4th Street Arts Takes Over City Hall for Annual Ball

The world is allegedly ending soon according to the Mayan calendar (well, not really, scholars say) — so if walking into City Hall decked out like Thor, a ballerina or a really well-dressed ninja is on your bucket list, here’s your chance.

The 4th Street Ball at City Hall is back tonight, Dec. 14, and is bringing all sorts of art, entertainment, food and fun — all for free — for its guests at this “creative black tie” affair. The annual soiree is local nonprofit 4th Street Arts’ way of giving back to the community.

“Last year we had all music, dance and theatrics. This year, we’ll have an art game show called Battle Lines with a live improvisational orchestra to play along with the artists,” says 4th Street’s Mike McNamara. The drawing game gained popularity after literary and art magazine Instigatorzine and the Jersey City Art School’s Art Social events, where local artists faced off pen to pen.

McNamara reached out to Instigatorzine founder Narciso Espiritu Jr. about bringing the game and Art Social’s relaxed, but creatively buzzing, energy to the ball. Espiritu says the entire event will be like one mega Art Social as a “gathering for artists and art lovers to come together in a space that provides creative engagement.”

Some of the artists slated to participate include Matt Cap, Chris Weber, Edmund Kasubinski and NEW Magazine‘s own Dan Strauss. The “performance” portion of the Battle Lines game will not be open to the public, but guests will get a chance to doodle on the boards at some point during the evening, McNamara says.

“I think the ball will illustrate the diversity of the art community and bring out the Illustrators and cartoonists out from their caves — We don’t get out much when we’re drawing for a dollar,” says Espiritu. “I think the party will also show that Jersey City can party better than the shore.”

Fueling the festivities will be food and drinks from PJ Ryan’s, located at 292 Barrow St., which will also host the ball’s after-party at 10:30 pm. The JC Home Brew Club will also serve up samples of some of their work including Colby Janisch’s Holiday Spice Ale and Chris LaSpada’s Rye Saison. The club is also bringing its group brew, a keg of Winter Warmer. During cocktail hour, CK VIBES will provide entertainment.

For many, however, the main attraction will be the Rotunda Gallery’s group art show, “Sacred Geometry” which was curated by local pop artist Cara Christopher and debuted during JC Fridays last week.

“Mac (Mike McNamara) has been putting together awesome art events in JC through 4th Street Arts for years,” says Christopher. “While I am excited to have my own work in this show, what I am really happy about is being able to do something that brings artists together.”

The show, which occupies the second and third floors of City Hall, includes work from many Jersey City artists as well as some from New York City, Philadelphia and other cities in the surrounding region. “To bring artists from another city and another scene into… Jersey City is what excites me the most,” says Christopher. “To be someone who has the opportunity to help both Jersey City-based artists and artists from outside of this scene meet and network with new people is an honor to me.”

Christopher knows all about bringing communities together. For example, her pieces in the show — “Geometric Pentagram with Illuminati Eye Center” (seen left) and “Psychedelic, Demonic, Vampire Unicorn Head with Sacred Geometry Eyes” (bottom right) — started as collaborative paint-by-number pieces that involved several guests at the 4th Street Arts and Music Festival in October during the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour.

“On the canvas, I painted a black outline of the two pieces and numbered the inside of each shape. Each number corresponded with a color. During the 4th Street Fest, we hung up both canvases outside and had numbered paint jars set up in front of it. Many people came up and grabbed a paint jar. While the finished result of the collaboration looked awesome itself, I decided to paint over it and create the finished paintings that I originally envisioned,” she says.

The result are two poppy, trippy paintings with bold, vibrating colors — the 24-year-old’s trademark. While the paintings in the show are all Cara Christopher, the Village neighborhood resident admits that she was heavily influenced and inspired by the original paint-by-numbers collaboration.

Other contributing artists include McNamara, Agnieszka Wszowlkowska, AJ Romano, Alex Pergament, Alicia Ruth, Cathleen McDonald, Ceallaigh Pender, Daniel “Kodaq Jonez” Morteh, Dillon Dunning, Eli Livingston, Ellen Glynn, Eric Kramer, Gina Rubinette, Greg Brickey, Ian Kuali, Jen Bissu, John Ruddy, Kathleen Odenthal, Luca Cusolito, Maria Schettino, Mark Finne, Mark Fionda, Megan Sperry, Monica Chavarria Piedrahita, Nancy Palubniak, Norm Kirby, Omel Rama, Pablo Naranjo and Ray Arcadio.

A portion of the proceeds from the artwork will go towards Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. “I hope the spirit of this event reflects the generosity and friendship I’ve witnessed in Jersey City after Hurricane Sandy,” says Christopher.

“Almost everyone I know was affected in some way, either tangibly or emotionally, and is in some way still struggling with the aftermath,” she says. “I hope the event can be a way for us to come together, see some great art, have a drink and feel connected which will in turn help get our minds off the stress from the hurricane and start a new chapter.”

The 4th Street Ball at City Hall will be held tonight, Dec. 14, from 5 pm to 10 pm at City Hal, 280 Grove St. Guests should wear creative black tie (costume) attire; guests will vote on the best dressed, who will receive a prize. An after-party will be held at PJ Ryan’s at 10:30 pm.

Top photo by Farooq Alihassan; paintings courtesy of Cara Christopher

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.