Hudson County arts scene must be blossoming, because more and more shows and venues keep popping up. Jersey City and Hoboken's bars were strong as always, and towns like Secaucus and Union City have also been contributing their share of painters, actors and writers.
The municipally-sponsored art tours and festivals lure thousands of visitors from the tri-state area last year. Hoboken holds two art and music festivals per year, and both Hoboken and Jersey City draw art lovers to their autumn "Artist Studio Tours" where attendees can tromp from studio to studio watching artists at work.
This past spring, the headliner at the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival was to be Donovan Leitch (Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman). As it turned out, rains forced fans inside that day to see the '60s rocker in the confines of the Debaun Auditorium instead of outdoors. The rest of the festival was rescheduled to the following weekend - where poet laureate of punk Patty Smith (Because the Night, People Have the Power) headlined. For the fall festival, visitors grooved to the sounds of Eric Burdon of the Animals (House of the Rising Sun, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood).
In October, Hoboken and Jersey City hosted their artist studio tours. Hoboken's 22nd Artist Studio Tour expanded to two days. In the past, there had been years with two days of tours, but each day featured different studios.
"It's a different experience than going to see works just hung on the wall," said City Director of Cultural Affairs Geri Fallo. "You get to meet the artist face to face, and you get to see how their train of thought is."
Jersey City hosted its largest Artist Studio Tour yet in October, with almost 500 displayers trumping last year's 300, requiring 20 new venues. Thousands of visitors came by over the weekend.
The day was not without its problems, though. The residents of Jersey City's 111 First St., a former factory building that is now filled with artists' lofts, were not allowed to have visitors for much of the tour. The artists have been locked in a struggle with landlord Lloyd Goldman over issues including rent hikes, the demolition of parts of the building, and Goldman's desire to build condos on the property. Some demolition has ensued (see story inside), and court battles will continue into the new year. At the end of this year, the artists held a benefit art show to help their cause.
Nevertheless, there were venues that shined in Jersey City regarding the visual arts. City Beans Coffee Co. Inc. in Jersey City opened up its walls to display artwork this fall, beginning with a photo exhibition from D.J. Haslett. Haslett was encouraged by the opportunity.
"I have seen some of the work in Jersey City and have enjoyed it all," said Haslett. "I would like to meet more of the artists in Jersey City."
A group of eight artists in Union City also had an exhibition, "NoHu (North Hudson) Visions 2004," in the Salon Gallery of the Park Performing Arts Center. The Jersey City museum followed suit by hosting a NoHu slide show featuring 10 north Hudson artists in October, where the artists took the time to discuss their work and answer questions from the audience.
"We're just scratching the surface in terms of artists in the North Hudson area," said Weehawken resident Ben Goldman, who put together the show. "We have a list of 1,000 artists in the area and had to pick 10 from there. We know that there are many more artists than the ones we know of."
The Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs also got in on the action by opening up the rotunda of the Justice William Brennan Courthouse on Newark Avenue to art exhibitions, kicking off in October with the Urban Complex, which featured 23 artists from five Hudson County towns. In addition, café tables are set up on the third Friday of every month for people to enjoy coffee shop-style entertainment with open mic music.
Art fans also got to enjoy a late autumn crafts fair in Hoboken. And at 720 Monroe St. in Hoboken, artists opened up their studios the first Sunday of each month for visitors.
Popular music series like The Writers' Hang at the Goldhawk continued to thrive. One change in the Hoboken music scene was the relocation of the open mic art show, Artkore. Artkore features a local original band as an anchor of an open mic night that brings musicians and poets together to check each other out. The scene moved this year from Rodeo Ristra, and after a brief stint at the Shannon Lounge is continuing Tuesdays at Rue De Jardin.
Familiar venues like the Whiskey Bar, Willie McBride's, and Maxwell's, in Hoboken, and Uncle Joe's and P.J. Ryan's in Jersey City continued to feature live music. Lovesexy promoter John Vargas brought back his multimedia shows, most recently to Comfort in Jersey City on Thanksgiving weekend.
On Jan. 21, Hoboken original acts will get together at Maxwell's for Hoboken Rocks, featuring Marc Giannotti, Crewmand Number Six, Butterspy, Motel Creeps, Karyn Kuhl, High Speed Chase, and Eugene. The show is an attempt to bring more attention to original bands and make the music more accessible.
"The music scene has really been picking up over the last few years," said Jamie Della Fave from Eugene, who organized the show. "Every time there is a show, there is a great crowd that comes out to hear original music. We want to open it up and include as many original musicians as we can."
After some rocky personnel shifts, Hoboken band Mistic Rein has continued work on their upcoming album. The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center in Weehawken completed its second season, with 17 concerts since it opened in August, 2003. Some of the shows included Paquito D'Rivera, Sergio and Odair Assad, the Persuasions, the Holmes Brothers, the Claremont Trio, The Duprees, and Ollabelle. The organization is hoping to raise funds to build an arts center on Weehawken's southern waterfront.
Local rappers from Jersey City, North Bergen and Guttenberg were in local news with new songs and new styles.
Movies, TV, and theater
Movies are always fun projects to catch a glimpse of. People flocked to Bayonne to catch a glimpse of Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg for the filming of Spielberg's War of the Worlds. Rumor has it that the sequel to Carlito's Way will be set in Bayonne.
Independent productions like Hellfish's Glow Ropes, produced by Secaucus resident Alex Alzate, pulled the stops with lavish bar mitzvah scenes.
Skylar Entertainment came onto the Hudson County scene, teaming up with Hoboken resident Robert Capelli to produce his third film, Waltzing Anna, which he stared in, co-wrote, and produced. Waltzing Anna also featured Hoboken icons like comedian Artie Lange and Pat Hingle, who also appeared in the Hoboken landmark movie On the Waterfront, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The Hoboken Museum had an exhibit to commemorate On the Waterfront, and the Current interviewed screenwriter Budd Schulberg in honor of the occasion.
On a more modern front, newcomer screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg co-wrote Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, which featured characters living in Hoboken. There were a few seconds of street scenes filmed on location, but of course, the filmmakers had to go out of town for a shot of the protagonist finding a parking spot.
Reality TV came to the area on a number of levels. NY Giants backup quarterback and Hoboken's resident hunk, Jesse Palmer, starred as this year's The Bachelor. Jersey City resident Sharae Robinson appeared on MTV's Room Raiders, and Hoboken resident Roger Hazard came home to redesign two houses for A&E's Sell This House, where he is the resident home stager.
A number of residents were featured in this year's NYC Fringe Festival, including poet Christine Goodman's one woman show with Sleeping With Management, and Baja bartender Kerry Logston appearing in Bitches Funny Presents Cows Gone Wild, which she co-wrote, stared in, and choreographed.
And on Broadway, Hoboken residents Jay and Cindy Gutterman produced the show Brooklyn the Musical, which is still playing at the Plymouth theater.
The Park Theater in Union City was host to a number of productions such as Stories of the Tree, The Passion Play, Vegas, Vegas, Vegas, and A Christmas Carol.
Many Hudson County authors released books this year, including Irwin Chusid, James Kurt, Caroline Leavitt, Helene Stapinski, Caren Lissner, and Jim DeRogatis, whose Kill Your Idols featured pieces by Dawn Eden of Hoboken and Jim Testa of Weehawken.
Hudson County artists, musicians, and writers are becoming bolder as the towns continue to provide venues and fans continue to watch, so 2005 promises to continue the trend.
If you would like to be the subject of a future arts article, e-mail the Reporter chain's arts and entertainment paper, The Hudson Current, at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.hudsoncurrent.com).