Darkness when I took part in the Middlesex Quest this past summer.
The sculpture tells the story of human progress, and its fight against War, Pestilence, Famine, Death, Greed, and Materialism.
Our first stop this time was to the city of New Brunswick. Boyd Park is located along the Raritan River. The centerpiece of the park is this mural of the Raritan River as it would appear had it never been developed – the river wild.
The mural was painted in 2012 by sixty children during a summer camp for at-risk youth. The campers who painted it were all between the ages of 10 and 16 – talk about talent! You can read more about this cool project here.
On the corner of Hamilton Street and Plum Street is this mural of hearts, with the words “Love is Respect – El Amor Es Respeto” written above. The mural is intended to combat images of domestic violence.
Nearby, the exterior of David’s Florist displays this beautiful mural. Created by an artist working with a group of students from Robert Wood Johnson’s Domestic Violence Prevention Program, this work of art was even more gorgeous in person.
On the side of the Plum Street Parking Garage is this mural of grotesque birds, painted by local punk rock singer Marisa Paternoster of the band Screaming Females. Far out, man!
Perhaps my favorite mural from our scavenger hunt: A Drop Breaks the Stone. Created by a student from the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, this mural celebrates the strength and resiliency of the local Latin-American immigrant community.
Across the river in nearby Highland Park, a series of murals were painted by local artist Jonathan Horowitz at the Eugene Young Environmental Center.
An ABeCedary for our Times is a commentary on growing up in 21st century America. It is located along Second Street in Highland Park.
Near the Highland Park Stop N’ Shop supermarket is Global Fiesta, a mural that celebrates humanity’s relationship with music.
Birth of Tragedy, also painted by Jonathan Horowitz, depicts the dangers of consumerism for small-town America. Our final exhibit in Highland Park, it’s located across the street from Global Fiesta.
In one section of the mural, you can see the New Brunswick skyline and the bridge that connects that city to Highland Park.
Several of the works of art in the scavenger hunt are located on the Busch campus of Rutgers University in nearby Piscataway. Chichen Itza Blue by Igael Tumarkin sits near one of the university’s dormitories. One interesting fact I learned – Tumarkin incorporates imagery from the Holocaust in his sculptures (such as the train tracks in this work).
Synergy stands outside the Proteomics lab at Rutgers University. Proteomics is the study of proteins produced in organisms, and this sculpture is a model of collagen, a protein found in the human body.
Quaternion II is a sculpture depicting the four dimensions: height, width, depth, and time. Although not on the official scavenger hunt, we thought it cool enough to add to our list.
I appreciate a sculpture with a sense of humor: this is a model of a caffeine molecule. The title? The PhD Molecule. Friends who have received their doctorate degrees would doubtlessly find this amusing… and true. Every PhD recipient that I know has powered through their dissertations with coffee, tea, Coca-Cola, or all of the above.
This seemed as good place as any to take a vehicle photo!
Although we used my wife’s Jeep for our art scavenger hunt, I liked this sculpture so much that I came back the next day with my Accord!
Deep in the heart of the Busch Campus Quad, the home of the Rutgers Engineering program, was another sculpture, although finding it took some searching! It’s here… somewhere.
There, tucked away in a small alcove between two buildings, was Reflections, a modernist interpretation of Rodin’s The Thinker.
Although also not on the scavenger hunt, my wife directed me to check out this cool sculpture on the Livingston Campus of Rutgers: Don Quixote and a Flower. With the sun starting to set, this seemed as good of a place as any to draw our adventure to a close.
The Outdoor Art Guide for Middlesex County is a fantastic way to spend a few hours outside enjoying murals and sculptures. The best part of the trip? The cost – it was absolutely free! Updates
Before closing, I wanted to share a few more updates, automotive and otherwise:
This past week, I took a drive to Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area for a few hours of hiking and bird photography. My wife and I had just visited a few weeks ago, but since the park is still open, I figured I’d sneak in another trip.
I caught this Western Gull in flight. It had scooped up a mussel to eat (pictured dangling from its beak), and would fly high in the air and then drop to the mussel to the ground below in an attempt to crack open the shell. It did this several times before successfully being able to eat. It was absolutely fascinating to watch.
I also spent some time watching this American Oystercatcher as it foraged for food. These birds feast on mussels, oysters, clams, and other shellfish. I sat watching this guy for probably ten minutes before he decided to take flight and I could get some photos – when photographing nature, a lot of success is dependent upon your patience!
Beginning today, New Jersey has joined the ranks of states who have closed all non-essential businesses. This highway, I-287, is always filled with traffic. On my way to the grocery store today, I could count the cars in my lane with one hand.
This will be the only “road trip” I’ll be taking for the foreseeable future – the grocery store. Actually, the NJ governor’s action specifically allows people to get outside for exercise and recreation (as long as they follow proper distancing guidelines), so my wife and I will certainly get in some hiking in the coming weeks – more on that later!
The drive to 150,000 miles came pretty quick. However, my big push for 200,000 miles is off to a very slow start – I doubt there will be a big increase in mileage for the next several months.
I wanted to close with
an excellent article from CNN, which focuses on exploring how one can get exercise outside and avoid cabin fever, while also adhering to the safety protocols set forth by health officials. In interviews with an infectious disease expert, a professor public policy, and a psychologist, the article’s takeaway is that getting outside is healthy and in many cases, necessary. A hike down a secluded path in a park, a walk along an empty beach… these are activities that can help you maintain your own well-being while also respecting the health of those around you. However, do these things with care, and know your own personal health needs.
I’ll close by offering my continued best wishes for good health and good cheer. And as always, thanks for reading another post from the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.