The Bridge Arts Festival kicks off with a bang

Food, entertainment, and art at Dennis Collins Park

Two stages of music and dance performances, food trucks, and artist tents packed into Dennis
Collins Park on Saturday, September 9, for the Bridge Arts Festival, sponsored in part by the Bayonne Community News. At the tip of Bergen Point and overlooking the newly-raised Bayonne Bridge, the festival showcased local artists while providing a burst of activity in this already lively neighborhood.
Kids and adults stayed busy throughout, with face-painting and a tent for arts and crafts provided by The Krafty Fox. An outdoor bar and VIP tent were set up alongside food vendors around the stage. The focus, though, as the name of the festival suggests, was on the arts.
“It’s the first time something like this is happening in Bayonne,” said local artist Nupur Nishith, whose Mathila-Madhubani art is inspired by both her Indian and American identities. “I’m inspired by folk art from India, but I’ve developed my own style,” she says. “I think people find it different.”Her art is colorful and intricate. Passersby stopped to ask her more about it, and sometimes bought one or two pieces.

Performing arts

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Next to the artist tents was a dance stage, where one of the performers, Heather Smith, performed improvisational dance. “The idea of community and being tied together like we are today is something I write about and try to perform,” said Smith, dressed in a black unitard painted with purple stars. Matching themed henna tattoos lined her arms, legs, and face. “What’s so much fun about improvisational dancing is anything can happen.”
Smith experienced other acts in between her own. “They were fantastic,” she said of Jersey City-based Pineapples & Ashtrays. One of the band members recently moved to Bergen Point, he announced before the band’s set. “There are so many things they have here that I want to experience,” said Smith, who built up an appetite throughout her performances. “I’m definitely for an empanada.”
Grammy-award winning percussionist, Ralph Irizarry, and Dave Watson, a jazz-funk artist, had the crowd on their feet. “They brought so much energy,” said George Vargos, who was enjoying the perfect 75-degree sunny weather with his family, when the crowd started dancing. “When you hear sweet sounds, how can your body not react?”

The brain trust

Festival organizers, Cheryl and Christopher Mack, who run the Bridge Art Gallery on Broadway in Bergen Point started planning the event months ago, organizing artists, sponsors, vendors, and entertainers. “This went really well,” said Christopher Mack,wearing a bright red “Bridge Arts Festival” t-shirt and standing in the VIP tent next to the main stage, the same tents used at Riverview Jazz Fest in Jersey City. The Bridge Arts Festival was designed to be a destination where people of all ages could hang out together and enjoy a nice day at the park, and the Macks feel they’ve succeeded. “One of the biggest things I’m happy about is that the people came, and they stayed. Everyone joined in,” Mack said.
With the “arts” emphasis front and center, it was important to the Macks that local artists get exposure and sell some of their work. It certainly appeared that way as customers were walking out of the tents with bags full of earrings, paintings, trinkets, and various arts and crafts. “That’s what it’s all about,” Mack said. “Celebrating the arts.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at

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