Jersey City Arts & Studio Tour 2019
The 29th Annual Jersey City Arts and Studio Tour (“JCAST”), presented by the City of Jersey City, the Municipal Council and the Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs with participating partners, is a yearly four-day weekend celebration of art across the city. About 150 art spaces opened their doors to the public from October 3-6, 2019 to showcase the work of over 1,000 local and regional artists across the spectrum of artistic discipline, from painted canvases, to clay sculptures, to dance performances, music, and a million beautiful things in between.
A Big Spotlight on the JC Arts Community
The art community in Jersey City continues to rapidly emerge from an underground art scene 20 years ago to growing in the public eye in the last 10 years to the point now where people are finally seeing Jersey City for the art city it has always been. Over the last couple of years, organizers have been using JCAST as a way to help promote local artists on a larger scope, giving them the tools, connections, and resources to help promote themselves and their work, as well as investing more in advertising to reach surrounding counties to bring in more traffic from all over the state to the benefit of both artists and curators.
“JCAST is really not a festival that we throw; it’s a festival that all of the gallerists and curators in the city participate in,” said JCAST event manager Sophie Tolstoy Penkrat. “It’s about catching the public eye with a laser focus directed at all of the creativity happening here and giving an opportunity for a lot of things to happen that the public can engage in and see what’s happening all at once.”
The public was encouraged to start at the JCAST pop-up Headquarters at the Shorehouse in Newport to pick up a printed map and explore the big gallery space of artwork curated by JCAST in collaboration with the Mural Arts Program JC and CANVS Street Art app to offer artists in the program to share their work, as well as new artists showing in Jersey City for the first time.
One artist new to JCAST was Erin Ko, who has worked with mixed media and tech for decades and showcased Vimana, an augmented reality-fueled, neon pink installation featuring layers of mixed media on canvas and decals that transform into a 3-D experience with the help of a smartphone or tablet.
“Tech is very organic, very impermanent. All my work is about our relationship with tech, and I use tech to talk about that,” said Ko. “With each series I create a custom app that goes with the art, and that’s where I put the digital art layer that the app recognizes and puts the digital art there … This is my first year at JCAST, and I’m pretty impressed. Jersey City is pretty kick-ass in terms of the art scene.”
And while HQ was a great place to start, there were other places to go and things to see; however, having 100+ options can get overwhelming, so JCAST made it a little easier to be as efficient as possible with curated tours and more to guide the public through the art-filled weekend.
Curated JCAST Art Tours
Tolstoy Penkrat was especially passionate about putting the “tour” back in “Jersey City Art and Studio Tour” for this year’s event. In addition to both a print and digital map of all participating locations, there were a variety of free curated walking, biking, and bus tours for the public created and led by volunteer art specialists. Hop On/Hop Off bus tours covering West Side, Greenville, Grove Street, and Journal Square included an LGBT Curated Tour visiting 10 different exhibition spaces celebrating proud LGBT artists, Behind the Mural Tour with local photographer Jayne “JanyeWest” Freeman, and the 14C Fine Art Tour with Robinson Holloway, Executive Director of the 14C Art Fair, stopping at local gallery exhibits in Downtown and beyond. There were also BYOB (bring your own bike) tours to explore neighborhoods as a group on wheels and walking tours to get an in-depth tour of some exciting and arts-rich neighborhoods.
One such walking tour, the Canco Park/Marion Walking Tour, hosted by the Canco Park Conservatory, covered the culture and history of the neighborhoods within the Marion warehouse district, Little India, Journal Square, and the Mana Contemporary Arts Campus. The first stop was Square 1 Community Eatery where the resident artist, Leandro Comrie, a Venezuelan painter living in North Bergen who was just recently accepted into the Mana Contemporary art residency program, was on-hand to talk about his work to everyone on the tour and to anyone who stopped in throughout the event.
“Everything in my life has been about their stories and interpreting them, so my work is about that – the stories I’ve heard and what I’ve lived,” said Comrie. “There’s a lot of art in Jersey City, so I’m always here. I have a group of friends that we hang out in Jersey City a lot and do exhibitions.”
The tour was an amazing way for an interested public to talk to artists in-person and for artists to promote their work themselves, as well as see some more high-profile murals, including the recently painted pedestrian bridge connecting the Marion and Marion warehouse districts titled Rainbow Bridge by Jessie and Katey and Canco Park’s as-yet untitled mural by the Fortoul Brothers.
A special part of JCAST that has been at its core for 29 years has been about taking the public behind the veil and welcoming art lovers into the homes and private studios of artists to see the work being done as it’s being created. At least 50 of the JCAST stops this year were private spaces, including the home of Danielle and Moises Haskins in McGinley Square; the couple combined music with light design to create Lights & Pedals, an intimate, immersive experience of haunting melody and otherworldly florescent lights with accompanying projection and original tape designs covering the walls.
“We’re just trying to make some relaxing soundscapes and create a mood. It’s a work in progress conceptually – more like ideas we wanted to present than a set list,” said Ms. Haskins. “This is the first time we’re doing JCAST. It feels like it’s getting a lot bigger. I’ve attended in the past, but this is our first time ever having our own content.”
In addition to private homes and hidden gallery spaces, Mana Contemporary arts center gave JCAST visitors unapparelled access to the building’s studio and gallery space to get up-close to the incredible art being created by residents and curated pieces inside, like the Decentralized exhibit featuring floor-to-ceiling mixed media artwork, punctuated with an almost 7-foot-tall disco ball by Rhy Gaetano rotating in the middle of the hall.
JCAST may only officially last for one weekend with some pop-up and temporarily available exhibits locked up Sunday night, but the event’s comprehensive website is open all year for art enthusiasts to search locations – including galleries, retail stores, and restaurants and cafes – with permanent or rotating art throughout the year. The online gallery is also a great resource for curators who are looking for artists to find someone that meets their taste and vice versa for artists looking to connect with venues to show their art.
Artists and curators who are interested in being involved with JCAST 2020 are encouraged to visit www.thejcast.com.