Mana Contemporary: Taking Art Seriously in Jersey City

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Image Credit: Crave Events Group
Image Credit: Crave Events Group

Playwright Oscar Wilde once famously claimed that “art is the only serious thing in the world.” If that is indeed the case, Mana Contemporary wants to make sure Jersey City gets very serious over the next few years.

In 2011, the organization took over a former 1920s-era tobacco factory in the city’s Marion Section and has slowly transformed it into an emerging art mecca. The facility, just west of Journal Square, is home to the Richard Meier Model Museum, the International Center of Photography, the Florence Academy of Art and many other artists looking for affordable studio and exhibit space in an exceedingly expensive market.


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Credit: Wikipedia

Mana, which was founded by moving company owner Moishe Mana, also has sister campuses in Chicago and Miami and has been working hard to build out their Jersey City facility. Public Relations and Events Director Selena Ricks says that while it’s “hard to say” when Mana’s ongoing renovation will be complete, they are about 50% developed. When done, the facility will have over 2 million square feet of finished space, or about double what they currently have.

Ricks is quick to point out not only Mana’s present, but their future. In celebration of International Sculpture Day on April 24th, Mana will open a new sculpture exhibit on the 5th floor of the main building entitled “Wake the Town and Tell the People.” She also says the group is currently finishing up renovations to their facility’s basement, which will soon offer studio space for emerging artists.


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Starting May 1st, Mana will welcome a display titled “Everything You Are I Am Not” featuring over 60 pieces of contemporary Latin American art from the Tiroche DeLeon collection that were curated by London-based Catherine Petitgas.  The center will also serve as the site for the premiere of a new film titled “Tree of Life” that utilizes 3D fractal animation and was created by fashion designer threeASFOUR and digital artist Alex Czetwertynski.

Outside of Mana’s main facility, the organization also established the Mana Urban Arts Project back in 2014. In addition to murals painted on the walls of their main complex, many drivers heading westbound from the Holland Tunnel may have seen the notable makeover of a 100,000-square-foot former ice factory at 581 Monmouth Street. Mana purchased the building in hopes of transforming it into an Urban Arts Museum that focuses specifically on street art and graffiti.

Several high profile artists have already painted murals on the building. Belgian street artist ROA got the art party started in April last year when he painted a large walrus skeleton on one side of the Ice House. Then in September, Frank Shepard Fairey, most known for his “Hope” imagery from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, adorned the building with his Natural Springs mural, which measures 147-feet long and took five days to complete.

Shepard Fairey's Natural Springs Mural
Shepard Fairey’s Natural Springs Mural

The factory’s renovation as a museum is likely to be drawn-out. “The building needs extensive work before it can be repurposed, so for now the museum project is on hold,” Hicks told JerseyDigs. In the meantime, the group hopes to release the artist roster for the next season of painting on the Ice House’s exterior soon.

Mana invites you to discover their space at 888 Newark Avenue on Saturdays during their new extended hours of 12PM–6PM and are also open Monday through Friday by reservation only from 11AM to 3PM. They are also having an open house on Sunday, May 1st that attendees can RSVP to on their website.

[gmap height=”250px”]888 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306[/gmap]

888 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306

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