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Front Page August 17, 2006 

Mysteries of science and art bloom in Quark Park
Roosevelt artist's mural on display in Princeton throughout October
Staff Writer

Roosevelt resident Jim Hayden has just completed this mural, which will be installed in Princeton Borough's temporary Quark Park later this week.
Princeton area residents, including an artist in Roosevelt, have collaborated to make some of the most abstract art and hard-to-grasp scientific theories accessible to all in a project called Quark Park.

In particle physics, quarks are one of the two basic constituents of matter. One of their most important properties is that they cannot be seen because they are always confined inside subatomic particles.

Quark Park is a venue that gives visitors the rare opportunity to see the often elusive and quark-like mysteries of art and science unleashed, illuminated and celebrated.

Located in what was formerly a 150,000-square-foot vacant lot in Palmer Square on Robeson Place in Princeton Borough, Quark Park is a lush garden of sculptures and art installations that allow the public to explore the contributions of science.

Conceived, designed and organized by Kevin Wilkes, Peter Soderman and Alan Goodheart, the park is similar in concept to the their award-winning Writers' Block of 2004, according to the Quark Park Web site.

Instead of focusing on authors and literature as they did with Writers' Block, this time the creators used teams of scientists and engineers, as well as artists and landscape architects, to collaborate on a garden of delights.

Creative landscaping, which includes rows of corn, gardens and bamboo molds the natural labyrinth that twists and turns and leads visitors to various compartments that spotlight 12 different sciences.

More than a dozen high-profile artists and scientists worked on Quark Park, which is a project that represents Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, also of Princeton, and New Brunswick's Rutgers University along with private industry in the area. The scientists who worked on installations have been recognized for achievements in areas like genomics, neuroscience, plasma physics, robotics, astrophysics, materials science and earth science, according to the Quark Park Web site.

Among those represented in the garden are sculptor Nancy Cohen, who designed an installation in collaboration with Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and James Strum, a professor of engineering and applied science at the university. Their installation is based loosely on how the brain receives and processes smells, according to the Web site.

Bob Kuster, of Belle Mead Hot Glass in Belle Mead, is also represented. He created handblown bubbles for Quark Park, the Web site said.

U.S. Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) is also among those represented in the garden. He teamed up with Freeman Dyson, of the Institute for Advanced Study, and architect Alan Kehrt to create an installation about alternative and solar power, according to the Web site.

Roosevelt resident Jim Hayden, owner of The Eleanor Gallery in Roosevelt, also contributed to the project through his 6.5-foot-by-9-foot mural titled "Please Forgive Us, Uncle Albert." The mural is mostly acrylic paint on canvas, but also uses silver leafing and some collage.

Hayden has a compartment all his own in the labyrinth, as his mural ties together various themes in the garden, making a unique statement that emphasizes Albert Einstein's relationship to all the sciences, he said.

"When I was speaking with Peter Soderman about the project," Hayden said, "he mentioned that [it] would be a quiet memorial to Albert Einstein."

Knowing about Einstein and having learned that the scientist never really wished to be memorialized, Hayden said he came up with the idea to just faintly express Einstein's image in the midst of his mural.

"Albert Einstein is an omnipresent character at best," Hayden said. "People may not notice that he is there, but he's overlooking the whole canvas. He's being attentive, seeing everything that's going on in the mural."

Just as eclectic as the mix of people represented in Quark Park is the group of more than a dozen sciences represented in Hayden's mural. Genetics, geomorphology, neuroscience, geometry, psychoacoustics and astronomy are just some of the sciences an onlooker may be able to distinguish.

Hayden said he views his mural like it's the beginning of a book.

"Each image represents a unit in the leaves of the textbook," he said.

To create each image and the overall balance of the work, Hayden said he had to "open up a box of Technicolor crayons" and rely on the inspiration he gains from other artists he knows in Roosevelt.

"This town has an incredible history," he said. "It has the Ben Shahn mural, which is one of the greatest pieces of art in town in a public place.

"Then we have people like Ani Rosskam and Bill Leech, who have also done interesting murals," he added.

'To be in such great company," he said, "has a definite influence on the work that I do."

Hayden was selected to participate in the Quark Park project after Roosevelt residents Jolene Gallegos and Robert Mueller mentioned him to the park's creators.

"It was an honor to be involved and to have the people that referred me for the project to do so because their belief in me was already there," he said.

Hayden said that knowing the connection between Roosevelt and Einstein also helped him in his artistic endeavor. He said Einstein visited Roosevelt in the 1930s when it had just been created by the federal government as a cooperative community. According to local papers at that time, Einstein gave the utopian project his blessing.

The opportunity to draw from that connection and to create the mural, Hayden said, made him "extremely thrilled."

"I was excited about being involved with such a project," he said. "It was a great surprise, and I love a great challenge that will broaden my horizons."

Hayden said he also enjoyed the fact that the project was being created by a group of volunteers lending whatever they could to the project.

"To know that we had days of 100-degree weather and over four inches of rain during the time that the volunteers were getting this done," he said, "is a testament to the involvement of the people."

Hayden said it was a pleasure to watch the metamorphosis of the vacant lot into Quark Park. He watched as a few spray-painted circles on the ground transformed "into a living and extraordinary concerted effort by so many different and valuable talents," he said.

"I have visited the site three or four times," Hayden said, "and each time I've gone out, the corn rows grew higher.

"All of a sudden," he continued, "a 25-foot bamboo garden sprung up and a monolithic stone was put in place on of the pathways."

The overall aim of the project, according to Hayden, is to educate the public in a fun manner.

"If the labyrinth can educate the public as I educated myself throughout this project, then I think it will have achieved its goal," Hayden said.

Quark Park will be open to visitors throughout October.

"It's temporary, which makes it even more interesting because it's fleeting," Hayden said. "It's all an effort put into creation for the general public to enjoy, but people better enjoy [it] now before it's gone."

Hayden said that unfortunately, this will be the last kind of community project for the vacant lot.

Princeton's Palmer Square Management agreed to make its property available on a temporary basis for the remainder of 2006 - prior to the commencement of construction for its new residential project in the spring of 2007, according to Quark Park's Web site.

Although the creators of Writers' Block and Quark Park will no longer have the same space to work in, the creators hope to find another space to use for similar projects in the years to come, according to Hayden.

He said the creators also hope that Quark Park will inspire other communities to create interesting and educational projects in public places.

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