‘In many ways, 1855 can be described as a watershed year for much of what we consider ‘American’ in our culture and educational system. It was the year of the publication of that most American of poems, the first version of Walk Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself,’ and of the second volumne of the autobiography of the great abolotionist, Frederick Douglass. It was the first year of the normal school movement in the state of New Jersey. Just three markers – but three iconic versions of Americanness," writes R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College of New Jersey, originally called Trenton Normal School, in an essay to accompany "circa 1855," an exhibit commemorating the college’s sesquecentennial, or 150th birthday. The exhibit opens with a reception on Wednesday, January 26, at 5 p.m.

The ambitious exhibit culls together works from around the world created in the mid-19th century, from a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and a gown worn to his inauguration to Daumier lithographs, Corot paintings, a wood engraving by Winslow Homer, British and Japanese porcelain, Japanese woodcuts, and etchings by Pissaro and Whistler, as well as furniture and toys.

"The visitor will find American realism in family portraits and a romantic touch in Abraham Lincoln; a sentiment for the land in a farm painting and a nostalgia for historic architecture in the subject of Notre Dame. The influence of the Japanese is both subtle and palpable in prints and works of porcelain. ‘Circa 1855’ is intended, at once, to suggest a panorama and to narrow one’s focus," says Lois Fichner-Rathus, curator of the exhibit and co-chair of the art department. The works come on loan from institutions including Montclair State Museum, Morris Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, Skidmore College Tang Museum, and Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers.

As the mid-19th century global news unfolded – with Napoleon hosting 34 nations in Paris for the Exposition Universele des Produits de l’Industrie et de l’Art, American naval officer Matthew Perry breaking through isolationist Japan with his 1854 treaty, and America simmering to a boil with a pre-Civil War identity crisis – another issue closer to the hearts of the general public began to emerge. State governments began allocating money for teachers to prepare to teach in public schools, what was called the Normal School Movement. On October 1, 1855, the New Jersey State Normal School opened. (It later became known as Trenton State College and, in 1996, was renamed the College of New Jersey.) "Thus," writes Gitenstein, "began one of the grandest experiment in modern history – the goal to educate every citizen."

The exhibit, which runs through March 30, is one of several events planned by the college to celebrate the sesquecentennial. Founder’s Day, on Wednesday, February 9, features a leadership convocation at which Eleanor Horne, former TCNJ trustee and current vice president and corporate secretary of Education Testing Services, will deliver the keynote speech; a time capsule item collection, which anyone can contribute to and which will be placed in the new library and opened during the college’s bicentennial celebration in 2055; a 150th birthday party, and more. April brings a student art exhibit and a campus carnival. September brings a major symposium celebrating the 150th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass," which will feature some of the nation’s most prominent poets, scholars, and intellectuals, with events and scholarly panels open to the public and an art faculty exhibition of works inspired by passages from "Leaves of Grass."

"Circa 1855," international art exhibit commemorating the sesquecentennial of the College of New Jersey, opening reception, Wednesday, January 26, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, 5 to 7 p.m. 609-771-2198.



Community Christian Choir rescheduled registration to Friday, January 28, 5 to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, January 30, 1 to 3 p.m. Visit www.ccchoir.com or call 609-587-7076.

Kelsey Theater auditions for "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" has been rescheduled to Saturday, January 29, noon to 5 p.m. Call Nick Anselmo at 609-586-4800 ext. 3524.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center announces auditions for the Young Artist Talent Search. Application deadline is Tuesday, March 1. $20 fee. Visit www.njpac.org or call 973-353-8009 for information.

Roxey Ballet Company main company auditions will be held on Sunday, February 27, noon to 2 p.m. at Trisha Brown Dance Company Studios, 625 West 55th Street, New York City. Call 609-397-7616 ext 809 for information.

Villagers Theater has auditions for KidsVill world premier production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on Sunday, February 13, 6 p.m., and Wednesday, February 16, 7 p.m. 415 Demott Lane, Somerset. Visit www.villagerstheatre.com for character breakdown and excerpt from the script.

Grants Available

Princeton Area Community Foundation seeks proposals for county and state-wide grants to support HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and services. Visit www.pacf.org or call 609-219-1800 for information.

Performing Arts

Raritan Valley Community College offers performing arts classes for children this spring. "Life Beyond the Curtain," for students ages 8 to 14, are introduced to stage and performance. Classes begin Tuesday, February 22. Fee is $80. "Acting for the Camera: TV, Film Commercial, and Auditions" is for ages 13 to 17. The class will be on Saturdays, March 5, and March 12. $25.

George Street Playhouse offers acting classes for adults, teens, and kids. Winter session begins Saturday, January 22. Spring session, Saturday, April 2. Summer, Tuesday, June 21. Visit gsponline.org or call 732-846-2895 ext. 115 for information.

Princeton Family YMCA and Princeton University offers an after-school dance and cultural experience with a 12-week program, "Rhythm of the World," for kids in grades 5 to 8 beginning on Tuesday, February 1. Call 609-497-0887 ext. 204.


Mercer County Holocaust Genocide Resource Center has a copy of the video documentary, "Testimony of the Human Spirit," for use in the classroom. A broadcast-quality teaching resource, it examines the Holocaust through the eyes of six men and women who were children or teenagers in Europe during the rise and fall or the Third Reich. For information call 609-586-4800 ext. 3355 or visit on Wednesdays, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Evergreen Forum offers daytime courses for adults in the area. For information call Rebecca Rome at 609-921-8717.

The Tritones, a three-voice a cappella group, offers singing telegrams for Valentine’s Day. For information e-mail singingtelegrams4u@yahoo.com

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