Jersey City Art and Studio Tour Puts Creative Community on Display

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Every candy colored point on the map signifies a creative space. And for the weekend, they’re the publics to explore.

It started 25 years ago as a tour of about 70 artist studios and 18 exhibitions. Now on its silver anniversary, the Jersey City Art & Studio Tour has exploded into a three-day event complete with Citi Bike art tours, hop-on hop-off shuttles tours, and an informational app.

“The more New York City has unfortunately become unaffordable for people, we’ve inherited that creative class more and more. We embrace it and we love it, and we think that makes Jersey City a special place to live,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

This year’s Art & Studio Tour features more than 800 artists and nearly 230 locations across the city. An offering that has dedicated art-lovers braving the elements on this chilly, partially-rainy weekend.

Jim Binder and his wife moved to Jersey City by way of Brooklyn and then Chicago. He says its thriving arts scene was part of the attraction.

“It is something that, you really have this sense of place that really goes deeper than just ‘Oh, there’re some nice bars, nice restaurants.’ Having that arts scene really gives you a sense of groundedness to what’s going on,” said Binder.

To friends back in Brooklyn who might give him a hard time for his move across the Hudson, Binder says you don’t have to have a New York address to have a good place to live.

In fact, comparisons between Jersey City and Brooklyn have been made increasingly over the last several years. Restaurants and boutiques keep popping up, and new residents fill apartments in new luxury buildings.

Artist and resident Jerome China says the comparisons to Brooklyn ‘are really nice,’ but…

“I also think that Jersey City artists, they need their own voice. We shouldn’t be referred to as ‘the sixth borough’ because Jersey City is Jersey City,” said China.

He thinks events like this one help define the city’s unique vibe. It also helps connect the community that furthers that creative momentum.

Andrea McKenna and Javiera Rodriguez co-own Raven Gallery & Boutique in Downtown Jersey City. They say the Art and Studio Tour is an opportunity to meet fellow artists, ones they might feature in their gallery and of course, court new clients.

“A lot of people in the neighborhood don’t know we’re here still, and they do when they see the map and they see that we’re here, they come in and they say, ‘Oh, we didn’t know you were here! How long have you been here?’ And we say ‘a year and a half’ and they’re like ‘Oh my God,” said McKenna.

With the influx of artists, though, it can be tough to keep up.

“I actually met the guy who was responsible for making the maps and he just said he ran out of room of where to put the artists, because there’s so much going on. There’s so much to do,” Rodriguez said.

Fulop says the key to continuing to develop the creative community is keeping Jersey City an affordable. Also on his arts and culture agenda, is finding a new location for a destination museum.