Rent Party Gets Branded
The woman who gave the Rent Party its look now turns to local artists
Rent Party, the monthly rock concert at the South Orange Elks Club that raises money for local food banks, is awash in talented people working hard for no money, little glory and great good. One of the most important and least seen is Susan Brand, who came to be part of the Rent Party team the usual way: she lives near Rent Party founder Chris Dickson and she has a skill he needed.
Brand is a graphic designer who has more or less created the Rent Party brand. She makes the monthly flyers, who designs the lawn signs that sprout around town every month and she came up with the phrase that defines the party: Good Music. Good Cause.
She remembers Dickson coming to her early on with his idea,
and his plea. “I figured on one poster,’’ said Brand, who quickly agreed to his request for a promotional flyer. “I think I’ve done 30 now.’’
Luckily, Dickson had identified a kindred spirit. A short time before Dickson mentioned the party to her, Brand herself had gone to the Food Bank at Our Lady of Sorrows to drop off some food. This was in the fall of 2009, at the height of the recession. Like Mother Hubbard, Brand was astonished to find the shelves of the pantry virtually bare. There had been a great many more people coming in, she was told, especially hungry families.
So she was sold on the party even before Dickson did his asking. “I thought, ‘That’s such a good idea,’” she remembers. She continues to believe that what the Rent Party does --- with the help of a matching grant from HK Community Fund it has raised more than $30,000 for the food banks at OLS and St. Joseph’s in less than three years – is not only a good, but a vital, thing. As part of its outreach, Brand has worked to make sure the website includes links to food banks and other information that hungry people need.
People feel a great deal of shame when they have to ask for food, she said. “It’s important to get them information’’ as anonymously and painlessly as possible.
Brand and her family moved to Maplewood from Chelsea 13 years ago. “We skipped Brooklyn,’’ she joked. A versatile graphic designer, much of her work focuses on fine art and illustration.
And all of that gave her a good idea recently. Although she started the project by scouring the Web for free art that spoke in some way to the band, the date or the season --- a Friday the 13th poster, for example, had a man looking horrified in several shards of broken glass --- in recent months she has expanded the idea of Rent Party to the flyers themselves.
At the heart of the Rent Party story are the local bands that donate their time to play for free; together with the Elks Club, which donates its building, the bands make it possible for all of the proceeds from the Rent Party concerts to go to the food banks. In return the bands get a little stage time and some exposure.
Now Brand is doing the same thing with the flyers: finding local artists who are willing to donate their art in exchange for a credit on the flyer and some free advertising. The idea has already produced two flyers with pictures by local photographers, Chris Casciano (March, 2012) and Susan Evans Grove (July, 2012). In the fall, she hopes to use photographer Elizabeth Fleming’s image, and she is looking at several local illustrators as well.
Brand herself is currently working on a logo for a Rent Party T-shirt. No doubt it will be effective and clever, and make her no money whatsoever. Instead, the proceeds will go toward feeding hungry people.