The distance that separates Jersey City’s downtown – arguably the city’s largest art hub – and Greenville, also home to many artists, isn’t huge. And yet, in terms of the level of interaction and awareness among the artists who are part of each scene, they two neighborhoods are worlds apart.
This is something Greenville native and photographer Daniel Morteh finds troubling.
“As I was getting involved in this amazing renaissance of art and culture that’s going on in Jersey City, I also noticed that very few of the ‘known’ artists here are people who were born and raised in the city,” said Morteh. “I thought there needed to be some kind of merger where we could feature artists from Greenville, but show their work downtown as a way of developing a connection, so we can bridge the art and culture from one community to another.”
Thus, next week, as part of the quarterly JC Fridays event, Morteh will present “The Greenville Project,” an exhibition of art works and performances from several established Greenville-based artists who, according to Morteh, are unknown to their counterparts in the downtown art scene. Most of the people featured, he said, “are people who inspired me to be an artist myself.”
The show will feature the work of Cristina Villaflor, Kevin Jones, and Lorenzo Pickett, among others.
“Many of my associates and peers who are artists in Greenville have never heard of the annual Artists’ Studio Tour. They’ve never heard of JC Fridays. So, there is a lack of awareness on both sides,” said Morteh, a graduate of the New Jersey City University’s media department.
With Greenville still one of the city’s poorest communities, he suspects that a lack of resources helps keep the areas artists isolated from their counterparts in the Jersey City Heights, Journal Square, and downtown – communities that are all typically included in the city’s quarterly JC Fridays celebrations and Artists Studio Tour.
One of the city’s largest cultural event, the annual Artists Studio Tour, held each fall at venues throughout the city, is a free two-day self-guided walking tour of galleries, exhibitions, artists’ studios, and art in public spaces. Each year the tour, which is hosted and organized by the Jersey City Division of Cultural Affairs and the nonprofit organization Pro Arts, showcases the work of professional artists who live and create in Jersey City, but whose art may be unfamiliar to the larger community. While many sites along the tour route are located downtown, the organizers have in recent years been trying to make greater attempts to include the work of artists from the Heights, Bergen-Lafayette, and, yes, Greenville.
JC Fridays is a quarterly arts and culture event held at the beginning of each season. Smaller and more focused than the Studio Tour, JC Fridays still offers a taste of what Jersey City’s arts community has to offer.
The reach of both of these offerings, while growing, is still limited.
“My hope is that by putting together a show at one venue that features artists from one community it will create a chain or a link and more of a cultural continuum throughout the city,” said Morteh, whose own photography – which was recently shown as part of the 2012 Artists’ Studio Tour – will not be included in the show.
The Greenville Project will take place at 289 Newark Ave., and Morteh said there will also be guest performances by the Audiobodies and Tameka Raines.
“It’s important to provide the community an opportunity to see this type of show in the context of a JC Fridays or an Artists’ Studio Tour, because it allows the work of these artists to be seen in a professional gallery environment,” he said. “My hope is that it gives the downtown artists and downtown community a new appreciation for art that’s coming out of a different community.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.