SOMERVILLE, NJ – Roseann Woods Brown, Chief of Staff to state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman and former Somerset County deputy clerk, will try her hand at mixing drinks behind the bar at Verve Restaurant, Bar & Bistro Wednesday night to help raise money for a mural project in downtown Somerville, a three-story artistic tribute to her late son, Raymond.
The guest mixologist will work between 6-10 p.m. behind the well-burnished 12-stool bar, which dates to Prohibition and where the first legal drink to be served in Somerville signaling the end of Prohibition was served in what was formerly known as the Court Tavern, according to Verve owner Rick St. Pierre.
The signature drink for the evening wil be “Mural, Mural on the Wall,” concocted by Verve’s Nick Regimbal; the main ingredient is Bulleit bourbon, which was Brown’s whiskey of choice, according to his mother.
Brown will have a few celebrity bartenders helping her: former New York Giants running back Otis Anderson and Steven Baker “The Touchdown Maker.” She also expects her boss, the state senator, to slide in behind the bar to mix drinks.
All tips will be donated to expenses associated with the mural project.
“I’m really looking forward to this, we’ve gotten some checks from people already who can’t come Wednesday night, so we’ve already raised a couple of hundred dollars even before we start,” Brown said.
Brown’s father, retired Somerset County Parks Director Raymond A. Brown, will be on hand to lend support to his wife.
Raymond W. Brown was working on a giant mural in October, 2016 on the side of a high-rise building in Hollywood, Fla. when the scaffolding collapsed, with Brown and two others falling 40 feet. Brown perished; the other two survived, including Douglas Hoekzema, his good friend and a prolific artist whose murals have been created on the sides of buildings throughout the world.
Brown, 32 when he died, was well-known in the Miami-area arts community and in addition to his art, was a gifted guitarist who performed at several venues in southern Florida.
Brown was born in Somerville and was a graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan High School. He was honored by the Somerset Patriots during the 2017 season; players wore a patch on their sleeves in memory of Brown, who had been a batboy for the team.
Hoekzema plans to come to Somerville in mid-October with Bhakti Baxter and other artist friends of Brown to paint the mural on the three-story brick facade of the Redelico Paint and Decorating Center building alongside the Reformed Church at 118 West Main St.
On Tuesday, The Reformed Church granted approval for the artists to work on its property alongside ReDelico’s, which faces the church.
Earlier this month the Borough Council approved an ordinance that will permit qualified artists to paint murals on the brick facades of buildings in the downtown retail district along Main Street.
The ordinance spells out the application and review process, and designates Arts on Division, a non-profit organization that oversees art and cultural events in the downtown district, as the agency that will oversee the review and approval process. AOD, headed by St. Pierre, is a non-profit 501C3 corporation, and is sponsor of the Brown mural project.
AOD must review and approve the project and pass the application to the Borough Council for final approval. St. Pierre expects the work to begin the third week of October. Brown said her son’s friends should complete the project in two days.
A second mural project in memory of Jerome Gonzalez, a prolific artist and author who played a major role establishing the thriving arts community in Somerville, is awaiting the approval process.
He died at the age of 44 in February, 2018 competing in an endurance race in North Carolina.
Gonzalez, a talented graffiti artist who was equally adept working on canvas or paper, graduated Somerville High School in 1992.
His good friend, Shaun Daley, co-owner of the Gallery on Main at 30 West Main St., is coordinating the project with partner Michelle Kassick, with a GoFundMe page established to raise funds. The mural will be painted on the stucco facade of a building near Daley's gallery, alongside a walkway that leads to a municipal parking lot behind the Main Street buildings. One of the artists working on the project, Alejandro Medina, created a poster of Gonzalez which is being sold at the gallery, with all proceeds donated to the project.