SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - On Saturday, June 17, the storefront windows of the former Blockbuster store on South Orange Avenue were filled with photos, displaying portraits of the residents of South Orange. This photography project, "Everybody Belongs Here," is a co-production between the SouthNext Festival and the South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA).

As South Orange Village Trustee Stephen Schnall explained, "South Orange strives to be a community where everybody belongs; we celebrate individuality, and we value inclusion. Now, it’s time to celebrate how our gift of diversity makes our community whole."

In addition to the windows of the former Blockbuster store, other windows will also be included in the art project. Organizers explained that the intention of the project is so that "as viewers pass by, they watch as one portrait becomes another, and then another. Each unique picture will illustrate our locations, our businesses, our past, and our future. Taken together, the individuals will become the collective. This simple display will capture the incredible depth and breadth of the community in which we live."

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Matt Glass, Chair of the SOVCA , shared that the project came about after a discussion at the most recent SOVCA Board meeting, when they were discussing the diversity of the residents of South Orange, and how important it was for everyone to feel comfortable in South Orange. This conversation led to the creation of the “Everybody Belongs Here," campaign, one of two initiatives this year from the SOVCA - the other is promoting South Orange as the Live Music Capital of North Jersey (more about that here).

Schnall said that the "Everyone Belongs Here" campaign adds celebrating individuality to SouthNext's mission to create "creative collisions and multiple perspectives." Schnall said he hopes the campaign highlights that South Orange is a welcoming community where everybody belongs, and not somewhere where "everyone assimilates and blends in."

In addition to highlighting the diversity of South Orange, organizers hope the exhibit will bring the community closer together as passerby view and reflect on the photographs.

Schnall also added that project organizers are grateful for the support from their sponsors, which include SouthNext, SOVCA, and the lead sponsor, RWJ Barnabas Health.

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