They had a ball

Hundreds gathered at Cast Iron Lofts in Jersey City on Jan. 26

Art House founder Christine Goodman makes special appearance at this year's Snow Ball.
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Art House founder Christine Goodman makes special appearance at this year's Snow Ball.

Every city has its unique event, from the Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Greenwich Village’s Halloween Parade, where people get to step out of their ordinary lives and dress up. Although Jersey City has its annual Pride Festival yearly, most people see Art House’s Snow Ball as the city’s most celebrated dress-up event.

The 2019 Annual Art House Snow Ball had an air of nostalgia, as hundreds gathered at Cast Iron Lofts in Jersey City on Jan. 26. The 13th annual “black tie creative” arts gala in some ways echoed the creative mayhem of Andy Warhol’s Factory of the 1960s.

By “black tie creative,” organizers mean you can use your imagination. Over the last decade, people have dressed up in some pretty remarkable outfits. They compete for the privilege of being the best dressed guest or couple. Some wear formal attire, some vintage clothing, some wedding or costume wear.

“It says just how well established it has become.” — Christine Goodman

Passing the torch

Normally a vibrant event, this year’s gala reflected how ingrained the arts community in Jersey City has become.

Christine Goodman, who founded Art House Productions in 2001, stepped down as its director two years ago, making way for Meredith Burns to become executive director.

“There is something very significant when something like this moves on after a founder leaves,” said Goodman, who has since become the director of Jersey City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. “It says just how well established it has become.”

Art House offerings 

Art House Productions sponsors and co-hosts a variety of cultural programs, including acting classes and workshops for teens and adults.

Art House started as a one-shot open mic event in response to 9/11 in late 2001. Soon it sponsored a regular reading series, housed for the most part in the upper floors of Victory Hall.

Now the events include theatrical performances, dance shows, visual art exhibits, and JC Fridays, held at the beginning of each calendar season.

Special events have included such productions as “Words Against War,” which was performed on the steps of City Hall. A one-woman play written by Goodman was the first theatrical piece the organization produced.

Art House moved from Victory Hall to the Hamilton Park area, where it stayed for about five years, later moving to Magnolia Avenue near Journal Square; last year it moved to its current site on Jersey Avenue.

The show must go on

The Snow Ball is Art House’s premier fundraising event accounting for about 20 percent of its annual operating budget. But it is also a social occasion that brings out artists and other public figures, many of whom dress up for the “best dressed” contest; “best” is often outrageous and stunning with participants making their way down a modeling runway.

This year’s gala featured live performances by Cook Thugless, a kind of big band rap that featured a remarkable range of music, and late-night dancing with DJ George “Soul” Fernandez of Global Soul Project that turned the gala into a disco.

Harmonica Sunbeam not only played hostess for the event, but performed to raise additional money for Art House.

Sponsors included a host of local and regional businesses; developer Paul Silverman has been a mainstay since the debut gala in 2007.

Al Sullivan can be reached at asulivan@hudsonreporter.com