Rutgers students “paint the town” of Seaside Heights, NJ, for Mumford & Sons

The borough of Seaside Heights in Ocean County, New Jersey, is undergoing an extreme makeover for a hot date: For the past month, college and high school students, including volunteers from the Mason Gross School’s Visual Arts Department, have been dressing up the boardwalk, storefronts, and sidewalks for the arrival of the English folk-rock band Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Festival. The festival comes to Seaside Heights June 5 and 6, 2015, and features such bands as Alabama Shakes, Jenny Lewis, and The Flaming Lips. Mumford & Sons is set to take the stage at 8:15 p.m. June 6.

     Shiza Chaudhary paints a recycled boat sail. Credit: Jazmin Pellecer.

The band has said that the Stopover Festivals are about more than music, calling the performances a “celebration of a town.”

If any town needs celebrating right about now, it’s Seaside Heights.

Rutgers students have led several art initiatives, decorating restaurants and bars, stenciling sidewalks and garbage bins. Project student coordinator Pooja Kolluri of Rutgers says that all materials, with the exception of the paint and paper, have been recycled from objects that were destroyed when Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012. Sandy destroyed Seaside’s boardwalk and flooded shops, businesses, and homes. A year later, a fire destroyed portions of the newly rebuilt boardwalk. Some businesses still have not recovered.

Mason Gross design student Lisett Clark says that the artists have been given “100 percent creativity” within the given theme of Mumford & Sons.

Clark oversaw decorating the borough’s Hemingway’s Café and Captain Hooks Bar. Clark, with Rutgers student Linda Hong and Mason Gross Visual Arts students Jackson Manaye and Taylor Narsavage, created cut-outs, paintings, and drawings depicting Gentlemen of the Road iconography–a bearded man with goggles atop his head, his female counterpart, and a winged logo with the tour name emblazoned on the top and bottom. The original cut-outs, paintings, and drawings will be displayed at Hemingway’s, while photos of those pieces set up at iconic Seaside spots (the boardwalk, the beach) will hang in Captain Hooks.
Manaye (L), Payton Mianulli, and Clark (R) brainstorm. Credit: Jazmin Pellecer.    

Mason Gross painting student Shiza Chaudhary oversaw painting six sails from boats destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The sails will be placed on the front of a steel building frame on Ocean Boulevard. According to, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy the developer abandoned the structure, slated to become a large nightclub. The sails, painted with the iconography of Mumford & Sons and the other festival bands, will welcome the musicians and, it is hoped, transform the unfinished structure into a more festive site.

“I really developed myself as a leader,” Chaudhary says of the experience as a project head. “I never had the opportunity to lead people and tell them what to do. I really had to be solid with communications and develop myself in a really rapid way. . .  We’re counting on each other to get the thing done.”

Mason Gross photographer Jazmin Pellecer has filmed the process for a planned documentary. She says the experience has inspired her.

“Just being creative all day–I come home and I’m like: ‘I want to write a song,’ ” Pellecer says. “You want to keep the [creative] momentum going.”
       The painted sails on the abandoned steel structure. Credit: Jazmin Pellecer.

The volunteers agree that the project is about giving Seaside some love.

 “People associate [Seaside] with the [Jersey Shore] show,” Clark says. “It deserves an opportunity to have its time in the spotlight in a more positive way.”

“It takes me one hour to get here, and I’m not gaining monetary rewards,” Clark adds. “But I’m loving every minute of it.”


Participating Rutgers students include Christian Carew, Shiza Chaudhary, Lisett Clark, Linda Hong, Kris Khunachak, Pooja Kolluri, Courtney Lasek, Jackson Manaye, Nyasha Medina, Taylor Narsavage, Hirah Park, Jazmin Pellecer, Tara Savage, and Min Wang.

Posted June 2015