SOMERVILLE, NJ - A lengthy list of renowned restaurants and annual events like the prestigious Tour of Somerville and summertime’s Friday Night Classic Car Shows earn high marks from residents and visitors when they think about Downtown Somerville.
The coming together of two relatively new happenings, each less than 10 years old, however, on the weekend of September 15–18, is significant as it underscores the emerging social scene in Somerville in a brand new way.
A contemporary take on art, performance and entertainment, blended with the more traditional dining and retail, is redefining the downtown experience.
For the first time, Arts on Division, a three-day festival of arts, video and live performances, will overlap with the closing day of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival in Somerville on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 1-6 p.m. Friday starts the weekend with Jazz Festival performances in Flemington from 6-10 p.m. and New Brunswick on Saturday from 1-6 p.m.
Arts on Division, the charitable organization behind the festival of the same name, says its goal is to infuse the arts into life in downtown Somerville. A collaborative partnership between three county seats, Flemington, New Brunswick and Somerville, led by the Hunterdon County Rotary Clubs, the New Brunswick Jazz Project and the event originator, the Downtown Somerville Alliance (DSA), has created the largest music festival of its kind in the area in the three-day Central Jersey Jazz Festival.
Rick St. Pierre, the owner of Verve restaurant in downtown Somerville and a member of the Arts on Division, Central Jersey Jazz Festival and DSA boards, notes that the sponsoring organizations behind the events understand that the arts are a critical factor in keeping their respective cities active and vibrant.
Shaun Daley, who owns Gallery on Main along with Michelle Pankowski Mundt in the heart of downtown Somerville, says he has seen participation in and the popularity of the annual arts event grow significantly over the past few years.
The gallery is across the street from the Division Street pedestrian mall, where Arts on Division will be staged.
Gallery on Main will host an opening reception for Arts on Division on Thursday, Sept.ember 15 including a “Somerville Perspectives” exhibit featuring works of all kinds with Somerville as their inspiration.
Beth Anne Macdonald, the DSA’s executive director, adds that the integration of the arts and music into the local business community extends even further.
“Restaurants and coffee houses are featuring local musicians; the work of local artists and artisans are on display in downtown businesses and for sale at our shops and boutiques,” Macdonald points out. “Our businesses and restaurants attract customers who are very savvy and they aren’t looking for a cookie-cutter experience. They want the hand-crafted, one of a kind, original; whether that is a specialty cocktail, seasonal fashion or an entertainment experience.
"We have all of those offerings," she continued. Our new business owners and investors are attracted to the unique downtown Somerville experience and are making significant contributions to our town’s continued growth and prosperity. Everyone benefits.”