Nestled in the western portion of Hoboken at 720 Monroe St., the Monroe Center is now the home of the city’s newest art gallery, Hob’art, the third Hoboken-based gallery set to open its doors in the past seven months.
Gallery 1200, at 1200 Washington St., and the Lana Santorelli Gallery at 628 Washington St. each opened in 2011 on Hoboken’s main drag, but the appeal of the newest gallery in the Monroe Center will be different.
Liz Cohen is the president of Hob’art, founded as a formerly nomadic organization 11 years ago after she approached a number of Hoboken artists to establish a cooperative association.
“We have been looking for a permanent home and gallery space for the entire ten years of our existence.” – Liz Cohen, president of Hob’art
In addition to serving as an art gallery, Hob’art can now offer discussions, workshops, and forums, “which is another important aspect of our mission,” Cohen said.
“We have been looking for a permanent home and gallery space for the entire 10 years of our existence and we have finally found one at E208 [in the] Monroe Center,” Cohen said. “Up until this point we have been peripatetic – showing wherever we can find space – most frequently outside of Hoboken. Our community efforts have been extensive as well. For example, we have run workshops at the shelter and hosted art shows by the shelter artists at the library.”
Hob’art has 56 members from Hudson County and throughout Northern New Jersey.
The gallery’s first exhibition will open in February, and will be open to the public.
Update on the Monroe Center’s progress
The Hob’art Gallery is the latest addition to the Monroe Center, which was recently purchased by Hershy Weiss of Basad Realty in North Bergen. Weiss took ownership of the building in July 2011, and said he also plans to open two more art galleries inside.
“We’re an arts center, we’re going to need galleries,” Weiss said. He hopes to open one gallery for the resident artists, and a separate professional gallery.
“The resident artist gallery is to help promote the artists in the building,” Weiss said. “The [other gallery] with juried entries [will] expose the Monroe Center to outside artists that otherwise would never hear of us. We want to build it into a prestigious gallery where it would draw people from outside Hoboken.”
Weiss has big plans for the Monroe Center since taking ownership, and said he plans to submit plans to the building department in the city for major renovations.
“The priorities are getting another elevator in the building, opening a new lobby, opening a lounge for the tenants, opening the two new galleries, and turning the outside plaza into a functional, inviting space,” Weiss said.
He added that a new brick oven pizza store will soon open on the ground level of the building, and a coffee shop is also on the way.
When asked what he wants the Monroe Center to be in Hoboken, Weiss said he wants it “not to be one of the last remaining [artist] hubs, but I want people to look at it as a vibrant hub, as opposed to looking at an old quaint little place that used to be [vibrant].”
Weiss said discussions are continuing about renovating the center’s main theater space.
“Everybody is really busy and we haven’t come to a consensus on what should be done yet,” Weiss said.
The resident artist gallery is expected to open in February, Weiss said. The gallery opening will likely coincide with an open studio tour, scheduled for Feb. 26. The studio tour would welcome visitors to view the artwork completed by the tenants of the Monroe Center.
New incubator workspace available
Weiss said as a way to entice more artists to enter the Monroe Center, the building recently introduced the “720 Creation Station,” an artist incubator program that provides local artists with access to affordable creative space and is dedicated to cultivating and promoting the local arts community.
Roland Ramos will coordinate the program.
“720 Creation Station is the latest component in a bigger art renaissance in Hoboken,” Ramos said. “[The] Monroe Center has been dedicated to the promotion and expansion of the arts community in Hoboken, and 720 Creation Station will provide a platform for talented artists to develop their skills, as well as greater community access to the arts.”
Weiss said there has been an “overwhelming response” to informal discussions of the project.
“I was trying to come up with an idea to make [artist] space more affordable,” Weiss said. “I visited a number of arts centers in Virginia, Brooklyn, and around New York and saw different ideas about how art space is shared.”
Weiss said Ramos made the idea a reality.
The seven, initial members of the program will share an exhibition and studio space. Weiss said he hopes the program will grow to over 30 members.
“In the next two months, once we work out the details, we hope to move them into a larger space and do the program on a larger scale,” he said.
Members of the 720 Creation Station will take part in regular group critiques of their work, receiving critical feedback from peers for their ongoing creative development, according to a release. The members will also run regular art classes open to the general public.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com