If you took a whirlwind tour of Hudson County, you would find arts and music celebrated across every town, whether in big, bold outdoor festivals or in the sacred artist studio spaces where creativity is always in motion.
The year 2012 saw local studio tours, festivals, film events, and theatrical productions. While Jersey City and Hoboken always host an array of annual arts-related events, Union City residents had a taste of cabaret and chamber music as well as a short film festival. Secaucus held its first arts fair.
Meanwhile, a number of Hudson County cities played host to popular reality television shows that gave some residents their 15 minutes of reality fame. And creativity blooms among independent artists in places like Weehawken, North Bergen, and Guttenberg.
Arts stretched across days and zones
Two of Jersey City’s biggest cultural events this year were the 2012 Artists’ Studio Tour and the Golden Door International Film Festival, which both took place on the same weekend in October.
The free two-day studio tour kicked off at the Tenmarc Building and ended with a tour crawl. The event gave thousands of people a glimpse into the inner workings of artists’ studios, while also demonstrating collaboration through group exhibits and art in public spaces.
The arts and music scene in Hudson County continued to flourish with festivals, films, and studio tours.
JC Fridays continued to be a staple of free arts, entertainment, dance, and live music with quarterly citywide events planned throughout the cities neighborhoods. Organized by Christine Goodman’s Jersey City-based Art House Productions, the event continued to expand. Art House also continued to offer its regular programming of local theatrical performances, dance shows, and visual art exhibits.
Mana Contemporary, a Jersey City art complex located at 888 Newark Ave, entered its second year and continued to offer seasonal exhibits as well as an opportunity for visitors to see artists at work. A summer exhibit in the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation gallery space titled “The Originals: Mana Contemporary Resident Artists,” featured the work of 28 visual artists who make their creative home in Jersey City. A current exhibit features large-scale works of well-known American artist Keith Haring. With a total of 1 million square feet, Mana Contemporary, which is the brainchild of modern artists Eugene Lemay and Yigal Ozeri, is a multi-dimensional art center.
Galleries, art grazing, and groovy gatherings
The Hoboken Arts and Music Festival kicked off its 19th year in September. Twice a year, the outdoor event – held along Washington Street from Seventh Street to Observer Highway – features hundreds of artists, sculptors, photographers, and craftspeople, as well as rides, games, face painting, local food vendors, and more. The events attracted over 30,000 people. In nearly two decades, the event has served up a mix of music from homegrown local bands like The Fuzzy Lemons to classic rock stars like Joan Jett.
The city of Hoboken launched Third Sundays in April as a collaborative effort to revive the local arts scene and encourage a new appreciation for what the city has to offer, especially with the opening of four new galleries in the past year and a half. Gallery walks like the one in Hoboken have helped cultivate a local sense of culture and art appreciation. While the walk has typically offered a tour of 10 to 11 galleries and art spaces, some venues have gone off the list with the closing of Lana Santorelli gallery, for example, while other locations have been added such as business exhibit host Urban Design and Cosign.
Hoboken also held its artists’ studio tour one day in November, although the recent Hurricane Sandy stole a bit of its thunder.
Throughout the year, the Monroe Center for the Arts served up theater, comedy, music, and art. For the first time in its history, the center featured classical music during an October performance that benefited the Hoboken Charter School’s music department. A New Jersey Symphony orchestra quartet performed “Broadway Bound!” a selection of songs from a host of legendary composers arranged for a string quartet.
Most recently, Mile Square Theatre kicked off their eighteen day run of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry” in December. Directed by Mary Catherine Burke and produced by playwright and producer Joseph Gallo, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is a quirky and comical adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic on “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Hoboken saw a special treat when the popular folk band Mumford and Sons held a concert on Pier A.
A taste of reality
The arts met reality television when Hoboken residents Albie Manzo and Chris Manzo from Bravo’s "Real Housewives of New Jersey" appeared at the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival and gave out samples of a product they’re marketing, BLKWater – a black mineral water.
Hudson County played a part in a number of reality television shows, from the “Jersey Shore” spinoff reality series “Snooki & JWoww” that was filmed in Jersey City earlier this year to the ever popular “Cake Boss,” starring Hoboken’s own Buddy Valastro.
Beyond beloved Buddy Valastro, Hoboken resident Tom Bury got into the food game starring on episodes of the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible,” which features renowned chef Robert Irvine and several designers who travel across the country in an attempt to revive struggling restaurants.
For Weehawken, the brides ruled, with residents Stella Aronis and Diana Abreu appearing on The Learning Channel’s “Four Weddings.”
Off the beaten path
Beyond places like Jersey City and Hoboken, other Hudson County towns offered their own theater, music, arts, and entertainment.
● Saturday Arts at St. Johns, Union City. St. John's Episcopal Church at 1516 Palisade Avenue in Union City has featured Donovan Ensemble with their Fall Revival Cabaret as well as the Union City Chamber Players. Arts at St. John's is a community project that has helped foster local creativity and kept the space open and available to the public.
Cultural Center performances, Union City. The William V. Musto Cultural Center in Union City hosted a number of cultural and theater events this year including the recent play “The God Box,” written and performed by Antonia Lassar, and a special Afro-Cuban Jazz concert in October featuring Enildo Rasua.
Summer Concert Series, Weehawken and elsewhere. The Hudson River Performing Arts Center (HRPAC), which is a group that hopes to someday build an arts center on the Weehawken waterfront, organizes several free concert series each year. The Summer Concerts on the Hudson series featured a variety of renowned groups.
Secaucus and Guttenberg also hosted free outdoor summer concert series for area residents, as did Hoboken and Jersey City.
● Secaucus ARTS 2012. Secaucus held its first annual arts and music festival in September at Buchmuller Park. Over a dozen local and area artists and vendors displayed and sold their works. The event also featured performances by local musicians Hard Bargain, Nikki Armstrong, Stacia Hobdy and Free, Dara and Frank, CAST, and Dance Power Studio. The Secaucus Public library also hosted a number of artist exhibits throughout the year.
● Guttenberg resident’s musical off-Broadway run. Commissioned to write a musical based on a 1911 book called “The Sea Fairies” by L. Frank Baum for the 100th anniversary of the local library, Guttenberg resident Jack Dyville wrote “A Mermaid’s Tale,” which began an off-broadway run in September and is scheduled through the middle of December, with the possibility of extending its run into 2013.
● North Bergen artist chronicles witch trials. North Bergen artist Daniel Tivet, who specializes in realistic paintings, has been chronicling historical figures including a group of actors in Salem, Mass., who annually reenact the witch trial of Bridget Bishop, one of the most famous witch trials in recorded history.
● North Bergen Library open mic nights. The library held several cultural events, including a popular open mic night that drew poets and other artists.
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Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.