Flood Theater Opens National Arts & Humanities Month

During October, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s ArtsBergen initiative joins arts organizations and communities nationwide in celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month.  National Arts and Humanities Month, coordinated by Americans for the Arts, occurs throughout the month.  This celebration grew out of National Arts Week, an observance started in 1985 by the National Endowment for the Arts and Americans for the Arts.  To celebrate the arts and humanities, the NNJCF invites people to view Flood Theater, a community-inspired temporary public artwork installation raising awareness about flooding along the Hackensack River.

The public may view Flood Theater in Oradell, New Jersey.

The “Sad House” appears in the Flood Theater public artwork on display in Oradell, New Jersey.

Flood Theater, designed and created by artist Juliacks, is on display now through November 21, 2023 at the field next to the Oradell Train Station, located at 400 Maple Avenue in Oradell, New Jersey. This public artwork commemorates and explores the devastating impact of floods along the Hackensack River in Oradell, New Milford, and nearby municipalities, while also raising awareness about strategies to use to address future flooding and climate change.

Creation of Flood Theater Involved Resident

Artist Juliacks’ new work features the sculpture – Sad House – and large paper dolls of Eagle-Humans, both inspired by 19th century paper theaters, American storytelling quilts, and mythology. She incorporated community members’ stories and artwork created previously at a public workshop into the artwork. Participants created paper cut applique patterns that together tell a story about the flooding.  A design on the roof of the Sad House sculpture incorporated paper-cut patterns.

Taking a cue from comics, community members also created word-collages operating as voice balloons for the Eagle-Human figures on the Flood Theater stage. These word collages, similar to a word poll, highlighted community members’ feelings and thoughts about the impact of flooding in Oradell and New Milford. Ultimately, their contributions became a part of this public artwork.

Flood Theater Anticipates More Flooding to Occur

Flood Theater compels viewers to consider that more flooding is imminent. This artwork asks viewers to imagine themselves in the future confronted by a flood. They also prompt viewers to consider solutions and methods to use to prepare for and prevent future flooding.

The central ‘set’ of Flood Theater, “The Sad House”, shows the building crying on one side because of flooding. In 2007, the historic Demarest House of New Milford received significant damage to the house.  Furthermore, many historical artifacts became damaged, resulting from a flood. The other side of the house shows reflections from the community about past flooding.  The house also offers solutions to prevent damage from future flooding.

The Flood Theater display incorporates the Bald Eagle to show a symbol of environmental renewal.

The Bald Eagle shown in the “Flood Theater” display represents a symbol of environmental renewal. Photo Credit: Lars Berg

The artist uses the Bald Eagles in her artwork, as a symbol of environmental renewal. The bird-human hybrid creatures reflected in the paper dolls emanate from many folklore traditions worldwide. These magical beings often provide both protective and destructive qualities. The Eagle-Human paper characters represent actors on the Flood Theater set capable of both terrific, terrible choices.  Find more information online about resources and action to take to deal with prospective flooding.

25 Years in the Community

During its 25th anniversary, the NNJCF  focuses primarily on the environment, arts and culture, and civic engagement. In addition, other areas of interest include public health, education and philanthropy. This year, the Foundation became one of only five organizations in the Garden State selected to receive a grant. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts co-sponsored the grant award. The paired artists specialize in environmental topics. They create art installations such as Flood Theater in specific sites in the state’s coastal zone. This artwork is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the New Jersey Coastal Management Program, Department of Environmental Protection – in partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

For more information about Flood Theater, the NNJCF or its ArtsBergen initiative, contact nnjcf@nnjcf.org or call 201-568-5608.



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