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Historic Naval Ships conference brings leaders from nation, Australia to Camden

CAMDEN — The visitors were enthralled as they toured five decks inside one of the three largest gun turrets on the now-retired Battleship New Jersey.

They could load dummy powder bags into elevators, turn levers and push buttons as they simulated raising projectile ammunition — almost as tall as a man — to the top of the turret for loading. Later, they squeezed a trigger below deck to simulate the firing of three 50-caliber topside guns, whose long barrels loom over the main deck.

These visitors to the Turret II Experience tour last week were not just any tourists, however. They were leaders of historic naval ship museums from around the U.S. and Australia who came to the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial on the Camden Waterfront as part of a four-day Historic Naval Ships Association conference.

“I think the visitor access to the interior of this ship stands out and as far as the Turret II Experience, none of the other museums have it and we all kind of envy it,” said Mike Weidenbach, curator of the USS Missouri, an Iowa-class sister ship of the New Jersey in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“Businesswise, we are doing well and this year we had our 5 millionth visitor. Because of the weather, we’re open year-round,” Weidenbach said of the Missouri — the ship aboard which the Japanese surrendered to Allied Forces to end World War II.

The New Jersey museum co-hosted the convention with Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum, where the Spanish-American War cruiser Olympia and submarine Becuna are moored as museums.

Nearly 75 members attended from the association, which represents 125 museums worldwide with 185 ships.

The World War II aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City and the postwar carrier Midway in San Diego are the most successful museum ships in the U.S.

The Midway is the most visited ship in the world. It has a wing of 29 planes and receives many foreign visitors, as the most successful ships usually do.

The sailing ship Cutty Sark in Greenwich, England, is the most successful in the world, according to HNSA members.

“Both the Intrepid and Midway are destinations — the Intrepid attracting New York City tourists and the Midway in a great weather location all year and near an active naval base,” said Jeffrey Nilsson, HNSA executive director.

But there is more to success than just location, he said.

“One of the key factors is to have strong business and marketing plans, to stick with it and to actively generate funds,” Nilsson said. “You don’t just open and people come.”

The Midway, for example, always gets exposure during nationally televised San Diego Chargers football games when cameras pan the city.

The Olympia, flagship of Commodore George Dewey, is one of the ships treading water because the seaport museum cannot afford to keep it, despite spending $5 million on repairs.

Groups in San Francisco and South Royal, S.C., are vying for the deteriorating steel-hulled ship, but the Navy will decide where it goes.

“Right now we are trying to save the Olympia,” Nilsson said.

“It hasn’t been pulled out of the water (for hull repair) in 65 years, so you can imagine the rusting problems.”

Mac McLaughlin, a retired Navy admiral and president of the Midway museum, said he has a $20 million budget and a staff of 230 full- and part-time workers, plus 700 active volunteers.

“It’s our location, a supportive Navy town and great volunteers that make it successful,” he said.

The smaller battleship North Carolina, in Wilmington, N.C., also is quite successful.

The North Carolina’s executive officer, Terry Bragg, credited its success to operation of the museum as a business and it being the most historically accurate World War II ship. The museum attracts approximately 210,000 paid admissions a year but more than 300,000 visitors total when sponsored events are included.

Nilsson said the New Jersey is “doing the best humanly possible” in a difficult economy, offers excellent services and has good marketing and business plans.

The museum has pared its staff by more than 50 percent and cut its budget in half in recent years. Partial aid was restored by the state Legislature this year, but the museum is working to implement a plan to become self-sufficient in a few more years.

Last week marked the first time the New Jersey — the most militarily decorated Navy battleship with a combined 19 campaign stars in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Beirut Crisis and in the Persian Gulf — hosted the ship museums conference.

“The whole idea is to network with other ship museums to help solve problems and to learn from one another,” said the New Jersey’s curator, Jason Hall.

