Story By Jessica Rosero
photos by Ocean Clark, Roslyn Rose, Debby L. O’Grady and Robert Policastro
The City of Hoboken’s beauty stems far deeper than its rich cultural history and quaint small town appeal. One of its most proud and bountiful features is its thriving and diversified arts community. From uptown to downtown – in galleries, small businesses and studio spaces – the arts are alive and well in Hoboken, and as this May marks the 20th anniversary of Hoboken’s Annual Arts and Music Festival, hMAG is taking a trip down memory lane and looking at where the arts community is heading.
“There has always been an art scene in Hoboken – artists, artists’ studios, galleries, studio space, pop up exhibitions, etc,” said Geri Fallo, administrator of Cultural Affairs. “Some have come and gone, but there are always new ones to pick up the torch and fill the gap.”
In the beginning…
Hoboken’s love affair with the arts began in the 1980s when a small group of local artists organized the first Artists’ Studio Tours, which was held in July of 1981 and will celebrate 33 years of success. Local favorites including Tim Daly, Bob Smith, and Meredith Lippman, who were among the first to exhibit and continue to today.
“[The Artists’ Studio Tours] is still a fantastic citywide event, which had started among a group of 13 to 14 artists,” said Fallo, who has been at the helm of keeping the Artists’ Studio Tours and the Arts and Music Festival flourishing for many years.
According to Fallo, she first became involved with the tour when she was working in the layout department of Gold Coast Magazine, a weekly arts publication by the Jersey Journal, which after the initial years of the tour offered to help organize it and produced a guide and map for the event. Eventually the Hoboken Reporter took over the production of the tour guide and map.
Back then, Hoboken artists would also exhibit their work at a few local galleries, and what were known as pop up shows in some of the old buildings in the area that weren’t in use.
“I remember some of the galleries and pop up shows back then at the Jefferson Trust Building,” said Fallo. “It must have been a bank at one time, but there was this space that was empty and there were pop up art shows. It was a really cool open space.”
The Artists’ Studio Tour has since grown to include well over 200 artists, and the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival – which will be held on May 4th, has grown from 80 artists and vendors to over 900 and spanning eight to nine blocks.
Gallery walks to co-op art communities
In addition to the festival and the tours, Hoboken now hosts “3rd Sundays Gallery Walks” every month. Helping to organize these walks is Al Barsky, who owns Barsky Gallery, located at 49 Harrison Street. “I started working with [Al] two years ago and we got in touch with all the gallery owners in town,” said Fallo. “We thought it was a good way for gallery owners to promote all of the art spaces.”
The Gallery Walks have been going on for about two years, and includes local galleries such as Clariond Gallery at the Monroe Center, Issyra Gallery at 313 1st St., and Right Angle Framing among others. Right Angle, which has two locations at 320 Washington St. and 1108 Washington St., hosts art shows featuring different artists from time to time. (For more information visit www.hobokengallerywalk.com)
Hob’art Co-operative Gallery at the Monroe Center is also a participant in the Gallery Walks, and has been a driving force in bringing more art exhibitions to Hoboken as well.
Born in 2002 and after many years without a permanent location, hob’art has made its home at 720 Monroe St. among the vast artists and performance community in the building. Their mission is to work with their member artists to create, promote, market, exhibit and sell their work; and to make Hoboken the “preeminent arts destination that it was in the past.”
“Liz Cohen [current board president] is the one who came up with the idea of making an association of artists in Hoboken,” said Roslyn Rose, one of the founding members of hob’arts. “We started with about 12 members and now have over 50 members [from throughout] north Jersey and Manhattan.”
“We were hoping for a permanent space and for many years we were wanderers,” said Roslyn. “The Monroe Center has been very generous and supported the gallery.”
Hob’art moved into Monroe about two years ago, and hosts a new exhibition every month. This includes group shows open to the general membership, and this year for the first time has included guest artists from outside their membership who pay a small fee to use the space. Roslyn, who takes care of the Public Relations for hob’art, is originally from Essex County and came to Hoboken just over 28 years ago. She established her studio in the Neumann Leather Building, which houses various artist studio spaces and galleries. “At that point when I came in I already knew artists here and in Jersey City – it was a bustling [arts community],” said Roslyn
Roslyn was part of the first Artists Studio Tours, and her latest exhibition of photographic montages was held in 2012 in the midst of Hurricane Sandy at the Hoboken Historical Museum, which also hosts shows. Her theme for the exhibition was seeing Hoboken from afar, which included interiors of various archways throughout Europe and placed scenes of Hoboken within the interiors.“One of the things I have found here is a very warm artist community,” said Roslyn.
“People do cooperate and people do help you out. That is what struck me here, what a cooperative group of artists.” Hob’art Gallery always has an open house on the 3rd Sunday Gallery Walk at the Monroe Center – Studio E208 – at 3 p.m. (For more information visit hob-art.org)
One of the latest additions to the Hoboken arts community is the “Art on the Fence,” which is located at 1100 Maxwell Place, and was a collaborative project between the city and Toll Brothers – luxury home builders. Maxwell Place on the Hudson, which is the latest development by Toll Brothers in Hoboken, has had fences covered with vinyl during construction. The city approached Toll Brothers about using some of the vinyl space to include artwork instead of its usual advertisements.
According to Fallo, it took about a year and a half of planning and prepping to turn over three hundred feet of vinyl into an outdoor exhibition space.
“Last year, we had the ribbon cutting. We are thinking about approaching other developers intown to do the same thing,” said Fallo. “The vinyl came out so beautiful and I would love to see more of that.”
The City of Hoboken and Toll Brothers “Art on the Fence” featured about 20 local artists, and should be on display for at least another year.
One of the featured artists for the exhibit was local painter Ocean Clear, who first came to Hoboken in 2005 to be close to his twin brother. His work has since been displayed throughout Hoboken including in Cadillac Catina and Texas Arizona.
“I always felt like I was supposed to be a healer and in my first art class I realized you could heal through art,” said Ocean, who found his calling during his final semester of pre-med studies. “You affect a lot more people with art, so I switched and never looked back.” Painting professionally for 17 years now, Ocean has sold over 30,000 prints of his work and many of his original pieces.
“For me it’s about making something beautiful,” said Ocean. “A beautiful painting on the wall is something you can look at. It heals the soul and uplifts the spirit. Making beautiful art well for people to enjoy is my calling.” Ocean and fellow artist Laura Bochet collaborated on a koi fish mural for the “Art on the Fence.” He also has works on display at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, the London Museum of Modern Art, and in the personal collection of prominent celebrities including Lenny Kravitz and Clint Eastwood. He is currently in the midst of creating commissioned portraits for the new beer garden in the Crystal Point section of Jersey City. His work can be viewed and purchased on Instagram at oceanclarkart and at www.oceanclark.com.
Barely scratching the surface
These are just among the few that make up the story of Hoboken’s arts community, and with new blood constantly coming in; the future of the arts is looking very bright
.“It’s wonderful, I feel so encouraged that there is a plethora of art going on,” said Fallo. “I think the economy has flourished and there have always businesses that have encouraged the arts. It seems as long as I have been here there is a turnover, but someone always picks up the torch.”