Tanger Outlets in Atlantic City is home to lots of fun-to-stop-at venues — stores like Banana Republic Factory, Coach and J. Crew Factory, as well as eateries like Wingcraft and Applebee’s. And while it’s a great place to get your shop on, the newest addition to Tanger Outlets in Atlantic City isn’t a store at all — it’s a pop-up art installation.
ARTeriors, a project of the Atlantic City Arts Foundation (ACAF), is all about transformation and transition, converting existing properties — in this case, a vacant Payless shoe store — into immersive pop-up art installations that can be enjoyed and experienced for a (very) limited time.
“The nature of the project is always to be a temporary pop-up. And it’s really meant to kind of highlight areas in the city that are ripe for transformation, kind of play on how Atlantic City itself is always transforming, always evolving and ripe for transformation,” says Kate O’Malley, Interim Executive Director of Atlantic City Arts Foundation. “So ARTeriors, to me, represents a moment in time where these once vacant and disused spaces are completely alive with unbridled creativity.”
Unbridled creativity indeed. From a distance, the empty Payless Shoe Store looks…like an empty Payless Shoe Store. Sans the windows, through which you can get a glimpse of color and lighting, the exterior structure is unchanged. Inside, however, it’s another story, where every available ounce of space is a colorful and vibrant feast for the eyes. A feast made of everyday objects often intended for other uses—even black window paint.
“The windows were painted black—they were blacked out—and we had to take the black off the windows,” says artist Heather Deegan Hires, whose installation is at the front of the venue. “I got my scraper and I got up here to start taking the black off, and of course, you start playing. I’m scraping and playing with it…I kind of really like it now.”
While Hires, like all of the participating artists, submitted a proposal to ACAF to participate in ARTeriors, her vision was further influenced once she was working in the space—instead of just removing the black from the windows as originally intended, she scraped designs into it that were incorporated into her installation, utilizing the constraints and opportunities available within the space. And she wasn’t alone. Former shoe benches were repurposed as clouds for one installation and shoe racks painted for others, all in a two-week period in which artists can be seen working around the clock.
“We basically live here for two weeks,” says O’Malley.
Now in its ninth iteration — ARTeriors occurs once or twice annually — previous popups have been in old restaurants, other former retail spaces, and even residential properties. And as the locations and artists change, the popularity of the program continues to grow—in both participants and those who want to experience the space. This year, 17 juried artists were selected from a pool of over 40 artist proposals, up from 8 to 12 participating artists in previous years. Approximately 300 guests attended opening night.
“It’s growing,” says O’Malley. “I feel like ARTeriors as a program and as a concept has really become this hand-in-hand thing with the arts and culture scene in Atlantic City in that it’s eclectic and it’s unconventional and it’s thriving. And people love it.”
As ARTeriors has grown, so too have the other ACAF programs including Chalk About AC and 48 Blocks Mural Arts program, which has seen almost 80 murals created throughout the city since 2017.
“There really is a thriving arts community in Atlantic City,” says O’Malley. “Our goal is to have Atlantic City on the map in the same way that Philadelphia and New York are as a place to come, to experience arts. And a place for artists to come, because you can have a thriving career here.”
Hires is a perfect example of that. In addition to participating in ARTeriors Baltic Avenue, her fourth time involved in the program, Hires works as a body and face painter as well as a muralist whose work can be seen in several locations throughout the city, from a building across from the courthouse to the soon-to-be open Good Dog Bar. She is one of many artists integral to the Atlantic City arts scene, and of course, ARTeriors.
“It’s got a cult following,” says O’Malley. “And places like Philadelphia and New York, they have tons of galleries, they have tons of museums and stuff like that. But who’s going to make a giant art exhibit in a Payless in two weeks? Atlantic City.”
ARTeriors Baltic Avenue features the work of Alissa Eberle, Heather and Samantha Howley, Victoria Katherine, Heather Deegan Hires, Lennox Warner, Yelixza Figueroa, Helen Clymer, Travis Gibson, Shari Tobias, Chanelle Rene, Bernard De la Cruz, Michelle Franzoni, Miko Beach, Gary Lindley, John Morris and Kenneth Lazan Faulk Jr. Their work can be experienced for a limited time—9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through Feb. 19.