Philly.com Reports: Enjoying Camden's waterfront

Perceptions of Camden are sometimes worse than the realities. But perceptions can shift, say organizers of Saturday's Fall Festival at the Camden Children's Garden. "Come see our waterfront, our magical Children's Garden...and all the great things doing on in our city," says Andrew Adams, public relations coordinator with the District Council Collaborative Board, which builds relationships between law enforcement and the community. The DCCB is hosting the  "pay what you wish" event from 1 to 4 PM as part of its campaign to boost the quality of life for local children. The festivities will include free entertainment, arts, crafts, and other activities. "Having positive activities in the community sends a strong message," Adams says. "We want people to know that there are great things happening here...public safety has improved, and I think this event helps exemplify that."   --KEVIN RIORDAN
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-blinq/Enjoying-Camdens-waterfront--.html#EcKF45VSZFTAwf3w.99

Camden's Art Crawl is a must-see

Having an art crawl in the city at first sounds like a living oxymoron — fostering an arts community in a city plagued with problems that overshadow its possibilities does not seem promising.

The Butlers — Ronja and William — knew that when they lifted the plan from other cities with art walks and put on the first 3rd Thursday Art Crawl in February of 2012.

But they were determined that the crawl would take off in Camden.

“The whole idea of that is starting to change,” explains Ronja. “That there are more artists from outside the city, that artists are coming here with their time and talents.”

Teaming up with Rutgers-Camden, local businesses, artists, and Cooper’s  Ferry Partnership, the Butlers — he’s a painter, she’s a lawyer, both originally from Iowa, who came to Camden with a goal of transforming the city on a grass-roots level — are the core of the crawl.

The couple runs a studio and gallery, eleven one, out of a repurposed fire house at 339 N. Front Street in the Cooper Grant neighborhood that adjoins Rutgers.

And while the gallery is the center of crawl activities, there are typically about a dozen other venues participating, sometimes including pop-up art installations in various locations that vary by the month.

For instance, come to the Sept. 19th crawl and you’ll find an exhibit by Drexel University titled “Witness to Hunger.

Women around Camden, equipped with digital cameras, recorded a day-in-the-life of hunger in the city. Oversized 16 by 20 prints are the center of the show, according to William Butler.

And Rutgers’ Stedman Gallery, which was closed for renovations over the summer, should be re-opened for September and providing space for the crawl.

The following month on Oct. 17, Design Philadelphia, a Center for Architecture event, will feature Butler in a live painting event at his studio. His live art has a pop-art meets graphics look and often champions a cause.

The Butlers are hoping to add more performers and artists, including finding performance space for the Sophisticated Sisters drill team.

The crawls usually blend beverages, food, poetry, music and the visual arts, but the exact line-up varies.

Accompanied by a photographer with an artist’s eye, I made the rounds during the August crawl.

Based on relentless reporting, I can tell you: The event was a blast; several art models were on the crawl; the food from Friends Restaurant — Korean dumplings — were terrific; the people we met were as interesting as the art; Camden has more art than meets the eye; and I’ll be back.

We started early in the evening — the crawl runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. — and a steady trickle wandered into the Butler’s gallery, among them tourists from Eastern Europe and a group of first year medical students from Rowan University’s new medical school.

“My aunt is friends with the artist,” explained Fran Koturic, 21, a Croation visiting Camden for the first time in his life. “I like it very much.”

Margaret De Oliveria, a med student from Berkeley Heights, who discovered the crawl after running into William Butler while playing pick-up soccer at Ruger’s sports fields, pronounced the event “awesome.”

While not a big art fan, De Oliveria came to the med school in order to be involved in the city. De Oliveria said she thinks she and other students will be back for future crawls.

As the crowds were building, we were off the Victor Lofts, the rehabbed building where RCA once made radios now transformed into loft apartments.

Inside, we found Chris Maier, a self-described cocktail pianist and retired teacher, making music enjoyed by H. John Henry and his wife, Helen as a statue of Nipper, the iconic RCA dog, sat mutely. Henry is the definition of the description “character” and proved an interesting and informative interlude on the tour with his account of Camden past and projections for the future.

While the Victor Pub is listed on the tour, there really was not any sort of event there in August, though it would have been a good stop for a bite or a beverage.

Likewise, Cooper River Distillers, an artisanal alcohol maker awaiting city approval to open, was on the tour list, but owner James Yoacum was not open. However, he plans to be open for the September crawl.

