Posted by: Drew | April 10, 2008

Hip Hop Reconstruction – Charlee Swanson – Jersey City Native

Jersey City technically has a shore line…it’s MY blog, MY rules…

Multimedia artist Charlee Swanson was raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. He began drawing as a child, using the insides of flattened cereal boxes. “One of my early memories is of being thrown out of kindergarten for arguing with the teacher about how to draw an alligator.” Swanson has said.

Of particular meaning for Swanson is his work providing young people with venues in which to explore and express their creative potential. In all of these ages and stages, Swanson has used visual arts to express his own vision. His materials range from broken glass, barbed wire, steel, wood panels and now film, to found objects: the flotsam and jetsam of the modern industrial world. Social and political issues are at the heart of Swanson’s work.

Dancers and performers Crystal Dodson, Sandi Stock and Marques Johnson accompanied Swanson in attending the 6th Garden State Film Festival representing a performance art documentary Hip Hop Construction. It was filmed in 2005 at Montclair State University and was preformed by Dancers and students from MSU and the build Academy in Patterson NJ.

With the debut and his, first time at a film festival Swanson was enjoying the evening saying, “It’s a dream come true.” Swanson’s performers gave an impromptu “dance off” at the cocktail party to a large round of applause. Swanson’s real goal is “…to give positive messages to kids.” giving him a chance to give something back. While we idle away the hours at Jenkinnsons, Seaside or Wildwood all summer, we tend to forget that less than twenty miles away from Sandy Hook there are gangs and the troubled streets of urban New Jersey.

Dodson summed the documentary up best by saying, “It’s teaching kids how to be positive and not let the negative leak in.” Again a lesson being taught from a new generation and one we all can derive meaning from.

In closing I just spoke to Swanson today and he said the documentary had a fabulous turnout and that, “The Garden State Film Festival has been my best experience in the Arts.” It seems that Swanson made fast friends with The Sublets Georgina Nestor and Hold On’s Doug Olear. Building relationships on the beautiful Jersey Shore, who would have guessed?

It takes a special kind of person to acknowledge social problems and take the time to try to make a difference. Charlee Swanson doesn’t wear a cape or have a utility belt but he has a superhero’s heart and compassion to try and effect change in his community. There’s a legacy any Shore Town could be proud of.


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