Big as a house, artist's mural is an expression of community

Trenton-based artist Bentrice Jusu has an objective.

"My goal is to simply replace guns with cameras. Shoot a camera. Don't shoot a gun."

She was speaking on Saturday at the unveiling of her stunning new mural, which covers the entire side of a house in the city's east ward.

The artist's words were particularly compelling since only six days earlier, gunfire blasted through a celebrated community event, Art All Night Trenton leaving one person dead and 22 injured.

"More than anything," says Jusu, "I want the youth to be involved in the storytelling of their communities. I want them to take ownership, and to creatively change the community in which they were raised, that they love."

To create the imposing work of art, Jusu worked with a group of East Trenton teenagers, who were charged with photographing what they love about their neighborhood.

The multimedia design includes photographs taken by two of the teens, Kiyah Johnson and Sarai Martin, as well as photographs contributed by East Trenton residents, historical images, and photographs Jusu took of the process.

At the unveiling, Diane Sterner of New Jersey Community Capital and part of the East Trenton Collaborative called the mural "A real work of art and a destination for people to come and see in this community."

Gloria Scott, the owner of the house on which the mural is displayed, spoke about her deceased daughter Rhonda, who is pictured prominently, arms folded, smiling.

"Everyplace she went she'd holler 'East Trenton for life!' I'm so proud to have my daughter up here on the wall."

On the installation, Jusu collaborated with local printers Blue Ink Studio to print the 44-foot-by-33-foot design, using eco-solvent ink, on vinyl strips, heat-sealing them inch by inch, to the prepared wall - the first time this technique has been used for a mural in Trenton.

Before inviting those in attendance to "eat some of this good food," the artist closed her remarks saying "All it takes is a vision. All it takes is being an example, a positive example for young people and we can transform this city."

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