Image via Joe Amditis.

Stories Invincible: Tools to build new opportunities for Camden residents

Reet Starwind
5 min readSep 25, 2023

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Camden is in the middle of an arts movement that some locals call a “renaissance.” The city is filled with artistic talent — and that talent is often in need of support and refinement.

When Stories Invincible launched late last summer, we were pleasantly surprised by how many applicants showed up. While our slots were ultimately limited to 10 fellows, there were some unique ideas that fell outside the parameters of what we were looking for that we wanted to encourage these creators to pursue.

So, with those original applicants in mind, I always wanted to put something together to help. That something took the form of a workshop I call, The Toolkit.

The four main topics of the workshop

On the evening of Friday, August 18, I invited independent artists and brand developers of all skill levels into the Camden FireWorks gallery for a presentation and conversation around challenges and strategies common to local creators.

Many people have all the passion and drive to create their own brand, but may need help knowing where to start, deciding whether to be a business or non-profit or figuring out how to measure their success in a way that encourages growth.

Having had the blessing of heading a personal art project, Dreamers’ Playlist, and helping with the non-profit organization Watu Moja, I advised guests on finding the right fit for their biggest endeavors.

Reet Starwind and Adrienne Bauldock, program coordinator for SJIEP sharing gems and pointers at a workshop.

Programs such as Stories Invincible and the South Jersey Information Equity Project serve to bring funds into South Jersey communities, arming organizers and storytellers with the monetary support and reporting resources to do the kind of boots-on-the-ground work that’s needed.

However, people often haven’t heard of such grants, nor are they familiar with the process of how receiving them works. The goal of the Toolkit is to work against those information barriers.

The Toolkit also served as the long-awaited debut of the Stories Invincible project, Camden Arts 411. 411 is the vision of career artist, arts educator, and SI fellow Erik Montgomery. He saw the need for greater uniformity and a central information source for Camden’s art scene, designing a one-stop site to help Camden artists thrive.

“It is my hope that the Camden Arts 411 website will offer Camden-based artists the ability to promote their artistry on a free, digital platform. Additionally, this site will feature public works of art, exhibitions, and art events happening in Camden to those who are not familiar with the arts renaissance the city is experiencing,” said Montgomery.

On 411, an artist creates their own unique profile, documenting what skills they offer and linking to their existing work, increasing their visibility and allowing potential clients to book them directly.

Currently, both SI and SJIEP teams are preparing for another round of storytelling fellowships by working with more SJ organizations that support the local arts, like the South Jersey Cultural Alliance.

If you are a local creator in need of the resources we’ve discussed here, you’re in luck. SJCA is currently fielding applications for South Jersey artist grants, aiming to distribute a total of $40,000 via individual $ 1,000 grants.

“New Jersey Arts and Culture Renewal Fund’s support is essential to South Jersey’s cultural sector and goes a long way to help SJCA empower local artists.” shares Julie Hain, the Executive Director of SJCA. “SJCA is excited to provide a financial boost to South Jersey artists and cultural professionals with these microgrants. These unrestricted dollars will activate local artists to make sure our cultural communities not only survive, but truly thrive!”

Learn more about that process here. Applications close at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, October 7th.

As we gear up for another round of transformative Camden narrative, stay tapped in with all things Stories Invincible here on Medium and over on our Instagram account.

👋 Want to learn more about Stories Invincible? Visit the project homepage!

Reet Starwind is the Stories Invincible project coordinator for the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. He is an artist, educator, and organizer in the Camden area working with the Center to elevate restorative narratives about Camden’s residents and history. Contact Reet via email at reet@storiesinvincible.org or on Instagram at @mrstarwind.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.

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Reet Starwind

Reet Starwind is an artist, educator & organizer in the Camden area working with the Center to elevate restorative narratives about Camden’s residents