 

The Filbert Studio was the most surprising and wonderful stop — and not just because of the models who’d stopped for a visit. I’d never heard of studio before the crawl.

The 305 Benson Street structure, built of steel beams, with a pressed tin ceiling, began life as a union meeting hall with a huge open space inside where Jeff Filbert creates paintings, sculptures, ceramics and silkscreens and conducts a ceramic school.

The Barrington resident, who has fought off the city’s attempts at eminent domain, said the space he’s owned for about 20 years has also been an Italian restaurant and a church before being vacant for a long period.

Filbert, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was offering just box wine and pretzel rods, but his art, especially his portrait paintings — and his building — were the draw that made the out-of-the-way trip to his studio worth the trek.

And then, of course, there were also the models: Lani Pappas, an educator, artist and part-time model from Pennsauken, and Irene Reinke, a dancer-turned-model from Philadelphia. Mixing with the inspiration for art adds another dimension to the crawl.

See you on Sept. 19. I’ll bring appetizers to the Filbert Studio.

The Filbert Studio was the most surprising and wonderful stop — and not just because of the models who’d stopped for a visit. I’d never heard of studio before the crawl.

The 305 Benson Street structure, built of steel beams, with a pressed tin ceiling, began life as a union meeting hall with a huge open space inside where Jeff Filbert creates paintings, sculptures, ceramics and silkscreens and conducts a ceramic school.

The Barrington resident, who has fought off the city’s attempts at eminent domain, said the space he’s owned for about 20 years has also been an Italian restaurant and a church before being vacant for a long period.

Filbert, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was offering just box wine and pretzel rods, but his art, especially his portrait paintings — and his building — were the draw that made the out-of-the-way trip to his studio worth the trek.

And then, of course, there were also the models: Lani Pappas, an educator, artist and part-time model from Pennsauken, and Irene Reinke, a dancer-turned-model from Philadelphia. Mixing with the inspiration for art adds another dimension to the crawl.

See you on Sept. 19. I’ll bring appetizers to the Filbert Studio.

The Filbert Studio was the most surprising and wonderful stop — and not just because of the models who’d stopped for a visit. I’d never heard of studio before the crawl.

The 305 Benson Street structure, built of steel beams, with a pressed tin ceiling, began life as a union meeting hall with a huge open space inside where Jeff Filbert creates paintings, sculptures, ceramics and silkscreens and conducts a ceramic school.

The Barrington resident, who has fought off the city’s attempts at eminent domain, said the space he’s owned for about 20 years has also been an Italian restaurant and a church before being vacant for a long period.

Filbert, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was offering just box wine and pretzel rods, but his art, especially his portrait paintings — and his building — were the draw that made the out-of-the-way trip to his studio worth the trek.

And then, of course, there were also the models: Lani Pappas, an educator, artist and part-time model from Pennsauken, and Irene Reinke, a dancer-turned-model from Philadelphia. Mixing with the inspiration for art adds another dimension to the crawl.

See you on Sept. 19. I’ll bring appetizers to the Filbert Studio.

The Filbert Studio was the most surprising and wonderful stop — and not just because of the models who’d stopped for a visit. I’d never heard of studio before the crawl.

The 305 Benson Street structure, built of steel beams, with a pressed tin ceiling, began life as a union meeting hall with a huge open space inside where Jeff Filbert creates paintings, sculptures, ceramics and silkscreens and conducts a ceramic school.

The Barrington resident, who has fought off the city’s attempts at eminent domain, said the space he’s owned for about 20 years has also been an Italian restaurant and a church before being vacant for a long period.

Filbert, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was offering just box wine and pretzel rods, but his art, especially his portrait paintings — and his building — were the draw that made the out-of-the-way trip to his studio worth the trek.

And then, of course, there were also the models: Lani Pappas, an educator, artist and part-time model from Pennsauken, and Irene Reinke, a dancer-turned-model from Philadelphia. Mixing with the inspiration for art adds another dimension to the crawl.

See you on Sept. 19. I’ll bring appetizers to the Filbert Studio.



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