It’s impossible to tell the story of Hoboken’s renaissance without talking about the impact that artists have had on the mile-square city.
This weekend, the city will host the 23rd Annual Hoboken Artists Studio Tour, featuring 120 artists and almost 40 different venues with a diverse selection of art. In addition to the fine paintings, sculptures and photography exhibits, there will be live performances and demonstrations throughout the day.
In the beginning
Coming out of the 1970s, Hoboken was a town that was reeling. A high crime rate, suspicious fires, boarded-up factories, high unemployment and block after block of blighted industrial wasteland were just a few of the pressing problems the city faced.
But as has been the case in other struggling urban areas, artists found Hoboken. In many ways, they helped save the city.
By the 1980s, a growing group of artists discovered Hoboken as an inexpensive alternative to Manhattan. Just like SoHo in New York City and the Market District in San Francisco, abandoned factories were converted into perfect and affordable artist studio space.
The Artists Studio Tour began in 1981 when 13 artists invited the public into their studios to see creativity at work in Hoboken.
Throughout the years, the tour has grown into one of the city’s more popular events. There are artists, photographers, sculptors and artisans in their studios or at various venues around the city. Media range from classical figurative realism and abstract expressionism to welded steel sculptures and photographic computer-generated mandalas; oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics; and handcrafted jewelry, pottery, quilts and paintings on silk.
Created a vibe
These artists, who had a certain bohemian vitality, created a buzz in Hoboken. All of a sudden, downtrodden Hoboken started to become trendy and hip, and the city’s real estate after decades of dormancy grew desirable. The city began to attract young, upwardly mobile Manhattan commuters.
But now as the city looks forward, these artists are finding that they have become somewhat a victim of their own success. Gentrification is a phenomenon of which artists are well aware.
The rising cost of living in the town, particularly in rental units, has already resulted in a significant exodus of the artist communty population that was responsible for spearheading the city’s revitalization.
As a result, the artist community has dwindled and many have migrated to places such as Union City and Jersey City. As each year passes, it has become harder for artists to afford to stay.
The Artists Studio Tour isn’t nearly as big as it was a decade ago, and unless the artist community is specially nurtured, it might continue to shrink, worry local artists.