Free music and events draw visitors to A.C.'s art parks

Bob Fowler, of Smithville, left, and Stephen Branca, of Seaville, perform in front of the ship sculpture at the ARTLANTIC: wonder park in Atlantic City.

The smooth jazz stylings of bassist Bob Fowler and guitarist Stephen Branca of the duo Fowler and Branca filled the air of a recent perfect late Sunday afternoon in early summer in Atlantic City.

They were not playing at a casino or anywhere that cost a dime to enter.

Fowler and Branca were one of the acts performing for free between now and Sept. 21 in the two art parks in Atlantic City in a project called "Mind, Body & Soul ARTLANTIC." These are daily events featuring arts organizations, performers and fitness experts designed to appeal to people of all ages.

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The jazz duo were playing on a stage built at the seven-acre exhibition site referred to as ARTLANTIC: wonder, at Pacific Avenue between Martin Luther King Boulevard and South Indiana Avenue, probably best known as the site of a large wooden pirate ship. For an hour, the duo played original compositions along with such covers as Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" and Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine."

Fowler, 58, of Smithville, couldn't remember the last time he played a free show in Atlantic City.

"I thought it was really neat, promoting live music. There is not enough live music," said Fowler, who added he landed a future gig from someone who saw him play in the art park. "It's a great venue. We had fun."

Eugene and Calais Harris, of Philadelphia, stopped by when they heard the live music as they walked past the park.

"We like live music. We like this whole concept. It's a good use of public space," said Calais Harris, 51. "There is a distinct difference between art in a public space and a public space having art. They (Fowler and Branca) are creating art in a public space. We love the jazz."

The Atlantic City Alliance wanted to animate all the art parks, said Jeff Guaracino, the group's chief communications and strategy officer.

"We wanted to bring people in. We are filling the need of having them enjoy the public spaces. We are going to have at least 800 performers over the summer. Everyone was immediately excited about it. They fought over dates. They wanted to be a part of it," Guaracino said.

While the jazz duo provided the music to feed the soul, the body receives a workout from 9 to 10 a.m. every morning through a free boot camp led by Atlantic City fitness instructor Dina Buttino. Those looking for even more exercise, can take the free Zumba class, led by one of the Tilton Fitness instructors from 11 a.m. to noon at Etude Atlantis, the large-scale optical illusion featuring streaks of white, gray and black, located at California Avenue and the Boardwalk.

During a recent Wednesday, Buttino put a half dozen participants through the paces with her non-stop routine.

As the temperatures hovered in the lower 80s, Buttino had his class doing push-ups against the black, white and gray wall, running in place, throwing front kicks with left and right legs, and doing boxing moves, among other exercises.

Boardwalk strollers stopped and took pictures of the outdoor exercise classes. Buttino also encouraged spectators to come and join the group.

Buttino's bootcamp was followed by a Zumba class led by Sara Draper, 29, of Egg Harbor Township, who works for Tilton Fitness. Even though Zumba is a form of dance exercise, Draper incorporates moves that work the legs, arms and abdomen into her Zumba.

Lauren Lambraia, 21, of Staten Island, was visiting with her family and learned about the outdoor Zumba class through Facebook.

"We have all done Zumba, but never outdoors," said Lambraia, who added it was a little weird, but also hot temperature-wise. "I thought it was excellent. The class that I do at home cost $10. This, I would come to whenever I could."

Contact Vincent Jackson:


Free A.C. Events

For more information and a schedule of events to be held through Sept. 21 in Atlantic City's art parks visit

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