Jersey City Artists Studio Tour Returns This Weekend

Chilltown promises to be packed with art enthusiasts of all stripes, from avid to amateur, when 400 artists show work at over 100 venues citywide at this weekend’s 19th annual Jersey City Artists Studio Tour.

The tour encourages people to get out of their cars and back into the community by walking, not driving, to many local studios around town. But to get to far-flung studios, there will be three buses hitting six bus stops; Greg Brickey of the city’s Cultural Affairs division estimates the most you’d ever have to wait for a bus would be half an hour and most waits should be much shorter.

(To navigate the tour, you can check out our web-based map or pick up a print copy of the official map at Friday night’s kickoff event at Grace Chuch Van Vorst or at the Journal Square and Grove Street PATH stations all weekend.)

If you were hoping for bright shiny skies to enjoy the tour, think again — and bring your umbrella. The National Weather Service warns “rain likely” for the entire weekend and then rubs our face in it with: “Monday: Sunny, with a high near 70.” But don’t let that get you down, folks, we all know that no one can predict Mother Nature and that it would take more than a few rain clouds to keep the art — and the art-lovers — out of Jersey City.

What to See

“Raw Power,” a 1,000-foot mural comprised of works by dozens of artists, is one of the biggest highlights of the tour. Each artist painted on a 4 by 8 foot panels, and with no particular theme, the mural is expected to meander around the building at 350 Warren St. Artists will be exploring themes inside the box, with “Boxed” at 376 5th St. The exhibition gave 15 artists a predetermined box to turn into a piece of art. The Jersey City Art Fair at The Beacon (4 Beacon Way) promises to be a great group show as well, with most of Jersey City’s big-name artists represented.

Photographer Beth Achenbach is participating in her eighth tour this year, and she’s showing works in four group shows at as many venues all around the city, including the morbidly anticipated “Exquisite Corpse” group show at 150 Bay St. Each of the dozen or so artists in the show rendered a body part — a head, torso, or legs — which will be reconstructed in the exhibit.

“We haven’t been able to see the works all put together,” Achenbach says. “It’s going to be a trip.”

Achenbach’s solo show “Mish Mash” highlights the best of her work over the past eight years held at the newly formed Alley Cat Gallery on Coles Street (between 4th and 5th Streets).

“There’s works on canvas and mounted in frames. It truly is a mish mash,” she says. Some of the highlights of the exhibit are works from Achenbach’s collections “Cerulean Interpretations,” and “Sum of All Parts,” a three-part series that focuses on different body parts from a number of different subjects exploring the similarities in the human form; and “In Search of Mother Nature,” a series of works that portray modern-day women. “It’s really a culmination of everything I’ve done as an artist so far,” she says of the show.

From the Suburbs to Jersey City

Achenbach, who moved to Jersey City from Virginia on the weekend of the 2002 Artists Studio tour, fell in love with the diversity and close-knit community she found here.

“In Virginia, it is all suburbs and driving,” Achenbach says. “You rarely bump into people unless you’re at the mall.” That year she participated in the very first LGBT Group Show in the tour, which was also the first time she ever exhibited her photographs in public.

“I was a little afraid to tell people that I was a photographer,” she says. “I always thought of an artist as a person of a certain caliber, you know, and that I wasn’t really there yet. But at the show, people were really great. The whole experience made me want to show more work.”

For Achenbach, the tour is a great way for amateur artists to show their work. “The tour is much more relaxed than a solo show,” she says. “It’s a get-together-like atmosphere. People stay a while and hang out. And for young artists, it’s a great way to get feedback, and gain confidence.”

But above all, it’s all about the art.

“I love getting to see what other people are doing,” Achenbach says. “And getting to see people in their own space. At a solo show, it’s hard to get a second to do anything. But, with the tour you really get down to the art of it.”

For more details on the tour, visit the Pro Arts website.

the former editor of the Hudson Current arts and entertainment weekly.