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Atlantic City unveils new mural depicting Martin Luther King Jr. on a New Jersey beach | Pro Club Bd

A three-story mural featuring historic photos debuted in Atlantic City this month.

The shots include one of a young Muhammad Ali and another of Martin Luther King Jr. in a linen shirt and shorts on nearby Chicken Bone Beach. A third is by Fannie Lou Hamer, who shot to national attention during the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. She is known for leading the Mississippi Freedom Party’s efforts to raise awareness of the vicious racism in the South that was taking black lives.

All photos are from Atlantic City in the 1960s. This mural and another were completed to mark the return of the NAACP National Assembly this month. A collaboration between Stockton University, which has a satellite campus here, and local public art advocates made it possible.

“One of the biggest things is redesigning the space,” said Zach Katzen, owner of Create 48 and co-owner of Union Hall Arts, a community group both of whom participated in the project. “When it goes up like that, it’s so unexpected. It’s like someone turned on a lightbulb in a dark room. You see opportunities. You can start to feel connections, especially when you feel that you are reflected in this public art.”

Katzen’s group’s title, Create 48, is inspired by Atlantic City’s 48 blocks. He has lived here intermittently for decades, working as an organizer promoting public arts and community empowerment.

A mural by artist BK Foxx depicts Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer while they were in Atlantic City. | Susan Allen/University of Stockton

“We want people to feel seen, respected and valued, and if we can do that in a small way through public art, it opens up the discussion of how we can do that in a bigger way,” Katzen said. “We can address so many other issues by starting the conversation with art.”

Katzen is not an artist, but his galleries Create 48 and Union Hall Arts help artists realize their visions. Stockton University officials also wanted to help. The Noyes Museum of Art in Stockton on its Atlantic City campus and the College of Arts and Humanities paid $23,000 for the two murals, both of which are on private property with the owners’ consent, said Michael Cagno, the museum’s director.

The project was launched earlier this year when Katzen and other community leaders attended Stockton’s African American Heritage Short Course. There he connected with local historian Lester Muhammad, who knew Ali and provided the photo for the mural. And since Stockton had honored Hamer by naming an event space on its campus after her, Katzen felt her photo would make the perfect final piece, the school said in a statement.

The other mural features paintings by Juanita High, founding director of the NJ Equal Opportunity Fund and board member of the Stockton University Foundation; Dorothie Dorrington, educator and past president of the Atlantic City Board of Education; Vera King Farris, former president of Stockton, and Hannah Pierce Lowe, former principal of Indiana Avenue Vocational School (for girls of color) in Atlantic City, said a school statement.

Stockton, AC Mural

Stockton students are helping paint a mural on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Atlantic City this month. | Susan Allen/University of Stockton

Several Stockton art students helped put the finishing touches on the mural, which was painted on a canvas and mounted on a wall on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Alexandria Montalvo, an art historian and studio artist at Mays Landing. “Well, it’s really cool that I can say to people, ‘See, I helped with that.'”

This mural was created by non-student Brigantine artists Charles Barbin and Randi Meekins. The photo mural was created by non-student New York artists BK Foxx and Claudio Picasso, and was installed entirely with spray paint on a wall at the corner of Providence and Atlantic Avenues near Stockton’s satellite campus. Stockton’s main campus is located in Galloway, Atlantic County.

“These murals are a reminder to the people of this community that they come from a place full of grandeur, history and tradition,” Katzen said. “A place so much bigger and broader than you might realize. Amazing things have happened here and they will happen again.”

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Bill Duhart can be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com.

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