The Art of Science: Brandon Ballengée

The Art of Science: Brandon Ballengée

By Mae Kellert

Brandon Ballengée is proving just how powerful a combination science and art can be, with fine art focusing on a world with which he is uniquely familiar – a world of amphibians, fish, birds, and all manner of flora and fauna. Working with photography, sculpture, and “installation art,” he creates work that is curious, beautiful, and openly seeks to engage viewers with nature.

Brandon Ballengée

Brandon Ballengée

Brandon holds his PH.D in Transdisciplinary Art and Biology from Plymouth University and Zürich University of the Arts and Applied Sciences, and he is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Louisiana State University, with a focus on the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Additionally, his fine art, which directly draws from his ecological research, has gained him a 2015 NYFA Fellowship, several grants, and solo exhibitions and installation opportunities around the world.

Love Motel for Insects

Love Motel for Insects

Art in particular has a way of reaching the masses – and in environmental activism, any way of engaging the public with themes of ecology wields a pivotal power. Love Motel for Insects, Ballengée’s installation currently on view at 1000 Atlantic Avenue in Camden, is a particularly poignant example of this. This outdoor installation is presented by the Rowan University Art Gallery in partnership with Freedom Prep Charter School and Virtua Camden. Visually arresting, Love Motel for Insects is created out of canvas and emit ultraviolet light in the evening. This special lighting attracts nocturnal arthropods – allowing us to see these beautiful, mysterious creatures up close. This interaction – this showcasing of insects belonging only to the nighttime world – generates interest and, importantly, compassion in its audience. Brandon Ballengée’s installations have been constructed all around the world, allowing countless audiences the opportunity to appreciate a part of their ecosystem that they don’t often see.

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In fact, Brandon Ballengée goes further with this in his Eco-Actions project: he offers workshops and field trips to students and the general public, where he encourages a deeper understanding of science and nature. An avid supporter of the concept of “citizen scientists,” Brandon feels that education and engagement is key. As he puts it, “We can’t save organisms that know nothing about.”



State of the Arts featured Sea of Vulnerability, Ballengée’s exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery, in a premiere episode, which can be seen online here. This stunning exhibit includes Collapse, pictured above, which consists of specimens collected from the Gulf of Mexico and meticulously arranged into a striking pyramid of glass jars. While the exhibition ends November 4, you can see the Love Motel for Insects installation in Camden until March 2018. This is truly a great opportunity to share and instill a love for art and science with your family and friends.

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For more reading and links to Brandon Ballengée’s art projects and scientific writings, see his website.

Two 2017 Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards go to State of the Arts and PCK Media!


Photo by Helen M. Stummer

Quinzel, Cornelius, and Hasan, 1998

Arts/Entertainment – Program Feature/Segment

The State of the Arts story “Risking Life and Lens: Helen M. Stummer” has been honored in the “Arts & Entertainment” category. A photographer who spent over 30 years documenting neighborhoods in Newark, Helen M. Stummer has a new memoir, Risking Life and Lens. Meet the Metuchen photographer and see her work in our Emmy-winning story. You can also read more about her on our blog. Congratulations on their Emmy win to producer Susan Wallner and director of photography Joe Conlon!


Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Writer – Program

The PCK Media-produced documentary Anne Morrow Lindbergh: You’ll Have the Sky has received an Emmy in the “Writer” category! A national PBS release, this film got its start with a 2015 episode of State of the Arts featuring a Morven Museum & Garden exhibition about the famous aviator couple, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The film explores Anne’s writing and the highs and lows of her life as half of America’s first celebrity couple. Congratulations to State of the Arts producer Susan Wallner for the honor!

World War 1: A Centennial

August 2017 – By Mae Kellert

Soldiers at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, New Jersey, 1919  It was one of New Jersey’s most important contributions to World War I. Now known as Fort Dix, Camp Dix served as one of the key training grounds for American soldiers. It also received troops when they returned from France. Located near Wrightstown, Burlington County, the camp was named for the Civil War general John Adams Dix. This photo was taken after the Armistice, when Camp Dix served as a muster-out location for soldiers returning from war. Collection of the National Archives

Soldiers at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, NJ, 1919 Collection of the National Archives

2017 marks 100 years since the United States entered World War I, and New Jersey’s arts communities are honoring the centennial in events across the state.

