You know the shy kid at the party who won’t hit the dance floor even if Jesus himself begged him – and then he hears his jam and suddenly starts doing flips, tricks, and power moves?
That’s what it felt like last week when all the funk-tech-floral-social-abstract-steez planets spun together into a powerful 2021 solar system at the Jersey City Mural Festival. How many times did you hear the word community, as if we’ve all been starved of it?
And the aesthetics were solid – you would not have guessed how sweet some of these combinations could be – with just enough curation to let the sparks crackle in the gritty oil-coated zones that are surrounding the MANA Contemporary compound. This most diverse generation is now freely tossing any rules and hierarchies out the window; these inheritors of the winds now gathering speed.
The first annual Jersey City Mural Festival brought together dozens of street artists, mural artists, graffiti writers, photographers, and art lovers to this new New Jersey. This festival in another year would have been a festive event just like any other festival – formulas have been discovered for how to mount public cultural events like these around the world – and we’ve been to many.
But this time, the energy was extra charged by the undeniable fact that we’re all emerging to a familiar yet changed world formed by fear, death, insecurity, and longing. Artists were elated to see their peers once again doing what they love doing most: painting outdoors. There is a recognition from the artists, and everybody around that life is precious and the scars left on us by the Pandemic made this event a jubilant one.
The collection of artworks presented here are only a fraction of all the works painted during the festival. Half a dozen of murals were still not completed when we departed. We hope to bring you the rest soon.
The festival unfolded over several days of painting and rain and an oppressive heatwave on two locations in Jersey City. Both locations are the remnants of Jersey City as an industrial powerhouse. The complex in Newark Ave, Mana Contemporary, is now an art center with several galleries, exhibition spaces, and artists’ studios. The complex on Coles Street still conserves its industrial grit. Still, a storage company has replaced the factories, and empty buildings in the decay process appear ready to be demolished.
The Jersey City Mural Festival was presented by Mana Public Arts and the Jersey City Mural Arts Program with the imprimatur of Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, the city’s Municipal Council, and the Office of Municipal Affairs.
Jose Mertz talks about his mural.
We would like to thank the organizers and production team for all their assistance during the duration of the festival and to Mario at Tost Films for helping man the lift for our final photo session.