Many of the "displaced refugees," as photographer and digital print artist Edward Fausty called them, tried to find suitable places to continue their creativity. Some, like Fausty, found a safe haven in Union City, in the old Yardley soap factory building at 600 Palisade Ave.
In fact, the Yardley building has developed into a major home for artists, with as many as 19 renting studio space in the building.
"We have a lot of great artists here with so much creativity," said Carol Schwartz, who creates major wood sculptures. "There's so much creativity and so much diversity that I thought it would be great to show it all off."
How long the artists are allowed to stay remains to be seen. Two weeks ago, the town designated the building an "area in need of redevelopment." That means the town can negotiate with owner Richard Kocher to buy it, or it can try to take it over by eminent domain. It is known that developer Joseph Panepinto would like to turn it into residential housing.
But for now, the artists are hoping it will remain a center for creativity.
To show off the talent in the building, Schwartz decided to organize the first-ever Yardley Open Studios Tour, featuring the paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, photographs, drawings and crafts of the talented artists that are now housed in Union City.
Schwartz, a resident of Englewood, has been renting space in the Yardley building for almost a year.
"I took the lead here, because I was involved with other open studios when I was in 111 First Street," said Schwartz, who has been a full-time artist for four years. "We have so many people from there here and I just figured that it would be good to get the word out that we're here."
"There's a sense of community here," said Robin Tedesco, a Jersey City resident and former renter at 111 First St. who has been a full-time painter, creating abstracts with oil paints on wood panels, for the last 18 years.
"That's a powerful thing. We're coming together as artists and inviting people to come into our studios."
The Yardley Open Studios Tour is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Visitors can come to the building and visit all the different artists' studios, where several of their creations will be on display for purchasing.
"It's very special that 19 people are participating," Schwartz said. "The people will be entering the world of each of us."
"It's like entering our sanctuary," said Jessica Lenard, who has been a painter and print maker for more than 30 years. Many of Lenard's paintings feature sites throughout Jersey City, like the famed Colgate clock and the Paulus Hook area.
Some of the artists, like Fausty, were not receptive to the idea.
"My first reaction was that I wasn't that enthusiastic," said Fausty, who has been working with photography for his entire life. "I did the Studio Tour in Jersey City and we had hundreds of people walking through, so that was special. But there's still something lingering over being forced to leave. So I thought doing this would be a little bittersweet. We [feel we] were sabotaged by our old landlord, and that hurt. It wasn't the leaving that hurt. It was the fighting to stay. Hopefully, this will be a nice experience."
However, others were excited about the opportunity.
"The other studio tour had more than 200 artists," Lenard said. "This is a little scary, because there are so few of us. If all else fails, we'll have a big party."
"It's very intimate," Schwartz said.
"It's doable, because we all won't feel overwhelmed," Tedesco said.
Some of the other artists participating, like Carol Kravitz of Weehawken, were never renters in Jersey City. Kravitz has been renting space in the Yardley building for the last four years.
"When I came here, not only were there no artists here, but there were times when I was the only person," said Kravitz, who paints abstracts and landscapes and also teaches the adult education art program in Weehawken. "It was creepy being the only one here. Now, there is a sense of togetherness. The fourth floor of this building has become the artists' floor."
Max Ginsburg creates vivid paintings of streetscapes and real life that look like photographs.
"I've been painting all my life and I was a teacher at the School of Visual Arts," Ginsburg said. "I've been painting and exhibiting for a while, doing oil paintings of realistic settings. When I was first approached to participate in a studio tour three months ago, I really felt that this could help us. It could keep this building as a building for artists. The trend in the area is to turn everything into condos. Maybe we can keep this protected as an artist's haven."
"It's very positive to have artists in this building," Schwartz said. "I love the intimacy here. I can communicate with other artists on a daily basis."
Suzanne Schorr still lives in Jersey City with her husband, Steve Smith. Schorr designs small paintings that are framed by her husband, who does work in intricate wood.
"I used to work as an office manager in New York and I loathed that," Schorr said. "I also worked in photojournalism for a while, but being able to do this is a breath of fresh air."
Lisa Portnoff, another refugee from 111 First St., works with ceramic tiles and mosaics. For the last 15 years, she has professionally worked in historic preservations, like the New York City subways and other restoration projects.
"I'm very excited about this tour," said Portnoff, who resides in Edison. "I feel it's like a sense of continuum from our other place. We have to have the impedance to keep it going."