Jersey City has not been kind to art galleries. While the city is home to many artists and a thriving arts and culture community, businesses solely dedicated to the exhibition and sale of artwork have come…and gone.
Undeterred by this history, veteran artist Uta Brauser has reopened her gallery Fish with Braids and believes she now has all the ingredients in place to make the gallery a thriving arts center.
Originally opened at 521 Jersey Ave. in 2008, Brauser closed Fish with Braids in December, 2010, when it became too cost prohibitive to keep it open. Now, she’s in a much larger 1,200-square-foot space around the corner at 190 Columbus Drive.
“This time I have the right kind of space,” she said succinctly when asked why she’s committing herself to another gallery. “I’m interested in interacting with the general public with art.”
With sponsorship support from Del Forno Real Estate – in the form of what she calls “nominal” rent – Brauser plans to turn the new gallery into an exhibition and cultural space. This, she said, will include regular art exhibits and performance art, in addition to classes and workshops that will be available to both trained artists and to the general public.
“You know, there are art forms and skills that are slowly dying out, like casting and doll making,” said Brauser, whose own background is as a doll maker and fashion designer. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know how to sew anymore. How are you going to make something out of cloth or fabric if you don’t know how to sew? This is a real concern of mine and I want to try to do something to keep these skills alive. It’s very Bauhaus, what we’re trying to achieve here.”
She admits that some of what she hopes to accomplish with Fish with Braids is similar to some of the work that’s already being done by Art House Productions, located at Hamilton Square Park.
“What we’re doing is similar. But I’d say they are more focused on theater and performance, which I’m interested in as well,” she noted. “But my focus will be a little bit more [about] visual art.”
And unlike the weekly Creative Grove events at Grove Plaza, which Brauser founded four years ago, she ironically sees Fish with Braids as a more publicly accessible space.
Creative Grove is a weekly vendor market held each Friday that allows artists to sell their work to the public. The gathering has become a staple in the downtown community and regularly includes work from painters, photographers, jewelry makers, and handbag designers.
“Even though it’s in a very public space, and it is open and available to the public, I really started Creative Grove as a way to connect artists,” Brauser explained. “I created that really as a way for artists to get out of their studios and network with each other and see each other’s work. The gallery will be more of a community space, a community center.”
You think ‘gallery’
True to this vision, Brauser’s Fish with Braids held an opening on July 26 that included many of the elements she hopes to make available to the public on a regular basis. The opening featured the work of filmmakers, fashion designers, makers of wearable art, and photographers. A fashion show featured body-pained models wearing some of Brauser’s own designs. Beginning this Wednesday the gallery will be used for a series of inexpensive ($15) violin classes for children and adults.
Pointing to an area that is currently being used as storage, Brauser said, “There is a large [enclosed space] here that needs to come down. But once that is removed this area will be used as a theater space. That’s where the stage will go.”
One Jersey City designer said he has reached out to the city to see whether it will be possible to open some type of rooftop coffeehouse in conjunction with the gallery.
Referring to Brauser’s new space in comparison to her last, Gaye Dunstan, who attended the opening, said, “This is like jumping from a pond into the ocean. There is no comparison. You look at this space and you immediately think ‘gallery.’ ”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.