In the face of death and devastation, people are reminded of their need to not only mourn and remember, but to express themselves through art. The tragic terrorist events of 9/11 inspired a woman to create an arts organization that would help foster the buzzing arts community in Jersey City today.
Christine Goodman first found Art House Productions back in September 2001 and its first event was in direct response to the events of 9/11.
“There wasn’t an arts community at all,” said Goodman. “But after the devastation of 9/11, I felt like I’m just going to make it happen. Go outside and meet my neighbors and hopefully connect with some creative people, and so that’s how it got started.”
Since its inception 13 years ago, Art House Productions has been a pioneer in the Jersey City arts community, helping it grow with dozens of other artists and art organizations. Now Art House has outgrown its first home in downtown Jersey City atop a Montessori school.
The new location, the first floor of 136 Magnolia Ave, has double the square footage, ground floor access, lots of storage, close distance to the Journal Square PATH station and bus terminal, and separate rooms for an art gallery and a black box theatre.
The move was made possible thanks to the Kushner Real Estate Group and the Silverman’s, a family that sponsors Art House Productions.
“The move was result of some really wonderful developers thinking outside the box and really realizing that art and culture is essential to a community,” said Goodman.
With their bigger and better facility, Art House Productions plans on bringing more programming up to the Journal Square area, focusing on developing more theatrical productions like one act festivals.
The good news for local residents and Saint Peter’s University students is that they are planning on keeping ticket prices low, and in some cases free, which adds something else for them to do at night.
“We’re hoping to really connect with the communities that are up here in Journal Square,” said Goodman. “To connect with Saint Peter’s University and with the neighborhoods that are right here and find ways that we can work together.”
However, Art House still plans on doing events downtown, like their second Tuesday music series at Two Boots, a pizzeria on Newark Ave. in downtown Jersey City.
Art House Productions is now planning for a dual-location art exhibit with Curious Matter Gallery for the Jersey City Artist Studio Tour in October, which will double as their opening event. Then their youth theater program STAGES! will be putting up a production of Fame Jr. in December.
Art House Productions joins several other art organizations already well established in the Journal Square area.
One these organizations is the Shua Group, which is directed by artist Joshua Bisset.
“Shua Group creates unique dance and music performances which take place in parking lots, malls, factories, garages, and in theatrical venues,” said Bisset. “We also run a street-side gallery space on Summit Avenue in Journal Square called ShuaSpace, which focuses on projects which interact with the Journal Square neighborhood.”
Their next production is Steel Meeting “a unique show of light, live percussion and dance in a 3000 sq. ft. former metal work garage,” said Bisset. The production will feature percussionist Stephan Garin and will take place on Sunday, October 19th.
Another one of these organizations is the Van Reipen Collective, an organization that has had their work featured in publications like NPR and The Star-Ledger. According to their website, the Van Reipen Collective “creates worlds that could exist, looks through the world that seems to exist and asks what else is going on.”
“Van Reipen Collective exists to develop new work and eventually, if we're successful, our work could be a part of what is someday called a ‘Jersey City school’ or style of performance,” said Gary Heidt, a member of the Van Reipen Collective. “Besides our core group, who all live in Chilltown [a nickname for Jersey City], we work with a lot of Jersey City artists, performers and musicians. We present many performances here in the neighborhood that are well-attended. It's nice to be able to walk to a performance that's thought-provoking and entertaining without getting on a train or a bus or an aircraft carrier or a flying saucer.”
The next thing for the Van Reipen Collective is a stage production of TENDER BUTTONS by Gertrude Stein, featuring many Jersey City artists.
Other organizations and venues in the Journal Square include the Speranza Theatre Company, The Landmark Loew’s Theatre, and Mana Contemporary, just to name a few.
With all these art organizations and artists established in the Journal Square area, it is already becoming comparable to Jersey City’s other cradle of the arts: Grove Street.
And while many think the growing arts community here is doing well, Gary Heidt thinks that there is still plenty of room for an improvement.
“I wish there were more community, places where we meet each other and see each other's work,” said Heidt. “Maybe arts organizations could help make connections between the different communities that live here. If an artistic conversation could really include the Indian, the Copt, the African-American, the African, the Ecuadorian, the Italian, the Jew, the Filipino, the Chinese, and all the other communities that coexist here, things could happen here that could happen nowhere else. I am dreaming of a kind of utopia here, but there are so many forces that keep us apart.