This Jersey City Camp Is an Arts-Centric Safe Space for Kids

Artist/educator Carmine Tabone founded Camp Liberty so that children of all ages could explore their identities in an emotionally healthy environment.

Camp Liberty founder Carmine Tabone with campers at Jersey City's Liberty State Park
Carmine Tabone's Camp Liberty is held at Jersey City's Liberty State Park. Photo: Courtesy of Carmine Tabone

In 1974, in the wake of growing racial tension in Jersey City’s schools, Carmine Tabone embarked on a radical new mission.

He started Camp Liberty as a place for kids to get off the streets, do arts and crafts, play basketball and go for a swim in the summertime. The camp quickly transformed into a safe space for children to explore their identities.

Nearly half a century later, Tabone’s story has been made into a documentary film, Man on a Mission, which debuted this year at New Jersey City University.

Cocreated by artists Dina Bruno Ciborowski and Roberty Albrecht, the film highlights Tabone’s work as an artist and educator. He founded the Educational Arts Team, an initiative for children to learn and create in community. Camp Liberty transitioned from a ragtag group of passionate community members into a citywide project.

For many children, Camp Liberty has been a haven. At the camp, held at Liberty State Park, children of all ages still have the opportunity to explore who they are and what they want in an emotionally healthy environment, while participating in activities such as ceramics, music, dance and theater.

“The arts are an opportunity to reflect both within yourself and within the bigger picture of the culture,” Tabone says.

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