JC Arts Community Celebrated at 2nd Annual Jersey City Arts Awards
On Tuesday, the JC arts community came together to celebrate 12 of their own at the 2nd Annual Jersey City Arts Awards at White Eagle Hall. As the Bryan Beninghove Trio set the mood on stage, art lovers mingled over drinks and delicious finger foods from Ghost Truck Kitchen, Bread and Spoon, and Busy Bee Organics – some even took up a pen or crayon and created art themselves during cocktail hour – all in celebration of the amazing work taking place in our incredibly creative city. The Awards were presented by the Jersey City Arts Council (JCAC), an inclusive and community-focused 501(c)(3) organization established to protect, strengthen, and promote the arts in Jersey City. The mission of the organization is to help the creative community remain relevant, diverse, influential, and a valued asset within the city. Through outreach and advocacy, they aim to increase public engagement in the arts and provide access to information for residents interested in getting involved in every ward, all with the end goal of contributing to the creative and economic growth of Jersey City. Ongoing programs from 2019 included professional development workshops for artists and arts organizations, naming the Jersey City Poet Laureate, joining the NEA Big Read project, partnering with New Jersey City University (NJCU) for the Cultural Asset Mapping Project, among others.
“Everywhere I look there are people giving, giving, giving,” said Heather Warfel Sandler, Chair of the Board of Directors of JCAC. “What we really wanted to do was recognize people in the community out in the open in addition to our advocacy work, which tends to be more behind closed doors. [The awards are] a way to connect with the community and really let the artists know we see them and what they’re doing.”
Fitting for an award show celebrating artists, the winners received a work of art for themselves as they walked up to the podium. The sculptures featured strips of colorful and differently textured fabrics cascading down and creating organic, flowing movement within the piece with no two looking alike. The awards were created and presented by local fiber artist Bayard, who owns and curates Eonta Space, Jersey City’s art salon exhibition venue, that encourages artists to “come do what they want,” said Bayard. From art exhibits to readings to dance performances and more, “We have the space, so it’s never about money – it’s about art and artists of all disciplines.”
Along with having a local artist create the physical awards, the council hopes to in the future be able to attach a monetary prize and grants for the community to the awards to better support the arts and winning artists.
The Envelope Please…
Starting as nominations open to the public then chosen by the individual committees focused on specific disciplines within the council, the following people and/or exemplified the mission of each category and stand as an influential and powerful force within the Jersey City arts community:
Architecture & Design: FX Collaborative
Founded in 1978, FX Collaborative is an architectural, interior design, planning, and urban design firm committed to design excellence, social responsibility, and sustainability. FX Collaborative believes in the power of intelligence, intuition, and interconnection to design a better world. Their work is based on a core commitment to enriching the built environment by creating projects with social holistic approach integrates client aspirations and urban sensibility and celebration of the craft of building. Their projects have been recognized throughout the world, including the Statue of Liberty Museum which has given millions more an opportunity to enjoy the Statue of Liberty experience.
Arts Education: The School of Nimbus Dance Works
The School of Nimbus Dance Works offers professional dance instruction in ballet, modern, hip hop, tap, and other dance forms for children, teens, and adults taught by industry professionals in a challenging yet supportive environment. The school emphasizes small classes, excellent instruction, and opportunities for students to perform alongside Nimbus’ professional company dancers, including in the annual Jersey City Nutcracker production. The School of Nimbus gives students the opportunity to perform extensively and to explore creativity and movement while advancing their technique. “The moments that show the dedication and grit is what’s most important,” said a representative of the school. “The true art happens when you’re alone – that’s when inspiration hits.”
Arts Organization: Jersey City Theater
Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) is a dedicated nonprofit arts organization that produces theater, dance, visual art, spoken word, and more, providing a platform for international artists as well as those in the lesser-served pockets of our community. They present multimedia thematic series including art shows, receptions, and artist talks, as well as curated showcases of music, poetry, spoken word, dance and film. By embracing the diversity of Jersey City, JCTC brings its community closer together, and enhances its quality of life.
Film/TV: Jane Steuerwald
Jane Steuerwald is the Executive Director of the Thomas A. Edison Media Arts Consortium Black Maria Film Festival where she curates and presents film programs for colleges, universities, museums, and arts venues across the country and abroad. Her films have screened at MoMA, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, as well as international venues, and in 2016, she produced and presented a five-program series for Anthology Film Archives, NYC in honor of the Black Maria’s 35th anniversary. Steuerwald encouraged everyone to see some amazing films created by young filmmaker at the Black Maria Film Festival, showing on December 12 in Hoboken!
Leadership: Michael Endy
Michael Endy is an artist, non-profit administrator, curator, and brand consultant who has hung exhibits and juried work throughout NJ including JCAST and Casa Colombo and has shown his own work extensively domestically and internationally. Michael has been co-president of Pro Arts, one of Jersey City’s longest standing arts organizations, since 2017, previously holding the position of Chair of Professional Development. Through his work with Pro Arts, Michael has provided support, opportunities, and exposure for countless visual artists throughout the city.
