"[The cities] all have galleries there, but we felt we needed a local one where artists from our area can display their work," said John Nukem, a member and trustee of the art organization called La Ola.
La Ola, which translates from Spanish as "the Wave," is a group of local artists from North Hudson all sharing the same passion to create art.
Besides Nukem, a 25-year-old tattoo artist, the organization is made up of director and founder Roxana Marroquin, co-director Nicole Contreras, and trustee Henry Hecheverria.
The youths originate from different respective locations including West New York, Weehawken, North Bergen, Union City, and Guttenberg.
La Ola recently celebrated its first gallery show at Union City's Park Avenue Bar & Grill in an effort to expand and bring more art to the local community. The exhibit will be shown through March 2.
The roots radical
La Ola began when longtime friends Nicole Contreras, a silkscreen artist, and Roxana Marroquin, a photographer, expressed their wishes to create an artist organization exclusive to North Hudson.
"It's very doable," Contreras remembered telling Marroquin when first approached about the idea.
Marroquin, a 27-year-old from West New York, and Contreras, a 24-year-old from North Bergen, were fellow classmates majoring in photography at New Jersey City University when the conversation to create a group ensued.
Contreras described the need for the organization as resulting from a discussion about artistic work and potential future projects.
With exclusive artist groups in Jersey City and Hoboken, Marroquin wanted to organize something similar in North Hudson.
"We were having a cup of coffee one day when Roxana just said she wanted to start an organization for North Hudson artists," said Contreras, "and I said 'let's do it.' "
Having unsuccessfully rented out gallery space on 72nd Street and Bergenline Avenue last October, Contreras retained her artistic contacts and began recruiting.
"We created a Web site, MySpace page, and sent e-mails out looking for artists," said Contreras, "but the hardest part was getting people involved. They're afraid it's a scam or large responsibility."
In fact, La Ola has no stringent prerequisites. There is no admission fee and the group's only requirements are that potential members be artists and reside in the North Hudson area.
Marroquin and Contreras both said ideally, the group would like its own gallery. With sufficient space and resources, they hope to one day create a venue where artists can meet, discuss, and teach their arts.
"Many people in grammar school or high school do [art] as a hobby," said Contreras, "but for us, it's something serious. It is our lives and our job is to show people that."
What's my age again?
Thursday's exhibit displayed the different, rogue, and mature talents La Ola and its affiliates have to offer. One such member was 35-year-old Weehawken resident Franck de las Mercedes, who displayed his life-sized painting, "Back to the Mirror."
"My paintings are a constant exploration of my psyche, feelings, and the emotions that emerge in the present time from memory or past experiences," said de las Mercedes, describing his art.
The Nicaraguan native cited Jackson Pollock as one of his favorite artists, crediting him for making de las Mercedes "feel something never felt before."
Participating in the exhibit also proved successful for 31-year-old graffiti artist Robert Coello. Having made the transition from the streets to the canvas, Coello described the rogue artist's struggle.
"I tried to get legal permission from the mayor to do a mural," said Coello, "but they [mistakenly] said it was gang-related."
Transitioning his art to a more marketable and legal medium using canvas, acrylic, and marker, Coello added, "It's good to have something for the kids now. We don't have any galleries here. They have art classes in school and not a lot of people benefit from that. In the neighborhood, I see recreation for basketball, soccer, and baseball, but [the city] should have something for artists to develop their minds."
Ramon Arcadio, the art teacher at John F. Kennedy Public School 7 in North Bergen, reflected Coello's sentiments.
Said Arcadio, "It is critical for our community to have these types of shows. It's energizing to surround yourself with these artists. Jersey City has an art scene, but North Hudson is starting to feel it now and it's all for the better."
For more information visit: www.laola.org
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.