By Mark Kenny and Armond Marke
Brick by brick artists in Jersey City are changing the downtown’s landscape.
Jersey City’s urban identity is being revitalized by many artistic platforms. Street art, some considered illegal and unappealing like graffiti tags, have long been tied to urban communities, except the artists that are thriving in the Jersey City community want to fill their neighborhood with personality and character instead of looking at old bricks and a boring landscape.
Green Villain is one of those artistic platforms that have come together and used the city as their canvas. Greg Edgell, founder of Green Villain says his organization features.
“A small group of social entrepreneurs and creatives blurring the lines between a lifestyle brand and a serviceable business,” he said. “We carry our aesthetic and attention to detail when working with clients to ensure the highest quality deliverable possible.”
Green Villain has worked with over 30 artists from around the globe but they are not the only muralists in Jersey City. Blair Urban for instance is a local Jersey City artist who knew that when she moved to the northeast from California three years ago, she wanted to call Jersey City home, though first had New York City in mind.
“I am thankful that New York City is across the way because that is where I make my money designing but Jersey City has been my home where I find peace, solace and many fun times with my friends,” Urban said. “It just represents independence, creativity and growth to me.”
Location is always a main concern for many emerging muralists because convincing the community is a difficult task.
“The place and the attitude of the community has a lot to do with the decision making process because for example, a business owner in the suburbs is more likely to be opposed since wall painting colors over a pristine beige stucco wall is perceived as graffiti, while in urban environments there are more open opinions to how art can contribute to making the landscape more interesting and meaningful,” said Urban.
Urban’s purpose for her murals are to make a connection with the community. She passes by her mural that she painted on Newark Avenue every day on her way to work and could not be happier about it, though she admits to once hating it.
“Sometimes I’m satisfied and sometimes it’s anticlimactic. But as time passes anything I am obsessing over in the moment fades and I become refueled by and love that people give me back from my work,” said Urban.
The love Urban is referring to can be found throughout “Chill-town”, as residents had nothing but good things to say about the burgeoning arts scene in their neighborhood.
Sandra Wilson, a Jersey City resident says she really respects the work that goes into the murals and having Jersey City look great the way that it does.
“I love them. They always catch my eye and I really appreciate them for the amount of work that goes into them. The artists should be so proud,” Wilson said.
Another Jersey City resident, Andrew Palmisano who lives on Columbus Drive, a street with many murals, also agrees that the street art really make Jersey City standout.
“I kind of feel like Jersey City is becoming really artsy and it is kind of cool to live here and say that I live here because we are just across the water from the City, but I can say ‘Hey Jersey City is cool too and more people should come here and check us out,” Palmisano said.
The murals found around Jersey City have also sparked the interest of the Jersey City youth as well. Kristen Marino, a Jersey City art therapist and art educator has been working with public school students grades K-12, and developed an Urban Arts Group to creatively help encourage emotional and social growth amongst students with behavioral, emotional, and social issues.
“The Urban Art Group developed as I saw a need to help motivate at risk students to become more invested in school and their education,” Marino said. “It started with 10 students in 2009 and grew to approximately 70 students by 2012.”
Students would meet once a week for a 90-minute session where they developed drawing, painting, and digital skills related to graffiti and urban art, which the students really enjoyed and seemed to keep focus on their own artistic progress.
“I think it is great for the youth in the city, because it gives them a positive alternative to be productive within their communities and the parents were appreciative of this program as long as their child kept up with their regular classwork,” Marino said.
“If students were doing poorly in their classes, I would suspend their participation until they brought their grades up.”
This is a brilliant way to help inspire kids, beautify the Jersey City community and reflect on what is really important. Art is something that brings everyone together and when you can appreciate together everything else just seems minuscule.
Click the image below to learn about Savage Habbit, another organization dedicated to refining Jersey City’s identity and embellishing the community streets.