LITM, Bar-Restaurant and Key Arts Venue in Jersey City, Preps for its Milestone 100th Opening

Every month, LITM displays artwork from mostly local artists on its walls, which potential patrons browse often while digging into the famous mac and cheese or sipping happy hour cocktails.

An ever-changing display of art is the focal point of the Downtown bar-restaurant on Newark Avenue, and it has been a winning formula as LITM prepares for its 100th art opening Tuesday, April 3 with new works by Gail Boykewich.

Boykewich is a familiar face at LITM – she works behind the bar – and will show more than 30 pieces of her art: paintings, three-dimensional diorama pen and ink drawings, cut-paper pieces, and a few papier-mâché sculptures – many of them quirky portraits of imaginary people, flowers and scenes of animals or nature, such as a pack of snarling African dogs.

In her work, Boykewich wants to “create portals into a world that is both surreal and intensely ordinary,” she writes in her artist statement. “This world is inspired by magic realism in literature, folk art, and the film tradition of American melodrama.”

This is her first solo show in New Jersey, though she has participated in past LITM group shows, where she has sold some artwork.

Andrea Morin, who serves both as curator and manager, says the restaurant has been showcasing artwork since 2003 when it opened.

“The place was designed with the intent to display artwork,” Morin says. “It does provide a creative space for the art community to come together.”

Owner Jelynne Jardiniano said that timing played a role.

“The mood of Jersey City at precisely the time that I was developing the concept determined much of what LITM would become,” Jardiniano says. “We had a thriving art scene, with residents wanting more reasons to stay in their city, as the post-9/11 effect was still strong. I knew art was here to stay, [same as] the people.”

The pull of the place has been strong, adds Boykewich, who says LITM has been a nurturing space for artists such as herself – she has met other creatives at the bar, as well as regular folks who come in for drinks and sometimes walk out with a painting.

“It’s a great space for art,” she says. “It’s really unique – very high ceilings, a ton of wall space and very open. It’s easy for people to take a look.”

She also noted the advantage of its location on Jersey City’s “Restaurant Row,” which gets a lot of foot traffic.

Over the years, LITM has featured more than 50 artists in solo shows, a long, diverse list that includes locals Robert Piersanti, Darin DeField, Megan Gülick and Kayt Hester (see video below by Emily August). Hundreds of others have had their work displayed in group exhibitions.

The restaurant has been a key venue for the city’s thriving arts community, which has seen galleries come and go and the shuttering of the Jersey City Museum.

Besides art shows, LITM has hosted the Not Yo Mama’s Craft Fair, sponsored an arts program for high school students, held film screenings and festivals such as the Manhattan Short Film Festival and Chillfest film series, and supported a mural project for Jersey City’s Viaquenti Preschool.

“LITM is the place for art in Jersey City,” says Jardiniano.

LITM’s 100th art opening is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), April 3, from 7 to 10 p.m. at 140 Newark Avenue. The event will showcase work by Gail Boykewich and has a “Garden Party” theme – visitors are encouraged to wear sundresses or bow ties.

LITM photos and video by Emily August; photos of artwork courtesy of Gail Boykewich

an artist, writer and power tool maven living in Newark. She used to cover crime for the Star-Ledger and now hustles as a freelance reporter, mostly for Patch, and does private art commissions.