Green Villain: Jersey City’s Secret Urban Playground for Grown-Ups

It blends into Jersey City’s gritty landscape so well that if you blink, you’ll miss it. But lucky you, JCI is giving you a glimpse into a local tribute to urban street culture, slammin’ tunes and community.

Call it Green Villain, named after the neighborhood and money (green), the root of all evil. It’s tucked away in a cadaver from JC’s industrial past and is just about the last place you’d go if you were looking for something fun to do. Thanks to an event management company run by a man who calls himself John B., however, the place has been popping since 2009 with art shows, concerts and more.

“Everyone who walks through the door always ends up with their jaw on the floor because they go from a space in the middle of nowhere and then find themselves in a legitimate adult playground. Every person doesn’t know how to respond,” says John.

Well, maybe not, since one newbie at their last event of 2012 walked in and knew exactly how to respond. “This. Is. So. Sick,” she said, running down its corridors. In every room, her reaction was the same — “Sick. Sick. Sick!” The 21-year-old Heights resident, a self-described graffiti writer, was absolutely floored by GV’s latest art show.

About every two weeks, Green Villain has artists come in and paint its many walls with street-art style murals inspired by graffiti, tag culture and city life in general. Some of the most well-known names to grace GV’s walls include locals Mr. Mustart (whose work is seen above) and Then One, who have created murals at places like Moishe’s and Hudson County Art Supply.

While there are several “regular players” who have helped repeatedly paint the place, John says he also seeks out talented artists from the area and gives them tours of the space. “Usually it’s organic after that and they want to be involved. They always want to find out how they can be involved because it’s so overwhelming and people just gravitate toward it,” he says.

The space also features a street-style merchandise showroom featuring GV’s own clothing line, LOST ALOT and Suvas, which recently opened a boutique on West Side Avenue near Union Street. The Green Villain also cooks up good food for guests and serves up free coffee and tea (and beer for the grown folk). They keep their parties pumping, but semi-exclusive and intimate. There’s a video-game ready TV set and big, comfy couches. In short, they make everyone feel at home.

Tunes are also top-priority, says John, who DJs around the tri-state area. While some of their dozen events last year featured DJs spinning house and electronic music, they also invited local bands to play folk, rock and a wide variety of genres. At GV’s other events, especially in their “second home” near Boston, music takes center stage, especially since wall art isn’t exactly portable.

John says that despite some accusations that he’s “spreading (himself) too thin,” he has a clear focus. “Our goal is to have a word-of-mouth client base for custom marketing, art installations, shoots and party and event production. We also want people to know our name is synonymous with the highest quality product,” he says. “It’s a combo of art and music; we have a multifaceted approach. We want it to be manicured, not rough around the edges. The devil is in the details.”

But of course, he’s just one man. He’d like help from other great creators in JC, too.

“I’ll say to any person — if you have an idea, chances are I’ll run with it if you hold your own,” he says. “People’s passions turn me on. That’s the overall ethos and vibe here: one hand washes the other and we build it all together.”

Check out some photos from our exclusive shoot at Green Villain.

Top photo courtesy of Green Villain; gallery photos by Summer Dawn Hortillosa

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.