Legacy: Grigory Gurevich
Grigory Gurevich is an internationally accomplished sculptor, painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and inventor who has had more than 400 exhibitions and hundreds more sculpture workshops in the U.S. and Europe. Gurevich studied art at the prestigious Academy of Fine and Industrial arts in Leningrad, Russia, and toured the world as a professional mime with the likes of Marcel Marceau. In 1998, he founded Arts on the Hudson, an afterschool art program for gifted and talented children, which remains an active non-profit that supports and promote the arts in JC.
Literary Arts: RADI
RADI was born and raised in Northern NJ and treated the audience to a powerful performance of slam poetry filled with the realities of struggle and the joy of perseverance in the face of adversity. She is an artist and writer specializing in spoken word poetry covering topics such as civil rights, body positivity, sex positivity, colorism, sexism, and more, all while reflecting her real-life experiences. RADI has represented five National Poetry teams, traveled across the country performing her work, and reigns as the 2x Poetry Slam Champion of New Jeru Slam 2019 and the 3rd Top Female Slam Poet in the world, among her many literary accomplishments. “It’s more than slam poetry,” said RADI. “It’s more than poetry period. I have a lot to say, that most people won’t say, but it needs to be heard.”
Medici Award: Mack-Cali Realty Company
Mack-Cali Realty Corporation sets the highest standard for philanthropic support of the arts in Jersey City. With the vision and initiative of CEO Michael DeMarco, Mack-Cali Realty Corporation consistently supports many of Jersey City’s largest arts organizations, including Art House Productions and Nimbus Dance Works. When accepting the award, Dearco remarked how as a life-long resident of Jersey City, he would have loved to have the kind of art community that’s flourishing now when he was a kid, but advocated for making arts issues a more discussed topic in JC, and not let the problems artists face become buried and unheard by the city and community. “You can’t live in a world without art,” DeMarco said. “It would be a vacant, desolate place without it.”
Performing Arts: Lillian Bustle
Lillian Bustle is a burlesque performer, singer, MC, public speaker, and advocate for body positivity. Her recent TEDx talk, Stripping Away Negative Body Image, sheds light on the positive effect of burlesque on self-image and has been shared by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. She currently produces and hosts Jersey City’s premiere monthly burlesque shows throughout the city and performs at venues and festivals across North America. Bustle is an active member of the JC arts community has successfully advocated for freedom of expression for all Jersey City artists. “People here are always making incredible art,” said Bustle. “I’ve lived in a ton of different places from Virginia to Florida to Manhattan and I’ve never ever had a community like this, ever.”
Public Art: Duda Penteado & Catherine Hart
Dude Penteado and Catherine Hart are the creative directors of the Jersey City Youth Works Public Arts Program and work hands-on with Jersey City youth, guiding them to create inspirational murals across the city. Duda is an award-winning fine artist, filmmaker, educator, and cultural visionary whose work focuses on important issues and social phenomena of the 21st century. He also leads the We Are You Project. Catherine is a drawer, painter, and muralist who has collaborated on public art murals international and co-founded the Tall Art Project.
Visual Arts: Nyugen Smith
Nyugen Smith is a first-generation Caribbean-American interdisciplinary artist and educator living and working in Jersey City. Responding to the legacy of European colonial rule in the African diaspora, his work considers imperialist practices of oppression, violence, and intergenerational trauma. He is interested in ritual and sacred practice rooted in African spiritual systems and how they are employed as coping mechanisms and tools for collective empowerment. He has conducted public programs, visiting artist lectures, and panel discussion at institutions across the U.S. and travels extensively presenting both visual work and performance.
Young Artist: Petey x Kraze
Petey x Kraze, aka Kishown Jack and Antwan Dublin, were born and raised in Jersey City. They started making music together in high school, becoming professional after graduation. They have sold out multiple solo shows in Jersey City, NYC, and across the country, and created several videos featuring the Jersey City landscape and community. Petey x Kraze created The Got Love Foundation where they organize park clean ups monthly throughout the summer, feed the homeless, and sponsor clothing drives. Petey x Kraze are committed to fostering opportunities for creative kids and have collaborated and volunteered with teens through County Prep High School and the Content Creators Academy. Through their music and community outreach, Petey x Kraze strive to shatter the myth that one has to be rich or famous to make a difference. These two young rappers prove that everyone can make an impact. Kraze, who accepted the award on behalf of himself and Petey, ended the night with a performance dedicated to all of his fellow winners of the night.
How You Can Support Jersey City Arts
“My hopes for the arts council is that we can really have an impact and make artists feel more valued here because they provide so much culture to the city but are not always receiving the support they need.” Said Warfel Sandler. And while donations to help grow the organization are encouraged, there are others ways to help support the arts in Jersey City. “Most importantly,” said Warfel Sandler. “Continue to support things you see happening. Go to the shows, buy the art, and the more you support the artists, the more support we’ll have for the council.”
To support JCAC, visit Jersey City Arts Council for donation and volunteer information, upcoming events, and, in the summer, to nominate your favorite local artists for their chance to win at the 3rd Annual Jersey City Arts Awards!