Heather Deegan Hires stands under some industrial lighting and looks from her phone to the wall in front of her and back to the phone again.
She’s trying to show me her vision for transforming the sterile space with graying baby-blue walls and institutional floor tiles into a topsy-turvy wonderland. She first saw the room a couple of weeks ago and, at this point, she has just over a week before it will become one of the installations at Atlantic City’s third ARTeriors project.
“The whole theme of our room is an upside down, sort of Alice in Wonderland, but a dark version of it,” said Deegan Hires (@bodypaintingbyheather). “So we still – we have a lot of work to do.”
We’re standing in Ginsburg Bakery, in the part of town where tourists wouldn’t ordinarily stop: it’s just a block and a half from Stanley S. Holmes, the city’s second-biggest housing project, and it’s about as landlocked as you can be in Atlantic City. We’re five long blocks from the ocean and further from the bay.
Deegan Hires, who also does body painting and photography, is feeling the pressure. She is working in the room with Morgan Penza, a sculptor, but Penza is also working on a master’s degree and the duo haven’t had as much time for the project as they would have liked. They’re excited by the space, Deegan Hires says, in spite of the pressure.
“The space is pretty cool, big and open…I like big.”
The bare bones are amazing. There’s an Alice-inspired, hand-painted backdrop. And the beginnings of a creepy tree sculpture in the corner.
Still, there’s a way to go. “We’ll probably be living here, till late at night,” she says, laughing. “I hope to transform the whole room.”
Outside the Wonderland room lies the factory floor. An upside-down sign for the bakery – which presumably hung outside, once – is in the middle of the room, acting as a divider. A wall painting by Kelley Prevard (@prevardk) is on the left. (Prevard isn’t around the night I visit for my sneak peak.)
In another room off the old factory floor, Mariana Smith is adjusting a laptop that’s projecting a film onto a bare wall. There is atmospheric lighting and bakery paraphernalia all in one small space.
“I just found things,”‘ says Smith, who is an assistant professor of art at Stockton University. “The three shelves were there. The mirror was in the bathroom. And this thing (she points inside the room at something I can’t make out) they took down from an oven – I just found it.
“I like this back and forth between planning and just reacting to the space and playing with that. I’m really excited about it.”
On the factory floor, there are fumes as Rene Ortiz and John Morris of Blockhead Customs (
Two of the three main members of Blockhead Customs, the pair have almost finished a mural outside the bakery depicting their children.
“We had to come up with a concept for the mural… We didn’t see the space until after the fact,” says Morris.
The world is ours is their concept, Morris says. “Kids – they’re just inspiring and they’re inspired to just be. They’re not beaten down. When we become adults we forget that the world is ours because we have the normal everyday nonsense that we have to deal with.”
The mural is a block from the New York Avenue school. A few days before I visited, Morris said dozens of kids from the school filed past as he was painting and they all asking him what he was doing.
“They were excited. Everyone in the neighborhood shows love. It’s good to see that they care…It makes a difference.”
Here’s our video tour from a week ago:
ARTeriors at Ginsburg Bakery will open on Friday, April 7 at 6 pm. Additional hours will be:
Saturday, April 8, 11 am to 5 pm
Sunday, April 9, 12 pm to 5 pm
Saturday, April 15, 11 am to 5 pm
Sunday, April 16, 12 pm to 5 pm
You can find out more on the Atlantic City Arts Foundation’s website and Facebook page.