Hewn Arts Center: A Place of Creative Collaboration
An assortment of vintage home goods by LOVE Furniture & Design at Hewn Arts Center – Photo by Catherine Hecht © Harmony Media, NJ
What if Jersey City had a large center where artists (of all mediums) and vendors could rent by the hour, event, or month? Well, we do. Welcome Hewn Arts Center, formerly the location of Liberty High School on Sip Avenue and a brief walking distance from the Journal Square PATH. (Yes―an artist mecca that’s not downtown).
Ed Ramirez, the owner of Ed’s Salvage Co., a well-loved vintage shop in McGinley Square, (and also a contributor toJCI’s fashion columnJersey City Review), shared some words about his new venture.
When a 13,000 square-foot space opened up in Journal Square and Ramirez was introduced to it by his former boss, he jumped on the opportunity to manifest his idea. “We needed to give artists a place to showcase their work,” says Ramirez.
When you first enter the below-street-level space, you are in a very large, sparsley-furnished room, perfect for Jersey City-type cultural events. The ceilings are high; the walls are bare and ready for use.
Walking further, down the locker-lined hallways, you’ll find full bathrooms for men and women and a kitchen. There are 18 private rooms for rent, most former classrooms. Rentals run approximately $75 a day. Small rooms are about $20 an hr. Monthly rentals for rooms start at $600 per month with all utilities included.
The rooms are available to Jersey City artists as studios or creative work spaces. If you want to share the space with another artist, that’s fine, too. Beyond the visual arts, rooms are available for other artistic uses as well―voice and musical lessons, band practice, play rehearses, craft classes, etc. The center is all about the arts.
Ramirez has already held three events for Hudson Flea in the space. Merchants (on average about 30 per market) set up private rooms and the main space with their artwork, vintage items and collectibles, including Ramirez, whose satellite vintage shop is also set up at Hewn.
The first Hudson Flea had live music and a good turnout from the public, which prompted Ed to make the next event three days long, capitalizing on JC Fridays’ December date. That market was so successful that they decided to set up shop the following Saturday. The eventual goal, once most of the studios are filled, is to have an artist market every Saturday.
In May, along with the market, the center will be offering ballet classes, and there are other exciting collaborations in the works. (Stay tuned.) Artists currently renting from Hewn have also given back to the community with donations to Learning Charter Community Center and Dress for Sucess, among other causes.
The occupied rooms are vastly different from the vacant classrooms. They are painted, adorned with local art and installations, filled with antique furniture, rugs and other goods, and otherwise transformed into small galleries and shops. The rooms are all unique to their owners, and all are vibrant and visually pleasing for anyone walking though you can really feel the creativity. I can only imagine what other artists will do to make over the rooms once they move in.
As a longtime resident of Jersey City, Ramirez is eager to get the word out about this new arts space. He wants to let people show and sell their work and is determined to make it a community place as well.
“Jersey City residents are community-oriented. A lot of people like to help and support because they appreciate what I’m doing. It’s been great,” says Ramirez. For example, one wintry Friday night a friend gave him a tip about a ton of great books that were going to be thrown away after an estate sale. He enlisted another friend to drive over to the location with him.
Once they arrived, they saw many other great finds, mostly furniture. All of which would be great to use to decorate the new arts space. For all these items, they would need a van. Ramirez and his partner-in-crime called a few more of their friends. One friend said her van was filled, but told them her sister had an empty one that they could borrow for the night. Soon enough, the van was loaded and both it and their car were packed full.
There was one last couch that wouldn’t fit. “You can’t leave this,” his friend said. She insisted that the couch would be perfect at Hewn Arts Center.
“It was not the best sofa in the world, but because she felt it needed to be at the center, they flipped it upside down, put it on the roof of her Mercedes with no straps or ties, and rode like knuckleheads with their hands holding onto it out of the windows from all the way from Christ Hospital to Hewn.
“That friend of mine is an Indian pop star with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and basically begged me to put trash on her car so she could bring it here, because that’s what she thinks is important. She had better things to be doing on a Friday night.” That couch now sits in the center of Hewn’s main room.
“That’s what’s kept me doing this. People just want to help. That’s the community spirit that I see in Jersey City,” says Ramirez.
And it is certainly what makes the foundation of Hewn Arts Center so great.
The Hewn Art Center is located at 140 Sip Ave.
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Photos by Catherine Hecht © Harmony Media, NJ