Trenton Health Team is partnering with local artist Bentrice Jusu to create public art throughout the city celebrating the lives of violence victims, mourning their absence, and encouraging the emotional conversations needed to heal traumatized communities.
“The Potential Project” will employ storytelling, visual art, photography, and digital media to remember those lost to violence. An interactive website was recently released.
“I’m using this project to really show how much potential our city has lost to violence,” Jusu said. “But I also want to show that each of us also has the potential to create a better city, where we can all heal together.”
The Potential Project, supported by the Kresge Foundation, reflects Jusu’s experience with violence, including loss of people she loved, and the lack of resources available to residents to process and prevent the cycle of trauma.
The Potential Project website, www.potentialproject.art, will include links to mental health resources and allow community members to voice their experiences. As the project unfolds, website content will expand to include individual stories and original artwork remembering those who have died.
Jusu also plans to install markers at locations significant to life stories shared to illustrate the relationship between trauma and place. Community members will be able to use a phone to scan these markers to view original digital art and a story page on the website. She hopes sharing stories will lead to healing for victims’ families and our city.
“It’s not an elixir; this project is not going to fix it,” Jusu says. “But it’s a necessary conversation to have.”
For THT, this project expands ongoing efforts addressing trauma in our community. “We recognize that art is a perfect catalyst for difficult conversations,” said THT Executive Director Gregory Paulson. “This project will create an example for other cities struggling to begin the conversations that lead to solutions and healing.”
Jusu is working with a team of Trenton artists, including Big OOH!, one of Trenton’s best-known hip hop artists; Hana Sabree (poetry/multimedia); Terra Applegate (poet); Diego Gordon (videographer); and Jennet Jusu (dance). Artists are creating a multimedia “collage” for each person’s story that incorporates interviews with people who knew them as well as videos, photographs, and original artwork.
“This project will inspire conversations from the top down, and the ground up,” Jusu said. “People ages 5 to 90 can do something with it.”
Community members will also be able to add their own stories and ideas on how to reimagine our neighborhoods to end the violence.
In the second phase of the project, Jusu and the creative team will work with residents and local experts in healing, trauma, and mental health to design a community-based trauma response team to assist residents experiencing trauma or mental health crises. Technical assistance is being provided by Kimme Carlos, an expert in urban mental health challenges and healing; the Mercer County Office on Mental Health; and Artworks Trenton.
For more information, visit www.trentonhealthteam.org.