In a premiere episode airing 9/24, State of the Arts featured a reading at Fort Dix of the Cape May East Lynne Theater Company’s A Year in the Trenches, based off of texts including a memoir by the New Jersey native soldier Charles Edward Dilkes. Written by James Rana and directed by Gayle Stahlhuth, the play explores the stories of several Americans – all from New Jersey – in wartime Europe one hundred years ago, including Sgt. Dilkes, pilot Kenneth Russell Unger, and notable writer Joyce Kilmer, as well as two women –  Amabel Scharff Roberts, the first nurse to die in the war, and Grace Banker, who led the Hello Girls, a group of women telephone operators serving the US Army. Fort Dix was a particularly poignant setting for this reading, as the space served as a training camp for units in World War I, and the Fort, situated near our state’s capital, is still an active military post today. You can see this play performed on select dates from September 20 – October 14 in Cape May. See here for schedules, information, and tickets.

Americans All  1919 Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952) Offset Lithograph In her right hand, Lady Liberty clutches an American flag. With her left, she hangs a laurel wreath above a list of names. The wreath is a classical symbol of victory. The gold star tells us that the soldiers on the Honor Roll are no longer alive. They have given the last full measure of devotion. Casualties of war. Only one of the fourteen names suggests Anglo-Saxon origin. Then, as now, the United States was a nation of immigrants. This poster acknowledges the immigrant contribution to the war effort. Seven million copies were distributed through the nation’s foreign-language press.  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Price FA1975.51.52

Americans All 1919 Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952) Offset Lithograph – This poster acknowledges the immigrant contribution to the war effort. Seven million copies were distributed through the nation’s foreign-language press. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Price FA1975.51.52

Also in September, Embattled Emblems, an exhibition of rarely-seen posters and flags used to instill patriotism and raise funds for the war effort, opened 9/16 at the State Museum in Trenton. In seeing this exhibition, viewers can discover firsthand how art and design has historically played a role in the public’s perception of politics and current events.

The State Museum will host another exhibition to highlight this historical anniversary. Shifting Views: Artists who experienced World War I opened 10/4 and collects works by artists from either side of the war. German, Austrian, British, and American artists will be represented in the show, offering a well-rounded look at how every nation is affected by conflict as well as a direct comparison of how these artists’ experiences played roles in their art-making.

You can find more information and events listed at the WWI Centennial Commission, whose New Jersey partners include the NJ Historical Commission, the NJ Historic Preservation Office, the State Museum, the State Archives, Rutgers University, and the NJ National Guard Militia Museum. Look for “Over Here: Newark in World War I, 1917-1918” at the Newark Public Library, and “Songs the Rallied the Homefront” at the Hoboken Historical Museum among other events! 

World War I was an intense part of our history, and New Jersey’s arts organizations are making sure to honor and respect those who experienced the war in the most pivotal possible way: by bringing those memories and lessons to current generations.

Theater for Everyone

June 6, 2017 – By Mae Kellert

Theater is a joy that should be accessible to all – and Paper Mill Playhouse is actively incorporating programs to ensure that this is a reality. On an upcoming episode of State of the Arts, learn about the theater’s Autism-Friendly performances, including one of the award-winning play Mary Poppins. These shows offer a sensory-friendly experience for those on the autism spectrum, taking lighting and sound into consideration. Our upcoming episode will also feature Leslie Fanelli’s creative drama class Theater for Everyone, highlighted in the video below. Her National Endowment for the Arts-funded classes are held weekly and focus on accessibility for her students and their families. Recently, Congressman Leonard Lance visited a class to see how children with developmental disabilities are engaging with theater through these gatherings. The Playhouse also offers other services, including Audio Description and an Assistive Listening System, to ensure that Theater truly is for Everyone.

