When "Spirit of the Community," the theme for this year's Cathedral Arts Festival, was announced months ago, the organizers of the Grace Church Van Vorst gala didn't expect to see that spirit jump into action.
The festival, which was originally set for Nov. 3, was rescheduled after Hurricane Sandy knocked the lights out of most of Jersey City and flooded several homes.
Organizer and co-curator Amy Elise, who has been attending the church since moving to JC in 2008, says that while rescheduling wasn't an easy decision, it allowed the church to focus on serving those in need. After all, the church was minimally affected while its basement was flooded, all the gala's art was safe and the church did not go long without power.
"Deciding to reschedule an event is always a difficult call, but none of us wanted to put on a gala during a weekend when things felt bleak and most of the area was still without power," says Elise, whom many may recognize as one of the Gully Hubbards. "Instead, the church was used as a warming and re-charging station all week. At that time, the community had some very practical needs that the church was able to help meet.
"Now, as we adjust to the new normal a month later, the community needs a reason to gather, to celebrate, and to revel in beauty. After what we've gone through together in the past month, we have all the more reason to celebrate the Spirit of Community," she says.
The 27-year-old, who is also one of the co-founders of kids creativity program Story Haven, teamed up with painter and musician Donald Gallagher to choose over 100 works of art by 56 artists, both local and out-of-state.
"The art is really the star of the show," says Elise. "I'm also thrilled to be showing visual art from women known for their many other gifts, like cellist Ceallaigh Pender, woman-of-action Luca Cusolito, spoken-word artist Beth Bentley and writer and performer Kate Kaiser."
Other participating artists include local favorites like Beth Achenbach, Ray Arcadio, Miguel Cardenas, Kayt Hester, Grigory Gurevich, Jim Legge, Meghan McKee, Mike McNamara and Joan Marie Palmer.
"Most of the artists will be in attendance, so guests can meet the artists and discuss their work," says the Heights resident. "The church itself is a work of art, so it's a very powerful aesthetic experience to see this gorgeous old vaulted space filled with bright new works of art. And, of course, it will be filled with beautiful people all decked out!"
The curator says that while the art, food, free-flowing champagne and tunes by local jazz musician Bryan Beninghove are all great reasons to swing by the gala, it's also an event that will show off what Jersey City can do when its residents band together.
"The art represents what community can mean in so many different ways, from an elephant and its descendants to a collection of broken umbrellas, from an image of migrant workers making up the stars and stripes of the American flag to a sculpture of fused plastic bags spilling out of their container," she says. "We have a delightful combination of quirky, playful art and more serious, intellectual pieces. I hope people will take time to read the artists' reflections on community in the gallery book, because they have expressed it in some beautiful and unexpected ways."
In the wake of a storm, a feeling a sense of community and home is especially important to the community's recovery. Elise hopes that event attendees can draw positive energy from the art, their neighbors and the church itself.
"I hope this event will give people who may not normally feel comfortable in a church a positive experience in a sacred space and that the community will get a taste of the love and joy that the Grace Church congregation exudes," she says. "I hope that the art will inspire good conversation and thoughtful reflection and smiles of appreciation. I hope that members of the local art community will think of Grace Church Van Vorst as their church home."
The 23rd annual Cathedral Arts Festival will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 pm at Grace Church Van Vorst, 39 Erie St. Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. There will also be silent and live auctions, with prizes including a week in Bonita Springs, Fla., a day with Donald Gallagher and the opportunity to perform as Mama Cannoli (a Jersey City take on Mother Ginger) in Nimbus Dance Works' Jersey City Nutcracker. For more information, call 201-659-2211 or visit their website.
Chi Modu photo
When the theme for this year’s Cathedral Arts Festival was announced months ago, the organizers of the Grace Church Van Vorst gala didn’t expect to see it jump into action.
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