First Garden State Art Weekend will take place throughout state, April 19-21

garden state art weekend

The Garden State Art Weekend will take place throughout the state, April 19-21.

Christine Romanell finds beauty in precision and juxtaposition. She cuts apertures in thin sheets of wood, paints those sheets, and positions the pieces so the colors form geometric designs. Sometimes she will stack scores of layers on top of each other, creating bright cones and beehives, or upended wicker baskets, or the guts of a cuckoo clock, or wooden ripples on an imaginary lake. At her best — and she is generally at her best — she combines the decorative intensity of Islamic art with the fantastic transportive quality of Dr. Seuss.

Christine Romanell and some of her art.

Romanell creates her sculptures at Manufacturers Village (356 Glenwood Ave., East Orange), a sprawling, historic post-industrial complex that has become a headquarters for more than 60 visual artists. Over the past few years, Manufacturers Village has hosted memorable open houses: blowout events in which the artists open their studio doors to the public and show their work. Romanell has been part of those open houses and, this spring, she will carry the party well beyond the gates of the former Johnson & Johnson facility. She has created and organized Garden State Art Weekend (April 19-21), a festival of art events, exhibits and openings happening across New Jersey.

Many of the 60-plus organizations involved in the Art Weekend would be offering programming that weekend anyway. But by bundling all of those disparate activities into a single event — something like a Manufacturers Village open house taking place all over the state, rather than one city block — she is giving definition to the scene, reminding everybody just how much we’ve got going on, and drawing connections between arts institutions that aren’t always associated. Participants in the Art Weekend will include many of the state’s biggest and most prominent exhibition spaces, including the Montclair Art Museum, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, and the ArtYard in Frenchtown. There also will be activity at more unconventional spots such as the studio complexes at Gardenship in Kearny and ART150 in Jersey City. And some of the state’s most ambitious small galleries have signed on to the Art Weekend: MK Apothecary in Collingwood, Akwaaba in Newark, Galerie Lucida in Red Bank, Paris Koh Fine Arts in Fort Lee, and IMUR, a jewel-like exhibition space located in the side room of a Jersey City Turkish restaurant.

“White Wave,” by Ruth Borgenicht.

But the heart of the project is Manufacturers Village, where more studios will be open to visitors than ever before. The Manufacturers Village experience is highly recommended to explorers of all kinds, including collectors; appreciators of visual novelty; those curious about what the courtyards, catwalks, and idiosyncratic interiors of brick-walled Jersey factories might look like; and anybody with nostalgic or protective feelings about homegrown arts centers. As so often happens when creative people occupy and re-imagine an old building, Manufacturers Village has become an interconnected community with stores, businesses and a bakery alongside the studios and workshops. Just about every door is worth opening — even the ones that don’t seem to lead anywhere in particular. Romanell’s wing of the complex consists of one fascinating room after another, including the headquarters of the audacious sculptor Ruth Borgenicht, who forges chain links out of clay and weaves her pottery into shapes that hang like blankets.

Though she is a New Jersey loyalist, Romanell is upfront about the out-of-state model for her event. GSAW is based on the Upstate Art Weekend, an annual Hudson Valley celebration (this year, it runs from July 18 through July 21) that brings thousands of visitors to art spaces in the New York counties north of The Bronx. The Upstate Art Weekend feels like an institution, but it has only been around for four years. It has expanded quickly: the party has nearly four times as many participants as it did when it launched.

Garden State Art Weekend is already bigger than its Upstate cousin was when it launched, and there is no reason it can’t grow fast. Romanell has made sure that the essentials are in place. She’s got a website, an interactive map, the cooperation of the state’s arts institutions and, most important, a community of creators with talent and vision to match those in New York, even if they don’t always get comparable attention. And in Manufacturers Village, she’s got a genuine flagship — a fascinating, multi-faceted arts building well worth investigating.

Garden State Art Weekend takes place April 19-21; visit


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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