All over New Jersey, our visual and performing arts communities are coming together to achieve inclusiveness and accessibility – a prime example of this is the Cultural Access Network Project, a collaboration between the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. In its ninth annual Excellence in Cultural Access Awards on June 22, the project will be celebrating the great achievements made by New Jersey’s arts programs in ensuring that senior citizens and people with disabilities are actively included and able to participate in events and artistic spaces around the state.

My neighbor the renowned painter Mel Leipzig

January 28, 2011 – By Eric Schultz

Mel is a renowned realist painter. His works can be found at the Whitney Museum in New York, the White House and in private collections around the world.

Mel Leipzig Painting Michael Graves

Mel Leipzig Painting Michael Graves

He is also my neighbor in the Glen Afton section of Trenton.

I don’t usually appear in the programs I produce. I am much happier behind the camera. But, in this case, I just had to make an exception.

After filming a number of interviews, gallery openings and sittings with Mel painting friends, fellow artists and famous architects, Mel decided he wanted to paint me playing my cello. It seems he would hear me through the upstairs window practicing when he walked his dog.

Let’s face it, an invitation to be painted by a famous artist is flattering and completely irresistible.

Shortly before I was to be painted, I met my old friend and cello player Lynne Beiler at Fred Oster’s rare violin shop in Philadelphia. We were trying out cellos and Fred brought out the cello that Thomas Eakins had painted in 1896. I had seen the painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art many times.

Knowing that Mel revered Thomas Eakins, one of America’s most famous 19th Century painters, we borrowed the cello for my sitting.  Mel was blown away.

Producer Eric Schultz painted by Mel Leipzig

Producer Eric Schultz painted by Mel Leipzig

"The Cellist" by Thomas Eakins, 1896

“The Cellist” by Thomas Eakins, 1896

Director of Photography and Narrator Aubrey Kauffman and his wife Michele painted by Mel Leipzig

Director of Photography and Narrator Aubrey Kauffman and his wife Michele painted by Mel Leipzig

Mel’s old friend of thirty years Aubrey J. Kauffman, my colleague here at NJN, served as director of photography and narrator for the documentary.  Mel painted Aubrey and his wife Michele a few years ago.

This project has been a 3-year labor of love for both Aubrey and me.

Viewers will not know about our connections to Mel, but we hope they sense the warmth and care with which we labored.

Photo by Helen M. Stummer

Risking Life and Lens

Helen M. Stummer is a photographer, a visual sociologist, and a woman who speaks her mind, lets you know her politics, and perseveres no matter what. She’s taken pictures of people in their environment in New York’s Lower East Side, rural Maine, and Guatemala. And she spent over 30 years in Newark’s Central Ward.  Her new memoir, Risking Life and Lens, tells the stories of her forays into poor and sometimes dangerous neighborhoods. Helen also tells the story of her own childhood. She describes it as emotionally impoverished although, outwardly, comfortably suburban.

The caption for the photograph above is Quinzel, Cornelius, and Hasan 1998. Helen always asks permission, and often gets to know the people she photographs.

Click here to view Benjamin Genocchio’s moving slideshow and review of Rest in Peace, an exhibition of Helen M. Stummer’s work held at Aljira in 2008. The review appeared in the New York Times.

Our story on Helen M. Stummer, Newark native, Kean University graduate, and Metuchen, New Jersey resident will air on the March 19, 2017 episode of State of the Arts. An exhibit of Helen’s photographs will be on display at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark from April 8 through June 24, 2017.

Helen M. Stummer, East 6th Street, NYC (1977-80)

Helen M. Stummer, East 6th Street, NYC (1977-81)


The Trenton Show

Think you know Trenton? Look again.
State of the Arts goes on location to explore the cultural life of the historic capital of New Jersey. Outdoor concerts, graffiti festivals, punk rock flea markets, cutting edge theater, destination restaurants, an amazing community of artists, and big plans for a new downtown arts district are making Trenton a center for cultural activity that is growing fast. Coming up in December on State of the Arts – and if you want to be invited to the special preview party in Trenton, make sure to subscribe to our e-news list!


