Jersey City Mural Arts Festival Recap
This past weekend, paint was sprayed and art was made during the first Jersey City Mural Arts Festival, a celebration of street art and the talented people who create it, held on Saturday, June 5th, and Sunday June 6th. The Festival took place in three main locations – Mana Contemporary in Journal Square, under the Rt. 78 underpass near Hamilton Park, and Harborside – covering more than 300,000 sq. ft. of space across over 50 walls with 80 artists in two days.
At a press conference on the event earlier in the week, Mayor Steven Fulop joined founding Festival members from Mana Public Arts, the Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Jersey City Mural Arts Program (JCMAP) to announce the events and the Festival’s importance to the city.
“We’re making a big bet on the arts community,” said Mayor Fulop. “Whether it’s the $72 million renovation of the Loew’s Theater, or the arts incubator space that we’re building on Morgan Street, or whether it’s the arts trust fund that we put in place to subsidize and financially help artists, we are committed to making Jersey City a hub of arts and culture.”
“We brought in almost 80 artists to paint more than 35 murals in a very short amount of time,” said a representative from Mana Public Arts. “I think this really shows Mana and the City’s commitment to public art.”
Artists participating in the event were also there to support the initiative, including Ron English, a world-renowned contemporary street artist known for his “POPaganda” series of skewed pop culture characters and former Jersey City resident who completed another large-scale mural at Erie and 16th St. in 2019 in addition to his new paint-splattered, colorful mural featuring two of his original cartoon characters for the event.
“It feels like this is the day that everything changes,” said English. “I’m so proud and amazed by the whole thing.”
Of the 50+ murals, 35 were painted at the Hamilton Park location, five at Mana Contemporary, and three others in nearby satellite locations, including a sprawling blue crosswalk mural by Jessy Nite outside Harborside. Some murals were finished just prior to the start of the Festival while most others were in various stages of completion with the artists on site spraying, mapping, and taping up their designs as onlookers snapped pictures and watched them make art in real time over the two days.
The 80 participating artists ranged from locals, like Rorshach Art Collective, Mustart, 4SAKN, and Distort, to famous artists like Chicago-based Max Sansing and Shepard Fairey, best known for his “Obey” work. The art also ranged from small pieces decorating support beams of the underpass, to giant pieces filling entire walls. Ladders and step stools were critical, and for larger-than-life-scale pieces like the Dragon76 piece taking up the entire side of the building at Mana Contemporary, it required gravity-defying trips up in lifts.
With the heat, however, frequent breaks were needed, but that just gave attendees an even better look at the process, planning, and time it takes to make incredible street art. Printed boards in front of each work in progress showing the artists’ names and social media handles also made attribution easy for onlookers snapping pictures for their Instagram stories to give credit and follow their new favorite artists.
Attendees were required to check in for temperature checks and contact tracing and were encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing, though the spacious area under the underpass and outside Mana Contemporary left plenty of room to give each other and the artists lots of safe breathing room throughout the weekend. Beer gardens with local beers from 902 Brewing Co. and Ghost Hawk Brewing Company as well as vendors like Dark Side of the Moo, Stack Creamery, and Modcup Coffee were on site to keep everyone refreshed, fed, and hydrated on the 90+ degree days.
Throughout the weekend, DJs in both locations kept the party going while entertainment pop ups, like drummers and breakdance troops, added more life to the event surrounded by the brand-new murals. It was a weekend of celebrating the arts and especially celebrating the artists working hard to bring more beauty to our city.
Despite the festival only being two days long, the event has made a permanent (as permanent as street art can be) mark on the city. The murals are part of the landscape now and available to be marveled at by anyone at any time. They’re also easy to hunt down now thanks to JCMAP partnering with CANVS, an interactive street art app that maps out where to find murals and details about the artists. Each new mural from the festival can be found there along with hundreds of other murals in the city waiting to be discovered.
Did you check out the Festival? Tell us your favorite murals in the comments!