On a chilly Saturday afternoon earlier this month, the windows of 107 Bowers Gallery and ArtSpace in Jersey City Heights were fogged up and patrons poured out onto the sidewalk, swigging free wine and excitedly talking about art. The opening reception for the gallery’s newest exhibit “SuperWoman!” was packed and looked more like a street scene in Chelsea, NYC, but make no mistake, The Heights has long been a hub for artists, and now there is a growing gallery scene to match.
In the early 1980s, two City Councilmen noted an influx of artists into the neighborhood and mapped a large, eastern section of The Heights (bounded by the Union City border to the north, New York Avenue to the south, and Central Avenue to the west) calling it the Riverview Arts District. But it remained just a mapped area until about seven years ago when locals and artists filed a variance application with the City for The Distillery Gallery and the old initiative was rediscovered. In 2013, the zoning was updated, allowing artists to have combined live/work space and also reinstating commercial use along Palisade Avenue.
Kristin J. DeAngelis, Owner and Director of 107 Bowers Gallery and ArtSpace, opened the gallery in September 2016 after buying and renovating the space with her husband. The venture is essentially a hobby as she has a day job, but just like an artist is driven to create art, she was driven by her love of the community to create a place for their art. Kristin says with great reverence that the artists are the rockstars and she’s just the roadie. The gallery is perfectly white-walled, long and narrow, with high ceilings, and bright track lighting. And the wine is smartly set-up in the back during receptions which encourages gallery-goers to get a glimpse of everything.
The latest exhibit features more than 25 pieces curated thematically around women’s influence across an impressively wide range of mediums, including mixed media, watercolor, photography, and steel sculpture. These artists are working everywhere from rented studio space to home garages and backyards in The Heights.
Another recently opened gallery in The Heights is part of Prime Real Estate Group’s second office location at 351 Palisade Avenue. Jaclyn Isaac, an interior decorator at Downtown Decorators, worked with Jesse Halliburton, the principal broker and owner, to conceptualize and build-out what could be both a gallery/gathering space and a real estate office with locally-sourced materials.
No stranger to the need for community, Prime lost their office to Hurricane Sandy, but they’ve come back stronger than ever with two locations and wanted the office in The Heights to be a reflection of the neighborhood it serves and a relaxed place for agents to meet with their clients.
The office has an industrial feel with matte black ceilings, steel ductwork, and exposed brick. The gallery wall of the office is bright white, well lit, and runs the full length of the space. Maria Kosdan, the Gallery Director and a Sales Partner, curated the opening exhibit of photography called “Urbanity Thru the Lens” featuring works by international and NY/NJ-based photographers that capture the everyday in urban environments.
The zoning updates of 2013 made it possible for locals to build upon what began as artists quietly moving in and buying property, forming the core of the community, which was a very unique genesis and different from the artistic enclaves of Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn. The founders, supporters, and artists of the Riverview Arts District have established a true talent center. The enthusiasm is infectious and these two new art galleries make it clear that The Heights is Jersey City’s art beat.