Art Exhibit Highlights Gentrification in Jersey City

By Candace Kelley

A few months ago, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop kicked off the $1.2 million Make It Yours campaign to attract people to his city. An additional 12,000 living units are planned in the next two years.

The high rises here are quickly changing the city’s narrative but these artists are making the stories about gentrification come to life in the exhibit gentrification: The Changing Landscape of Jersey City. Curator and anthropologist Allison Remy Hall says recently, she always seemed to find herself in the middle of conversations about the complexities of gentrification.

“If everyone’s talking about it, I feel like there should be some type of output,” Hall said.

So she reached out grassroots style to talk to people about what they were thinking.

“I held up a sign that said, ‘You wanna talk about Jersey City?'” she explained.

The result — 30 audio interviews. Everyone from Jersey City developers and residents to activists. Hall then invited artists to listen to the interviews and create original pieces that represented how the city had changed.

“Some artists didn’t want to be a part of it all because it’s such a controversial topic,” Hall said.

Sarah Veloso says her piece “Stoop” shows how people congregate in their neighborhoods. She explains how she used to see kids playing outside but some things change.

“You know like the cool hipster on the street smoking a cigarette and having a coffee,” she said.

Jerome China explains how his piece “Juxtaposition” shows two very different worlds.

“The top piece is rusted, like abandoned buildings or run down areas, and I wanted to put it on a shiny piece which for me represents gentrification,” he said.

The artists say that the exhibit wasn’t created to show whether gentrification is good or bad. All of them listened to the audio interviews and simply wanted to make sure that their opinions were reflected.

A city full of moving pieces is the sentiment life-time Jersey City resident Sam Pullin expresses in his piece: “Dope Sick Realtors Flip Reality.” A pair of hands holds up this building for a specific reason.

“The hands show the ideas that it can walk somewhere or be moved or manipulated is the word,” Pullin said.

“I want people to get out of it that there is a sense of culture here and that shouldn’t be lost,” said Veloso.

Attendees will be given headsets so to hear the interviews that inspired almost two dozen pieces. The free weekend exhibit begins Jan. 10 and ends Feb. 21. The location of the exhibit is 313 Gallery, 313 3rd St. Jersey City NJ 07302.