Aviator, Writer, Feminist featured in new documentary

This picture of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh was taken in 1929 in New Mexico, where they had flown in to explore the cliff dwellings. They flew everywhere – landing in Japan, China, Stockholm, Maine, the Virgin Islands, and all along the coasts of Africa and South America. Anne was Charles’ co-pilot, as well as radio operator and navigator – she could plot their course through the skies by the stars. But she was first and foremost a writer. From a bookish family, she embraced the adventure of her life with Charles, writing about it in her letters, diaries, and best-selling books. Her style was lyrical, deeply influenced by poetry and the new, stream of consciousness modernists of the 1920s and ’30s, especially Virginia Woolf.  In September 2016, a new State of the Arts documentary about Anne Morrow Lindbergh will premiere. Until then, visit Morven Museum & Garden to see Couple of an Age: Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, featured in this State of the Arts story.

Randy James On Telling Stories Through Dance

We recently dropped in on rehearsal for the world premiere of the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the classic story, told through dance. Choreographer Randy James has created a modern interpretation of C. S. Lewis’s tale of children leaving World War Two-era England for the magical and mythic world of Narnia, which is accessible through a mysterious wardrobe in the country home of a relative. In Narnia, they meet many characters – from Aslan the lion to the evil White Witch. For this project, which James has been developing since 1998, he recruited beyond his all-male group 10 Hairy Legs. Dancer Monica Gonzalez (pictured below) plays the role of Lucy – the young hero of the story.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs this weekend at NJPAC.

Our segment on the project will air Sunday, 2/21.

An Essay by Nell Painter


Artist and historian Nell Painter wrote this essay to accompany
“I Might Be Next: Jerry Gant & Bryant Lebron,”
an exhibit at the Criminal Justice Gallery,
part of the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University- Newark

Watch the State of the Arts story here.


Wonderful things about being black abound, from the physical to the cultural to the social.

Blackness is beautiful in the body, the skin, the vigor that shows in muscle and sinew. (Let us

here praise Serena Williams.) Beauty in the music and the poetry and the art. (Let us here

praise 2Pac and Duke Ellington and Elizabeth Alexander and Kara Walker and Stanley Whitney.)

And the beautifully almost un‐American sense of solidarity.

I want to talk about solidarity, as Bryant Lebron depicts it, and solidarity as Jerry Gant depicts

the sadness when it is missed.

That sense of community—of solidarity, of being connected over time and space and even

clashingly different experiences—distinguishes Americans of African descent from the

mainstream loudly proclaiming its individualism, stony, self‐reliant individualism. But we who

have been so persistently lumped together, discriminated against, even beaten as embodiments

of a group, have long embraced our group identity. Solidarity has been our talisman, our key to

sanity within an insane system of racial denigration. Where would we be without our peers to

reassure us that we were not insane? How to survive as an isolated individual, when

individualism would condemn a single person to insanity. No, individualism does not serve us

when we are mistreated as part of a group. Solidarity has saved the sanity of most of us, even

though legions have fallen victim to racism’s insanity.


In these times, the weekly drumbeat of murder turns solidarity into an endlessly renewed grief,

as a person is killed as each week goes by. We may be personally safe. But our solidarity

connects us, week by week, to each murdered black person. “That could have been me,” we

feel, we say, each time another loses her or his life senselessly. This cruelty stretches back

farther than Bryant Lebron says. In my mid‐twentieth‐century generation, it was the vicious

torture‐murder‐drowning of Emmett Till in 1955. Then it was the three young men in Freedom

Summer of 1964. The Black Panther Party for Self‐Defense began in 1966 to combat anti‐black

police brutality. Each of the urban uprisings of the twentieth‐century began with the fact or

rumor of police brutality. In each instance, we mourn the victims in racial solidarity and in the

knowledge that it could have been me. It could have been me, walking down the street in a

hoodie with Skittles in my hand. It could have been me avoiding the overgrown sidewalk. It

could have been me in the dark stairway or in the street selling loose cigarettes. It even could

have been me inviting the stranger into our prayer meeting. It could have been me changing

lanes without signaling and smoking in my car. Yes. In solidarity, I know it could have been me.


 Nell Painter, Newark, New Jersey, July 2015